Friday, March 25, 2011

A hooper comes to call

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph a new model.  This is a young woman I met through Larkin at James River Tile and Stone Art when she had my artwork there.  Rachel Marie is newly out of school and exceedingly talented!  She volunteered to model for me and wanted to hoop while being photographed.  I'd never had a model do the hula hoop while I was photographing her so I figured I'd give it a try!  Many of the photos were blurry, but some were terrific!  Especially our second round of pictures when I put a strong light on one side.  It made the pictures significantly more interesting.

It was fun watching Rachel manipulate the hula hoop all around her body.  She made it look so simple and easy. It looks like a great exercise to keep limber.  My back has been stiffening up lately, so I'm thinking I should learn to do this so I can loosen it up.

Here's what Rachel wrote on her blog about her experience (notice how beautiful her writing is!):

The call.
I’d like to flatter myself and tell you that I was asked to do this.  The truth is that when I first saw Susan’s paintings hung in the gallery, I was mesmerized.  I spent a long time gazing at them and reading all of the stories written by the models.  Maybe it was all the wine, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with every single woman I saw. 
Each had a story to tell but one of the things they all seemed to have in common was that they did this in recognition of their own pain.  We live in a high pressure society that imposes standards on our own bodies, and places borders on beauty.  Most of us grew up believing these lies and whether we have grown to understand it or not, it affects the way we see ourselves and it affects the way we see others. The stress.  The self loathing.  The insecurity.  I couldn’t help but feel like I was looking at myself.  I could feel their pain. 
It wasn’t until I saw the rather large woman in “Beauty with a Veil” that it became too personal to ignore.  Her stretch marks, her folds, her sagging parts.  That woman owned up to her body.  She posed,  and Susan found elegance in her form that most of us would have overlooked because of the way we have been taught to think.  I was not only seeing myself, I was seeing my mother.  That was when I approached Susan about photographing me naked. 
The motivation. 
The last few years have marked the span of an important metamorphosis.  Before I moved to Richmond, I was living my life for other people.  I went to the Christian university my mother wanted me to attend. I let my boyfriend cut off my hair and convince me to start straightening it.  I had a job that was paying me $7.50 an hour with a 45 minute commute.  I was underpaid, oversexed, miserable, and being told that I was a sinner. 
Masochistic behavior, abusive relationships, and confusion had piled up on me.  My body was no longer my own.  I fed it to the wolves, willingly. 
When I moved to Richmond, I made a hard choice.  I promised myself I’d stop living my life for everybody else.  I am here in this body now, and it belongs to me.  I am still learning what that means. 
This is part of my process.

It is so moving to me to understand people's motivation for posing for me.  And so glad I've been called to do this work.  It is powerful stuff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CAUTION:  This blog has some very graphic descriptions of body modifications which  may be disturbing to read.

The other night I wasn't quite ready for bed yet, but Chris had already gone up - that means I got to choose exactly the movie I wanted to watch without trying to figure out what we'd both like to watch that would be mostly OK for both but not quite right for either (unless we hit the jackpot!).  I enjoy documentaries so I flipped through the possibilities on Netflix and saw one called Flesh and Blood.   I don't like horror movies, so that's not what this was.  Rather, it's a very graphic movie about body modification as done by an artist named Steve Haworth.

I had never seen anything like it.

Steve Haworth lives in Arizona and works with people to modify their bodies in ways I'd never even considered.  One of his main pursuits is to insert what appear to be silicon shapes under the skin in order to raise the skin in that shape.  One man had rib-shaped inserts and spheres put on his arm by his bicep.  When he flexed, the bulge would have the shape not only of the muscle, but also of the ribs and spheres.  It was hard to look at. 

One man had more piercings than most.  He decided to have his scrotum pierced because he wanted to be able to put his finger through it.  He also wanted to be able to insert a rod in it so he could feel his prostate.  All of these operations are done without anesthesia because Haworth is not a doctor and is therefore not allowed to use it.

When asked what he's discerned about why people get their bodies modified, Haworth said there are four primary reasons:
The shock value
Sexual pleasure
For the experience of the pain
Some people take the pain as a challenge.  For others as a spiritual thing.  One woman said that she has learned to perceive pain completely differently from having her body modified.  Knowing how much she can endure when getting pierced or whatever, when pain comes her way in "real life", she knows she can just breathe and get through it, knowing it'll pass, just like it did when she had her body modified.  I bet childbirth is an easy affair for these folks!

Another activity Haworth leads is called Suspension.  He inserts hooks into people's skin and lifts them off the ground so they hang suspended for different periods of time.  One man, the one who had his scrotum pierced, was suspended the entire length of his back, then his girlfriend was suspended from his front by her entire front.  They glowed afterwards, talking about how close they felt and how amazing it was to do that with each other. 

Haworth also has developed a process whereby he can insert things into the skin into which things like spikes and horns can be screwed.  One guy had 12 or so spikes coming out of the top of his head.  He eventually had them taken out because he became a full time father and he was finding that it was simply too difficult to have conversations with people because they were too distracted by the spikes.  Haworth was very sad to take them out, but did so anyway.

There was another man who was part Native American.  His totem is the Cat.  He had a facial tattoo of a tiger/cat, and Haworth has modified his face to make him look more like a cat.  His upper lip is split.  His nose has been sewn down to his upper lip so it is flatter like a cat's.  I believe he has claws on his fingers.  He had a ridge inserted above his eyes so his facial structure is more like a cat's.

When I watched a Lady Gaga video the other day, I noticed her odd cheekbones and shoulders and wondered if she had inserts put in there.

