Friday, August 27, 2010

Sometimes it can be frustrating...

As I'm preparing for my show, Sacred Flesh, at Visual Art Studio here in Richmond in October, I've been getting in touch with my models and asking them if they'd like to send me a statement about their experience modeling for me which I'll incorporate into a catalogue for the show.  Yesterday I wrote to one woman who had been ambivalent about modeling for me to ask if she would write something so there would be a different point of view expressed. 

Here's what she wrote:
Peer pressure...not exactly something one expects to experience at 54, but with a sister like mine it happens....Her enthusiasm swayed me to pose nude for a most wonderous artist....I felt like throwing up all morning the day of the shoot....In my heart I knew it was not "me" but I did it anyway and at first pretended I was enjoying myself...I posed with my grown daughter and my sister...Once we got warmed up I truly enjoyed was a wonderful bonding and enlightening feels very personal between my sister, daughter and myself and I cherish that day, but do not wish to share it with others....I am torn between regretting that I was not strong enough to "just say no" and the special feeling I got from the experience....Great learning experience for me...I am sorry that Susan loves the painting she created and I do not wish her to share it on a large platform....She Understands and for that I say SUSAN SINGER ROCKS !!!!!
It was -uh- interesting - to get that email!  I had spent 2 months on the painting.  I had known she didn't want me to post it on the internet out of concern that family members might see it, but she had said I could show it in shows, so I felt disappointed and frustrated and even angry that she now didn't want me to show it at all.  The piece is 4 feet by 6 feet! 

And yet, I will of course respect her desires.  How could I not?  After all, this project is about honoring women and their feelings about their bodies.  If they're not OK with my showing a painting of them nude, I must respect that.

And I still get to have my feelings.

When I told Chris what had happened, he offhandedly suggested I paint paper bags over her and her daughter's heads.  I thought he was kidding, and he may have been, but the thought has actually stayed with me.  Why not? 

After thinking about the situation all day, I wrote the woman back.  She is mature and reasonable, so I had faith that we could talk a bit more about how she was feeling - and about my frustration and disappointment.  I told her about Chris's idea.  To my surprise, she actually thinks it's a good idea. 

I do too.

It's a great opportunity to show the ambivalence people can have about showing their nude bodies in public.  And to show how important it is to honor ones own feelings rather than betray them, i.e. it would have been better for all involved if she had said "NO!" rather than letting me take the photos then paint the painting. 

But she's human, and she's allowed to be unclear and to not know the right thing to do and to falter and to try things out.

And now Spirit and creativity are stepping into the slightly uncomfortable breech and are offering up a new possibility, one I wouldn't have thought of otherwise, one that is probably better than the painting I've already done.

So I guess I'll be painting paper bags this week.  Stay tuned!

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