'BARE YOURSELF' (2018)
Furman requires its senior art majors to complete a year-long project that reflects themselves as an artist, similar to a senior thesis. For my show, I spent two semesters completing six 2.5 x 3ft oil paintings of different women.
As someone who is naturally drawn to portraiture, I decided that for my senior show, I should explore the way identity and beauty could be expressed through my subjects. I have found that I lean more towards female subjects, due to being a female myself and sharing the 'female experience'. In the early stages of this work, I was working with different medium and types of portraiture—some were head shots, while some were full body, and some featured nudity. In my exploration of these, I found that the more "head shot" pieces seemed less refined compositionally than some of the others, and oil paint resonates as a sophisticated material. I decided to move forward with the nude/semi-nude portraits of women for several reasons. One, it aligns with how women have historically been depicted in fine art, and I feel as though it elevates my own work to a higher level of refinement. Two, it is a celebration of female form, and to truly capture the female essence is to celebrate this. It also achieves the goal I set out to accomplish: celebrating individualized female beauty, as no one's body is the same.
In this project, I have asked my models to present themselves as they wish—for one of my models, that meant showing off her back, her favorite feature, while for others it was being more exposed. In this sense, the individual is controlling their sensuality and vulnerability, which makes the personality of the subject stronger as opposed to me as the artist posing them in a certain manner. In this too, they were confident in themselves and how they were depicted. Often in art and media, I feel women are exploited or posed in a way that appeals to the concept of "the male gaze", and my goal is to subtract that and let the individual be in control of their narrative.
This year, the 'Time's Up' and 'Me Too' movements spoke to me, as they were both waves of empowerment for women to take back control of themselves and their lives. Women are often presented in a way that caters to a consumer, rather than celebrated for who they are. Work that additionally has inspired this idea for me is the work of the Guerrilla Girls, whose work routinely calls out the misogyny of the art industry. One of their most famous posters states "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5% of artists in the Modern Arts sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female." By having the women be in control of their subjectivity, and by being a female artist hoping to inspire and celebrate femininity, I aim to reclaim the representation of women by showing can be in control of their own narratives.