It was very uncomfortable watching this video.  They showed many of the people getting the procedures done and the pain they experienced.  It opened up a whole new world to me, though.  And it helped me understand some of the reasons people have for undergoing such procedures.  I found myself wondering what their upbringing was like and what would have brought them to the point where they would feel a need to modify themselves so much.  It did not make me want to get it done to myself at all.  It was absolutely fascinating at the same time as it was horrifying.  I'm glad I watched it - I learned something new - but my goodness!  Yikes!

This journey is taking me some very interesting places and is certainly challenging me to let go of my preconceived judgments.  I continue to find that, as I learn more about why people do things, I become less judgmental and more accepting, even if I wouldn't make the same choices for myself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Plastic Surgery for Men - the next big thing?

The pressure seems to be mounting for men to improve their appearance in the way women have been feeling it for years.  It makes me so sad.  It certainly won't help if men are feeling the same stupid pressure we've been experiencing for so long.  Can we stop it now???

Here's an article  my husband sent me.  I'm not sure of the url, but it appears to be from HealthDay.

Pressure to Look Young May Be Sending More Men to Plastic Surgeons
Report finds increase in range of cosmetic procedures among American males

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- More American men seem to be lining up for facelifts, Botox injections, nose jobs and liposuction than ever before.  A new report by the American Society of shows that the number of cosmetic procedures among men in the United States increased by 2 percent last year, compared with 2009. Men underwent more than 1.1 million cosmetic procedures, including both minimally invasive and surgical procedures, according to the report.
"Men are paying more attention to their appearance," said Dr. Phillip Haeck, the society's president.  However, the reasons that more men are having cosmetic procedures vary. "It all depends on the category," he said. Breast reductions, for instance, increased 6 percent. "That is driven by the fact that there is more awareness," Haeck said. "I call this guys'
dirty little secret." [More awareness is brought on by just such articles which make people start thinking about their own "dirty little secrets" and start to feel shame and a need to correct something they had no idea was there until they read the article.  It pisses me off.]
"They are embarrassed by it," he said. "They are interested in not letting anyone know that they have had this , but they are thrilled afterward. They can go out to the pool and not be embarrassed by the fact that they had what would be a woman's C cup." [It's exactly this kind of language which raises insecurity and leads people to feel they have to have such surgeries.]
Most men who undergo breast reduction, Haeck said, are younger than 30. "For them it's a lot of money, but they are tired of being embarrassed by it," he said. [I bet more men are embarrassed about it because of this article than had been before.
On the other hand, the increase in facelifts is largely driven by men in their 50s and 60s, Haeck said.  "That's the leading edge of the baby boomers," he said. "These are really fit people who have paid a lot of attention to keeping their bodies in shape." But, he said, they're getting a "turkey neck," which is something exercise won't get rid of. [This guy is quite a salesman - he knows right how to get people worried.]
"This generation has paid a lot of attention to how they look, and they don't want to grow old gracefully," he said.
The pressure to look young apparently affects other men, too -- especially those looking for work.  Haeck said that men have told him: "You've got to do something to help me because I need a job and I'm afraid I'm going to lose out because people are going to think I look too old." [In some societies, older people are actually revered and honored and respected for their age.  Looking older would be an honor.  In our youth-worshiping culture, it's apparently something we have to operate to change or else we won't be able to find or keep our jobs.  SCARE TACTIC.] "That's a recurring theme for guys who want to change jobs or who are out of work," he said.
In addition, Haeck said, he's noticed that women who've had cosmetic surgery often urge their husbands to have it as well.
According to the society's statistics, facelifts increased by 14 percent, ear surgeries by 11 percent, Botox injections by 9 percent, liposuction treatments by 7 percent, breast reductions by 6 percent and eyelid and dermabrasion by 4 percent each from 2009 to 2010.

Some procedures, though, were done less often, though they remain among the most popular for men. The number of nose reshapings declined by 4 percent, chemical peels by 3 percent and microdermabrasion by 10 percent, according to the report.
Dr. Seth R. Thaller, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that more men are getting cosmetic procedures to offset the effects of aging.  "They are not asking to look 25 or 30, they just want to look a little bit better," he said.  And Thaller said that he, too, is seeing more breast reductions among men who are embarrassed by their large breasts. "We are not only seeing it in adults, but we see it in teenagers," he said.  [So while girls get breast enhancement surgeries for their high school graduation presents, boys get breast reductions??  Maybe they could hook up a pipeline from one to the other to make it cheaper?]
Cosmetic procedures are usually not covered by insurance -- and they're not inexpensive, Thaller said. "But, can you put a price on quality of life and feeling good about yourself?" he asked.  [There are other ways to feel good about oneself besides spending a bunch of money on an operation.  Studies have shown that how people feel about themselves is actually NOT dependent on how they look, contrary to what advertisers and plastic surgeons would have us believe.]
Haeck said that a facelift costs, on average, $10,000 or more and that fees alone for breast reduction average $3,013 and $2,884 for liposuction. Physician fees and hospital charges vary across the country, he noted.

Minimally invasive procedures do cost less. For example, Botox injections average about $375, he said, and microdermabrasion usually is less than $200.  Though some men go back for additional procedures after undergoing one, Haeck said, women still make up the majority of those who have cosmetic surgery. For example, Haeck's practice is 92 percent women, he said.  [No wonder he's trying to make men worry - that's a large market he's potentially tapping into.] 

According to the report, the most popular surgical procedures for men are nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, liposuction, breast reduction and hair transplantation. Botox treatments top the most-popular list of minimally invasive procedures, followed by laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, chemical peel and soft tissue fillers.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has more on types of cosmetic procedures.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I want to remember....

