Friday, September 17, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about judgment today as I'm preparing for my October 1st opening.

Inherent in any art show, of course, is judgment.  Viewers are there to see the artwork, and along with that come their private (or not so private) assessment of whether or not they like the work.  They may also judge whether they think the artist has any talent.  There are so many things to judge - the work, the installation, the gallery, the artist herself should she be present.

I'm used to those judgments from previous shows and don't mind them, generally speaking.  Occasionally I'll have someone at a show tell me they don't like my work, but usually people don't have that much chutzpah - they'll just leave if they don't like it.  That's all part of the territory, and normally openings are actually really fun because people, in general, tend to be incredibly nice and supportive and friendly and curious.

But with this show, I think there might be a different level of judgment happening.  The pieces I'll be showing (the nudes) are challenging for many people.  Some people won't go into a gallery at all if there are nudes there - they perceive them as pornographic, or they don't want their children to be exposed to nudity/nakedness.  I think most people have accepted that artists paint nudes and can deal with David, the statue by Michelangelo, for example.  He is a gorgeous man with beautiful musculature and a stylin' pose.  Or Rubens' work is OK.  Maybe.  After all, art historians have said it's OK, and people pay LOTS of money for these paintings, so they must be acceptable at some level.  Right?

My paintings haven't yet stood the test of time.  And I'm not using the nudes in a scene of war and devastation like the painting by Reubens above.  Instead, I am showing the women by themselves, for the sake of showing their bodies.  Plain, pure, and simple. 

And some people are decidedly uncomfortable with that.  Naked bodies.  No clothes.  And especially bodies we don't normally see - ones that aren't perfectly airbrushed.

I think people will probably judge the bodies of my models (me, included - I'm one of the models).  They'll notice we're not perfect.  That we have bones protruding because we're quite thin.  Or that we have rolls of fat in places society declares unbecoming.

My work tends to trigger people sometimes.  They feel uncomfortable; strong feelings come up.  They don't want to see what I am presenting.  Sometimes they get angry.  Sometimes they get angry with me for painting what I've painted.  Sometimes they accuse me of things.  In psychology, that's known as projection - what I've done has made them uncomfortable so they blame me of being/doing/thinking what they're being/doing/thinking/feeling so they can externalize it and not have to feel it themselves.  It can be quite effective at distracting them from dealing with their own feelings.  As I've been working on this project, I've had examples of that happen a few times already.  It won't surprise me too much if it happens at the opening.

Before I go to the gallery the night of the opening, I intend to take some time to sit quietly and meditate and to remember why I'm doing this - to help women love and accept their bodies, and to help us all let go of our judgments of others.  Positive intention is a very powerful thing.

I realize that if someone reacts strongly to the show then it's doing its work.  It's making them become aware of their innate prejudices and strong feelings about bodies.  And perhaps, if they're up to the task, it will give them an opportunity to work through the feelings and come to accept themselves and others more gracefully.

That is my hope.

I'm very very curious to see what happens, and excited to experience it!

Please come join me if you can.  Sacred Flesh, Oct 1st, 5:15 Artist's Talk, 6:30 - 9:30 opening reception.  Visual Art Studio, 208 W. Broad St., Richmond, 23220.

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