In Valley's class last week, we were given an exercise to start every sentence with "I remember."  The next exercise was to take one of those sentences and expand on it.  I started to do that but got tired of it right away.  I'd exhausted myself by looking at the past lately, so I decided instead to write about what I would want to remember about the here and now if I were writing in the future.  Here's what flew out of me:
I remember Rockbridge Avenue, the street where I grew up.
So tired - don’t want to do this, expend the energy on “I remember” – too many memories wearing me out.  Why not, “I hope…”  “I want to remember.”  I want to remember the “good ol’ days” of yore (right now) when I got to paint all day and write all night.  When responsibilities were few, when I was just starting out, before the pressure grew and I was traveling and speaking so much.  I want to remember the light in the studio as it traveled across the floor, moving from window to window.  In the winter, at 11 or so, the light made a parallelogram on the floor perfectly framing my model when I photographer her, dark and light, back arched, belly an abstraction in curves.
I want to remember the slurp of paint, the smooth strokes as I applied them to the canvas.  I want to remember painting the smooth flesh and the curves and the fat and the freckles and the paunches and the extra pounds, making them exist harmoniously with the dramatic red drapes.  I want to remember the moment when I allowed myself to trust myself to paint what I felt, not just what I saw.   When paint and canvas became tools in my hands for self-exploration, not just to define the world as it was – rather, to mold it into the world in my vision – the world in my head – but I’d have to have known what that looked like to know how to paint it —or not – maybe the act of trusting myself to paint the world the way it felt would make the world one I wanted to live in, full and open and clear and breathing whole and free.

I want to remember those first breaths – the long, long sigh, the catch in my throat as I realized my freedom.  Freedom from where I’d been – the fear, the harsh expectations, the wallowing in fear of their judgment.  Freedom of a new space, a new place.  The freedom to be fully myself.  To say and do and feel and think and express exactly what I thought and felt and saw and knew to be true.
I want to remember the moment when that knowledge took root in my belly, in my gut and never again let go.

I want to remember how tall I felt when I strode through that first day, no longer afraid of the reactions of people to my power, my assertion that I deserved to be fully and wholly and completely myself.

 And I want to remember the lovely realization that that Self was not someone to fear – she was my best friend, the one I’d yearned for all along, the one who could hear me and take me and welcome me.

I want to remember the kindness I felt towards the world because I’d given myself the hugest gift of all – allowing myself to BE.

And I really want to remember the astonishment with which I was greeted as I made my way in the world after that – grace, gratitude that I was leading the way into this unknown territory, this place we’re taught not to go.  Into the wild darkness of ourselves which is actually where the Light resides.
I want   to remember knowing I would thrive in that place and that I could safely welcome others there because there was only good, only love, only kindness there.  I want to remember the warmth and goodness of sharing that space with others.  I want to remember being welcomed into that place of Light.  Mine and others!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

You were born this way

A friend of mine told me that Lady Gaga's new hit, "You were born this way" reminded her of me.  I watched the video to see what she was referring to.  Of course I've heard of Lady Gaga but hadn't taken the time to track down and listen to any of her music yet.  I was glad for the opportunity.

Watching the video was amazing.  Powerful life and death images.  Lots of images which would probably be offputting to the right wing of the Christian Church because they're sexual and play with evil and are gender-bending.  I had trouble understanding the lyrics all the way so I looked them up.  Once I read them, I understood why my friend said they reminder her of me.  Lady Gaga seems to be trying to do the same thing in this song as I do in my work - help the world realize that we're just perfect the way we are.  Here are the lyrics:

It doesn't matter if you love him,
Or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
'cause you were born this way, baby

[Verse 1]
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars

She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

"there's nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "'cause he made you perfect, babe"

"so hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"

I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Ooo there ain't no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Ooo there ain't no other way
Baby I was born-
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't be a drag - just be a queen
Don't be a drag - just be a queen
Don't be a drag - just be a queen
Don't be!

[Verse 2]
Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth

In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital h-i-m (hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (love needs faith)

Lady Gaga Born This Way lyrics found on

I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Ooo there ain't no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Ooo there ain't no other way
Baby I was born-
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're lebanese, you're orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I'm on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

Here's a cover version done by a young girl, Maria Aragon, who's 10.  It's quite touching: You were born this way, cover

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creative Nonfiction with Valley Haggard

My life and Valley's seem to intersect quite often these days.  For instance, tomorrow she and I are teaching a class called Body Shop, culled from our experience collaborating on Artists and Writers (which is still showing at Randolph Macon College through April 1).  (There are still a couple of spaces available if you get a wild hair and decide you want to come!  2-5:30 tomorrow, at my studio.  Email me to let me know you're coming or for info!)

I'm also taking a writing class with Valley called Creative Nonfiction.  She's an amazing teacher.  I love the way the class is set up - she gives us something to read - about a page or two about writing.  We each read a paragraph or so out loud, then she gives us a prompt and sets us to writing for 10 minutes.  Free writing, not picking the pen up for the entire 10 minutes.  The prompts are things like "Right now I'm ..." (we start the day with that one each time) or each sentence has to begin with "I remember..."  or "Write about a piece of clothing."  Having such open prompts and only 10 minutes cuts loose a part of my brain which is otherwise constrained by convention and grammar rules and expectations of perfection.  It's fabulous to let my pen run away with my brain and take over. 

At the end of the ten minutes, we read what we wrote out loud.  Sometimes it is quite raw.  It seems like my writing tends to go directly to raw intense places inside me most of the time.  But I let it because that's what's there, and that's who I am, and anything else would be tripe and not worth the paper I was writing it on.  I may as well mine the deep dark wells as anything else.  Though I do feel a bit shy about sharing sometimes.

That's where Valley comes in.  She set up the class so that there's very, very little cross talk.  She comments right away on what we've read, always saying something validating.  She has a knack for summarizing what we've written and for phrasing it in the most wonderful light.  I always feel quite brilliant after she's told me what she heard from me.  And I think we probably all do.  She's amazing that way. 

We have three rounds of reading and writing each day.  I leave feeling exhausted - in a good way - and energized and wanting to write more.  I end up feeling like I have so much to say, and I like the way I'm saying it there.  It feels vital and full of life.  It's quite exciting.

Here's something I wrote last week. The prompt was "A day/event/moment 10 years ago - write about it in great detail".

Rolled out of bed, 9:45 Saturday morning.  Made my way downstairs to put a raisin cinnamon bagel in the toaster then sloughed slowly back upstairs to change out of my warm sleepy pajamas into fresh artfully jazzy pants, from the pajama section of Kohl's, a sleeveless T, a long sleeved loose-fitting, silky blouse, and a warm loose sweatshirt over it all.  I heard the bagel pop while pulling the Naples sweatshirt with the graphic shark over my head, figured I'd have to give it another bit in the toaster when I got downstairs, preferring to finish dressing rather than have to descend the stairs another round.

Pulled on socks, funky purple to match the lavender and purple striped cotton pj pants with the drawstring.  Tennis shoes tied tightly finished the casual-looking, carefully considered ensemble, perfect for my 10:30 date.

Bagel warm but not hot got another minute's toasting while I poured a large 12 ounce glass of cold milk in my favorite cobalt blue glass, just large enough to satisfy my liquid cravings while I ate the butter-drenched halves of the bagel, warm with plump juicy raisings that popped so agreeably in my mouth.

I put on my purple 1985 winter jacket then loaded the bagel on a plate, hoping it wouldn't slide off or get too cool on my way to the car, grasped the milk in my favored cobalt blue glass,then hiked my purse onto my shoulder and headed out the door, pulling the door closed behind me as the first slice of bagel slid onto the bricks of my front stoop.  Shoot.  Leaned down, picked it up, milk sloshed.

I secured the errant bagel between my teeth and headed for the car, salivating as I went, wanting the crispy crunch of toasted buttered cinnamon raisin bagel, raisin softly melting in my wet juicy mouth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lady in her Hat

Yesterday I was expecting to be busy most of the day with appointments - Tuesday is my teaching day - but two of my clients canceled, leaving me with the whole day to paint.  Quite a treat!

I worked on Lady in her Hat.  I'm enjoying this piece so much.  The colors are so light and airy - perfect for the burgeoning Springtime!  The model looks so coy and playful.  It's fun to paint because of that.  I haven't gotten to her hands completely - they'll be a bit complicated because I can't see them well in the photo - they're kinda blurry.  And the hat!  Boy!  It's quite complex with lots of Mylar shreds in it.  I'm going to have fun with that!  It was also challenging painting her hair because it's so light - somewhere between platinum blond and white.  it was interesting trying to get it to stand out against her beautiful pale skin.  That'll be something I'll work on refining once I get a layer on the whole thing.

Today I worked on my book when I wasn't too tired to do a thing.  I've been reading through surveys you wonderful women have returned as well as emails I've received and webpages I've copied from over the last couple of years.  I'm categorizing them as I read through them then will put them in the proper folder.

I've just arranged to go on a Silent Retreat the week of April 5 for 5 days, so that'll be a great opportunity for me to start putting pen to paper.  I'm excited to have the time away from internet and any other distraction.  I'm not disciplined when it comes to the internet!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I went to another Red Tent Evening which Khalima, a local belly dancer extraordinaire, organized.  We gathered as women for a fabulous vegan potluck then spent the evening talking about Beauty and the pressure we feel as women to be beautiful, how we define beauty, what is now considered beautiful which wasn't in the past.

One of the most interesting parts of the conversation for me was talking about tattoos. It was a great conversation!  Many, if not most, of the women there 35 and under had tattoos.  I don't think anyone who was older did.  I realized that when I was growing up, tattoos were something bikers had, Hell's Angels.  Or sailors.  Big dirty muscular men with bad body odor who were probably going to hurt me if they got me alone with them.  I avoided said men assiduously.  So when younger people started getting tattoos the last 10 years or so, I didn't have a place in my brain to put the concept.  What were they trying to say?  Why?  Why did they choose to decorate themselves FOREVER in such a way?  Didn't they realize they'd never be able to change it?  Were they really sure they'd want a cartoon cheeseburger on their leg for the rest of their life?  The Red Tent Gathering is a place where I could ask such questions with respect and curiosity and have others answer me with respect and pride in their choices.  It's amazing to be able to be so inquisitive and get really cool answers!

I came away understanding so much more about tattoos.  These women love their tattoos!  (Of course!)  Each one is a piece of art they have chosen to buy, with which to adorn themselves.  It was a conscious choice.  In some cases, the choices were made when they were younger, and they perhaps wish they hadn't made that particular choice of image, but in that case, it helps them remember their younger, more vulnerable, hurt selves and to have compassion for them.  There is a story that goes with each tattoo, a clear reason why they chose that image.  It's a bit like the stories people tell with their scars.  You can learn so much by asking a person to show you their tattoos and to tell you about them.

It was a great lesson for me to ask these women about their tattoos.  What had once been something I'd judged (out of fear and non-knowing) became something to admire and accept, a way to get to know someone better.  It makes me happy to shift my consciousness in such ways because a whole other segment of the population becomes accessible to me when I no longer judge them, when I have understanding of them.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I'm trying to do with my entire project - help make people more comfortable with and knowledgeable about women's bodies of all shapes and sizes - so we can all accept each other rather than judge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Goddess (and her daughter) turns into The Goddess

This was the start of The Goddess and her Daughter.  I'd originally planned to just do the female figure, but then I realized I had a photo where her daughter was obliviously walking behind her as she posed.  I love the iconic nature of the image, turned funky with the daughter.  Some concern that it isn't clear what the daughter is since she isn't well-defined.  This version hung around my studio for a while as I tried to discern what to do with the strong yellow color.  I love the energy of it, but it wasn't what I wanted for the final version.  I'd drawn the whole thing with much energy with oil sticks while in class in DC one day.
The next version.  I finally decided to see what would happen if I would apply flesh colors over the yellow.  I loved it!  The yellow shines through, giving her a powerful glow, yet the flesh is realistic looking and gorgeous in its authenticity.
Third - After refining the bodies, I decided to give the piece an aura.  It stayed in the studio for a while like that as I tried to discern if it was too much or not.  My son Dylan came out and gave me the feedback that he thought it was too much.  He couldn't tell what the daughter was, and the yellow and red were overpowering the Goddess figure.  I tend to agree with him.  Three different elements in the one picture seem like too many.  I wish the daughter were nude too - then it would be clearer that she was a young child, but with her coat on, it's a bit confusing.  Her hand is also blurry, so that's unhelpful as well.  I think the yellow is too strong with the red aura and somewhat overpowers the figure.
I painted out the daughter and let that be for a few hours.  Still the yellow and red seemed like too much.

The Goddess, oil on canvas, 62"x25"

The final version - for now, at least!  I used a lot of different shades and tones and hues of red around the body - not easily visible online, I don't think.  But I think I'm most pleased with this.  It emphasizes the figure and her beauty and grace in a way the other versions didn't because there was so much to look at.  I really want the viewer to be taken in with her, her figure, her beauty, her grace.   Having the other elements detracted from it.

It was an interesting process trying to figure out the way to go with this.  It's so different when I  start with a photo and end up with a photorealistic representation of what I began with versus starting with a photo but varying it significantly as I did here (in the background at least).  It's a more vital process, more lively and involved.  Slower and more engaging.  I don't know if it's better or worse - just different...

Women's Health, as per the government

I found a nice webpage on the government's website the other day.  It's all about body image and self esteem.  I'm very impressed by the thoughtful information it contains about issues such as Eating Disorders, Plastic Surgery, Pregnancy and Body Image, Your Kids and Body Image, etc.  It seems to be very balanced and well written with many links to other sites which might be helpful as well.  I'm glad to see that our tax dollars are being spent on something other than weapons.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The last ten days have been BUSY!

Sorry, folks!  It's been a long time since I last blogged - in fact, I think this is the longest I've gone without submitting an entry.

I've been a bit overwhelmed.  I quit my tutoring job December 18 to begin doing art full time, and since then I haven't stopped running!  I've been working about 16 hours/day, if not directly doing art, at the very least thinking about it and planning what to do next.  I didn't realize just how tired I was until I finally took inventory.  I just couldn't push any harder.  So I stopped - sort of - for a bit!  My definition of "stopping" probably is many people's definition of "going", but it was at a slower pace than usual.  I even gave myself a couple of evenings off and spent a day with my son while he was on Spring Break.  Lovely!

So what's been happening since my last entry?

I'm taking a writing class with Valley Haggard, Creative Nonfiction.  Valley is a phenomenal teacher, and the class is opening up my veins.  It's the perfect practice for writing my book.  (By the way, Valley and I are teaching a class together called Body Shop this coming Friday from 2-5.  You can learn more on my website.  Please sign up immediately if you're interested.)

I've organized my book into chapters and created folders for each topic and put all the materials I've gathered thus far into said folders.  It looks very impressive so far!  Now all I have to do is write the darn thing!  I've also contacted my models to ask them to contribute if they're interested.  And I posted a survey on this blog in case any of you might be interested in having your thoughts/experiences/feelings in my book.  I'd love for you to take part if you'd be willing.  Feel free to answer anonymously or with your name - whatever works for you is perfect.

I went to see the Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - lots to say about that, but I'll save it for another blog.  Suffice it to say that he is one may who did NOT treat women well, and it shows in his art!

I went to another Red Tent Evening which Khalima, a local belly dancer extraordinaire, organized.  We gathered as women for a fabulous vegan potluck then spent the evening talking about Beauty and the pressure we feel as women to be beautiful, how we define beauty, what is now considered beautiful which wasn't in the past.  One of the most interesting parts of the conversation for me was talking about tattoos. I'll blog about that another time.  It was a wonderful evening, rich with conversation and intimacy and burgeoning friendship.

On Friday March 4, I gave a talk about nudity and what it is about it that makes people react so strongly.  There was a small and supportive group there for the conversation.  We made some good headway into the questions.  I'll blog about that another time too!

I began teaching a new class called Drawing and Color at my studio.  We're spending three sessions working on developing drawing skills - form, value, and facial features, and three working with color.  It's a terrific class with wonderfully diligent students.  They're learning so much!  It's very exciting to me to watch students learn and apply new skills.  It's delightful to see their progress and excitement at their own increasing skill.

Last night a couple of former students of mine invited me to an art opening they had at one of their houses.  It was so lovely!  They had framed their artwork and labeled and hung it beautifully all around the house.  They invited their friends over to show them what they'd been doing the last 2-3 years.  I absolutely LOVED seeing all the work they'd done and how beautifully they'd displayed it.  It is so gratifying to see students doing so much with their art.

In addition to those and many other activities, I also did a bit of painting - finally!  I finished a commission I'd been working on for a few weeks.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I also worked on the picture I'm calling "The Goddess."  I'll post pictures of it shortly.  And I've begun a new piece called "Lady and her Hat."  It's a very playful, coy image of a beautiful woman who chose to wear hats for her session because her employer has a morals clause which she interprets to mean she shouldn't be caught posing nude for me except anonymously!

It's been a busy time.  Hopefully I'll have a bit more time to write this week.  See you then!

And if you're so inclined, please consider answering some of the questions in the survey - don't feel like you have to answer all - that's way too overwhelming!  Just answering even one or two would be a tremendous gift to this Women's Body Image Project!  Thanks!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

List of Diets

Here's a list of diets someone sent me to help illustrate how many there are out there.  She assures me that even this extensive list is incomplete.

Oh, did I mention that 95% of all diets fail?  Except in making their founders rich.

10 Superfoods Cookbook
100 Calorie Diet
101 Optimal Life Foods
12 Steps to Raw Foods
1200 Calorie Diet
1500 Calorie Diet Cookbook
17 Day Diet
21 Day Detox
21 Day Diet
21 Pounds in 21 Days
3 Apple a Day Diet
3 Day Diet
3 Hour Diet
321 Baby Bulge Be Gone
4 Day Diet
4 Week Detox Diet
400 Calorie Fix Diet
5 Day Miracle Diet
5 Factor Diet
5 Factor World Diet
6 Day Body Makeover
6 Week Body Makeover
7 Day Diet
7 Secrets to Beauty, Health, and Longevity
18 Pounds in 4 Days
80 10 10 Diet
Abs Diet
Acai Berry Diet
Acid-Alkaline Diets
Acne Diet
Ali Vincent Diet
Alpha Male Challenge
Alternate Day Diet
Anabolic Diet
Anne Collins Weight Loss Program
Anti-Aging Diet
Anti Estrogenic Diet
3 Apple a Day Diet
Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Arthritis Diet
Atkins Diet
Banana Diet
Beauty Diet
Beck Diet
Belly Fat Cure

Bernstein Diet
Best Diet For Me
Best Life Diet
Beverly Hills Diet
New Beverly Hills Diet
Beyond The 120 Year Diet
Big Breakfast Diet
Biggest Loser Club
Bikini Bootcamp
Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating
Birchall Diet
Bistro MD
Blood Type Diet
Blue Zones
Bob Harper Diet
Bodychef UK
Body Detoxifying Diet
Body Ecology Diet
Body for Life
Body Building Diet
Bodytrim Diet
Bonus Years Diet: Foods For Longevity
Brazilian Bikini Body Program
Bread for Life Diet
Breast Cancer Diet

Bridal Bootcamp
British Heart Foundation Diet
Brown Fat Revolution Diet
Cabbage Soup Diet
Calorie Restriction
Cambridge Diet
Cancer Diet
Carbohydrate Addicts
Cardio Free Diet
Change One (Reader's Digest)
The Cheater's Diet
Children's Diet Programs
Chocolate Diet
Cholesterol Diet

Cholesterol Lowering Diet
The Clean Diet
Clean Green and Lean
Coconut Diet
Cookie Diet
Cook Yourself Thin Cookbook
Core Balance Diet
Crack the Fat Loss Code
CR Way: Calorie Restriction for Longevity
Cure for Diabetes
Curves Diet
Dancer's Diet
Delivered Diets
Designer Diet
Detox Diets
Detox For Women
Diabetes DTOUR Diet
Diabetic Diet
Diet Denominator
(volumetrics based)
Diet Divas
Diet Joke
Diet Selector
Diet Smart
The Diet Solution
Diet to Go Review
Diuretics and Diet
Diverticulitis Diet (also diverticulosis)
Doctor's Orders
Dr Whitaker Diet
The Dorm Room Diet
Dr Amanda's Don't Go Hungry Diet
Dr Bernstein Diet
Dr Feingold Diet
Dr Kushner's Diet (personality diet)
Dr Seigals Cookie Diet
Dukan Diet
Duke Diet
Easy Macrobiotic Diet

Eat Clean Diet
Eat Clean Diet Recharged
Eating for Life
Eat, Drink, Be Healthy
Eating for Beauty
Eating For Energy
Eat For Health
Eat Like a Hot Chick
Eating Mindfully
Eat, Shrink and Be Merry
Eat Smart: The Zen Anti-Diet
Eat Stop Eat: 24 Hour Fast
Eat This, Not That
Eat to Live
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat
Eat Your Way to Happiness
eDiets Fresh Prepared Meal Delivery
Egg Diet
Elimination Diets
End of Overeating
Energy Boosting Diet
enLIGHTened: Yoga Weight Loss
Every Other Day Diet
F-Factor Diet
F-Plan Diet
Facial Analysis Diet
Fad Diets
Family Fit Diet
Fast Food Diet
Fat Burning Bible
Fat Burning Diet
Fat Chance- Julie Hadden
Fast Track Detox Diet
Fat Flush Diet
Fat Flush for Life
Fat Loss 4 Idiots
Fat Loss Factor Diet Plan
Fat Loss Target
Fat Resistance Diet
Fat Smash Diet
Feingold Diet
Fit Not Fat at 40-Plus
Flat Abs Diet
Flat Belly Diet
Flavor Point Diet
Food Cravings Diet
Food Doctor Diet
Food Guide Pyramid (1992)
Food Guide Pyramid - MyPyramid (2005)
Food Revolution
Four Week Detox Diet
French Diet
French Women Don't Get Fat
Fresh 'n Fit Cuisine: Diet Delivery
Frozen Food Diets
Fruitarian (Fruit Diet)
Fruitarian Diet (The Path to Paradise)
Fruit Flush
The Gabriel Method
Gain Weight Diet
The Game On Diet
Gene Smart Diet
The Genotype Diet
Get Lean Diet
Get Ready Diet
Gluten Free Daily
Gluten Free Dairy Free Diet Recipes
Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten Free Recipes
Glycemic Index Diets
Glycemic Impact Diet
Glycemic Load Diet
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Gorgeously Green Diet
Gotti Diet
Gout Diet
GramSlam Diet
Grapefruit Diet
Green Smoothies Diet
Green Smoothie Recipes
Greenlane Diet
Hallelujah Diet
Hamptons Diet
Happiness and Health Diet
HCG Diet
Healing Cancer and Disease
Herbalife Weight Loss Program (ShapeWorks)
Hershberg Diet
High Fiber Diet (and diverticulitis diet)
High Protein Diets
Hilton Head Metabolism Diet
Hip and Thigh Diet
Hollywood Cookie Diet (Meal Replacement)
Hollywood Diet
Hollywood Trainer Weight-loss Plan
Holy Grail Body Transformation
Hormone Diet: The Perfect 10
Hot Latin Diet
How The Rich Get Thin
How to Lose Weight Forever
How to Lower Your Cholesterol
Hungry Girl: Lisa Lillien
I Diet
IBS Diet - High Fiber Approach
IBS Diet - Low Starch Approach
Idiot Proof Diet
In Defense of Food: Michael Pollen
Inside Out Diet: Liver Cleansing
Instinct Diet
Instinctive Nutrition
iPhone Weight Loss
Israeli Army Diet
Jackie Warner Diet
Japanese Diet
Jenny Craig
Jump Start Juicer System
Jungle Effect
Jerusalem Diet
Jillian Michaels
Joy's Life Diet
Juice Diet
Juice Fasts
Karl Lagerfeld Diet
Ketogenic Diets
Kids Diets
Kimkins Diet
Kim Lyons' Your Body, Your Life
The Kind Diet
LA Weight Loss
Lactose Interolance
Lemonade Diet
Leptin Diets
Lifestyle Cut Diet
Lighten Up- Loretta LaRoche
Lindora - Lean for Life
Liquid Diets
Live Food Factor
Liver Cleansing Diet
Living Food Diet
Living Low-Carb
Locally Grown Food Diet
Longevity Diet
Look Ten Years Younger
Losing the Last 15 Pounds
Low Carb Diets
Low Fat Diets
Low Glycemic Diets
Low Protein Diets
Low Glycemic Recipes
Low Sodium Diet
Low Starch Diet
Lunch Box Diet
Macrobiotic Diet
Macronutrient Diet
Makeover Diet
Maker's Diet
Man Diet
Maqui Berry Diet
Marilu Henner Diet
Martha's Vineyard Detox Diet
Martini Diet
Master Cleanser
Master Your Metabolism
Mayo Clinic Diet (fad)
Mayo Clinic Diet Official
Mayo Clinic Plan
Mediterranean Diet
MediterrAsian Way
Metabolic Balance
Metabolism Diet
Michael Thurmond: Six Day Body Makeover
Michael Thurmond's 6-Week Makeover
Models Diet
Most Decadent Diet Ever
Mucusless Diet
My Big Fat Greek Diet
My Diva Diet
Naturally Thin
Negative Calorie Diet
Never Say Diet
New Atkins Diet Plan
New Me Diet: Hormone Balancing
New Sonoma Diet
New York Diet
No Fad Diet
No Flour, No Sugar Diet
No Grain Diet
No S Diet
No White Foods Diet
Nourishing Traditions
Nu-Kitchen Meal Delivery
NutriSystem Diabetic Diet
NutriSystem Flex
O2 Diet
Oatmeal Diet
Okinawa Diet
Omega Diet
On-line Diets
Oprah Diet
Ornish Diet
Osteoporosis Diet
P90X Nutrition Plan
Packaged Food Diets
Paleo Diet
Paleo Diet for Athletes
Park Avenue Diet
Peanut Butter Diet
Pen and Paper Diet
The Perfect Body Diet
Perfect Weight America: Jordan Rubin
Perricone Diet (Skin Care)
Personality Type Diet
Picture Perfect Weight Loss
Plateau Breaking Diet
Pocket Diet
Popular Diets
Pregnancy Diet
Pregnancy Diet (vegetarian)
Primal Blueprint: Paleolithic Diet
Pritikin Diet
Protein Power
Quantum Eating
Quantum Wellness
Raw Food Cleanse
Raw Food Diet
Raw Food Diet: Eating in the Raw
Raw Food Detox Diet
Raw Food Revolution Diet
RealAge Diet
Real Food Diet
The Remedy
Reverse Diet
Reversing Diabetes
Rice Diet
Rosedale Diet
Sacred Heart diet
Sainsburys Diets
Scarsdale Diet
The Schwarzbein Principle
Seattle Sutton
Self Healing Colitis and Crohn’s Diet
Sensa:The Sprinkle diet
Seven Day Diet
ShapeWorks (Herbalife Weight Loss Program)
Shangri-La Diet
Shape Your Self
Shrink Yourself: Stop Emotional Eating
Simple Weight Loss
The Skinny (Little Black Dress Diet)
Skinny Bitch
The Skinny Diet
Skinny Switch Secret Diet
Slim Fast
Slimming World
Smart For Life Cookie Diet
The Solution
Sonoma Diet
South Beach Diet
South Beach Diet Supercharged
Special K Diet
Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Spectrum Diet
Step Diet
Stress Eater Diet
Strip The Fat
Structure House Diet
St. Tropez Diet
Subway Diet
Sugar Busters
Sugar Solution
Sunfood Diet
Super Cleanse
Super Foods Health Style Diet
Supermarket Diet
Suzanne Somers Diet
Swiss Secret to Ultimate Health
Tapeworm Diet
Teens and Kids Diets
Total Health Makeover
Tracy Anderson Method
Truth About Diets
Thermogenic Weight Loss
This Is Why You're Fat
Three Day Diet
Three Hour Diet
Thrive: Vegan Triathlete Diet
UltraMetabolism plan
Ultimate Tea Diet
Ultimate Weight Loss Solution
UltraSimple Diet
USDA Food Guide Pyramid (1992)
USDA Food Guide Pyramid (2005)
Vegetarian Diet
Very Low Calorie Diets
Volumetrics Diet(The Diet Denominator)
Vice Busting Diet: Breaking Bad Food Habits
Wall Street Diet
Warrior Diet
Weight Loss Cure
Weight Loss Grail
Weight Watchers
Weight Loss 4 Idiots
What Would Jesus Eat?
What's Your Diet Type
Why Are You Weighting?
Why Diet and Exercise Fail
World Peace Diet
Yoga Body Diet
You Are What You Eat
You: Being Beautiful
Younger Thinner You Diet
Your Big Fat Boyfriend
Your Natural Diet
Zen Anti-Diet
Zone Diet (ZonePerfect)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is it fit or fat that matters?

A friend of mine shared some of her thoughts about bodies and fat and fitness yesterday.  She had correctly noticed that her particular area of curiosity was not one I've addressed before, but most likely others have had similar thoughts, so it definitely seems worth exploring...

Here's part of what she wrote:

[This woman modeled for me after a long process of figuring out if it was the right thing for her to do.  We had a great series of emails about it.]

Over time, I came to a place of acceptance that all of me is beautiful.  Perhaps not always "attractive" in the classic definition of the word, but beautiful nonetheless.  Any pose could be lovely, real, and truly me.  Of course I have my own personal preferences of what looks more attractive or beautiful to me, based on my own thoughts and feelings about beauty.  How I was raised, my own influences over the years.

So I've felt that I am beautiful, just as I am.  A nearly 50-year old woman, with a few extra curves (rolls, if you will) in some places... and a couple of places where there aren't enough.  A standard weight chart would list me right now as being 40+ lbs overweight, and a BMI chart has me just under or at the "obesity" level; even though most people looking at me (especially clothed), would never guess that.  And I've been content.  Peaceful about it.  I accept that this is how I am today.  I will eat that extra brownie, because I want to.  I don't aspire to be, nor do I have any need or wish to be, the skinny model that a 20-something woman may want to look like.  I've earned my body as it is today, with all its lumps and wrinkles and smile lines. I am happy, just as I am.

And then... it hit me in the shower.  Am I really being content?  Or am I being lazy??!  Am I really "loving" my body right now, allowing it to be 40+ pounds overweight, without exercising or watching what I eat?  Or am I in fact being abusive to my body?  Am I allowing my body to be unhealthy, opening it to diseases, heart risk, cholesterol, etc.?  Is this really acceptance of who I am today, or is this criminal neglect of my God-given precious body?

So now I'm feeling somewhat torn.... should I feel at peace/acceptance?  Or should I feel guilty for neglect?

I don't know.

Where's the line between loving and appreciating my body just as it is today with its imperfections, flaws, wrinkles, extra rolls and pounds; and abuse of this precious gift by neglect (I know I COULD work out, I COULD eat less/better, etc. but I choose not to)?  Is the "line" something that I can/should choose for myself?  Is the line different for everybody - i.e., it is NOT the line that is given by those damn charts, or even by our doctors?  Could my 'line' between accepting myself and being content with my weight be different than anyone else's?  Can I be satisfied with accepting that I do not want to/have no motivation to/don't care enough to be 30 pounds less.. and can I then walk around in that body weight *without* having some vague feeling of guilt about it?

What's the difference between healthy and heavy?  Is it okay to accept 'heavy'?

How much of those 'vague feelings of guilt' have to do with the media vs. doctors/healthy charts?  Everything?  Anything?  I secretly wonder how women who are much heavier than I can accept their bodies... don't they feel MUCH more guilt for being 'unhealthy' than I do?  Or is this crap only the stuff that goes on in my head, based on my own life experiences?

I think she brings up some great questions.  On NPR the other day I heard a doctor quoting masses of research which show that it isn't weight which is the indicator of poor health - it's fitness.  People of any virtually any weight can be healthy and fit.  And people of virtually any weight can be unhealthy and out of shape.  This doctor said that research is showing that people should be more aware of their fitness level than their weight.

Yes there are so damn many messages out there that our weight matters.  How do we stop listening to those?  Should we?  Could we?

A study was done with 5-year-old girls.  They were asked questions to indicate how they felt about themselves then were shown a series of images of rail thin fashion models strutting their stuff.  Then the little girls were again tested to see how they felt about themselves.  Afterwards their body image had plummeted and they showed signs of depression about their looks.  Ouch.

In another study, 6-year-old girls were given a choice between two dolls which were identical except for how thin they were.  95% of them chose the thinner doll.

25% of 8-year-old girls are on a diet.

95% of diets DO NOT WORK.

Any ideas about how to stop this insanity?  How to help young girls grow up loving their bodies and selves like the little girl in the video I posted the other day?  Twould be lovely!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Goddess (and her daughter)

I had a great time working on my Goddess piece today.  I had begun it a couple of weeks ago when I went up to DC to work with Rob Vander Zee.  I had a lot of energy to burn off that day so I threw on a bunch of yellow.  I was using paint sticks rather than paint and didn't have any subtle colors to work with.

At the end of the session, I drew in her little daughter walking behind her, shifting the picture from icon to slightly funky.  I love the juxtaposition.

For the last couple of weeks, the piece had been languishing in the studio while I worked on a commission - LOVED doing it!  I was also concerned about how I would approach the canvas with so daggone much yellow on it - that's a hard color to work with.

Today I got to a stopping point with the commission and decided to jump in - what the heck?  The worst I can do is wreck it and have to start all over again.

I mixed up a batch of paint and started in.  I was immediately excited when the colors looked really good - alive, interesting.  I stopped for a bit to teach a couple of students, then went back to it, covering most of the body except for the face.  I'm thrilled about the way it's going.

I'm headed out to teach this evening - my last Beginning Pastel Class - the Intermediate one begins in a couple of weeks.  Tomorrow I have to go to DC to pick up a painting, then Thursday I hope to get back to this.  It's so exciting to me when I piece is really working.  It makes me want to be in the studio more than anywhere else!  (Though I love teaching and know I'll enjoy that too once I'm there!)

Y'all have a great evening!