Friday, 23 August 2013

Answering the question..... why naked?

I have been pondering, as you do in quiet moments, some of the things that people have said to me.  One reasonably well known quilter from America came up to me at Festival of Quilts, and said that whilst she didn't like or approve of my using naked bodies, "I got away with it" because of the text, and she had to admit they were well done. Slightly grudging I thought but each to their own; she also said something about her body being for her husband only, and perhaps her inference was that I was in someway odd for not thinking the same. So, probably time to explain again.

Why naked?

Well, why not naked?  Life painting and drawing is an acceptable part of fine art, and museums and art galleries around the world are of full of naked bodies painted by some of the world’s best painters. The Vatican for example is full of the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. From the artists point of view, it’s a difficult exercise to paint the human body with its complex musculature, foreshortenings, proportions, and subtle colourings, and is a fascinating challenge to try and get right.

When we wear clothes we do so not only for protection and modesty, but also as a statement about ourselves. We use clothes to show our ethnicity, our wish to belong to a certain group or tribe, (Goths, Hells Angels, or maybe just in admiration of a pop group, celebrity, or athlete) We have developed a constantly changing fashion, and some of us have a need to be in the latest colour or style, and we just  feel better about ourselves when we think we look nice. We use clothes to attract the opposite sex, or make ourselves look interesting. Sometimes the opposite applies and we may choose to dress in a very conservative way, or a dishevelled way, purposefully to avoid attraction or indeed repel others! We may wish to say that we have reached a certain standard in life and are beyond frippery and are hard working and sensible.  Reliable or expensive. We wear clothes as a uniform of age.

I wish to take away all those assumptions and prejudices and look at the human being underneath in it’s true and natural state.  Each quilt tells a story about the person depicted, and the text is blistered and ingrained into the skin, and then painted over with acrylics. The person and the story become one. The text is intentionally difficult to read, but not impossible.  I do not want the image to exist only to illustrate the text, but to be a subtle extra layer; one you have to look for.  I feel as if I am whispering my story to you and not shouting.

14 comments:

  1. I can only say: I LOVE IT.

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    1. Thank you Ineke, you're very kind :)

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  2. Your quilts are the most beautiful I have ever seen. It makes me proud to be a senior. Thank you.

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    1. Hello Denise, That's very good of you, thank you x

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  3. I don't tend to comment on your posts - I started following because you are an amazing artist. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you have to run up against attitudes of disapproval, but I'm very glad you take things in stride when you can!

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    1. Hello Ali, a double thank you then for commenting - though you are of course most welcome to lurk should you wish!! I try to ignore negative comments as they are so destructive, but this one puzzled me because I hadn't heard anything like that in real life before. Still, it's always good to broaden one's horizons and see the others point of view. Yes, I'm almost sure it is.

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  4. Geez, this will probably never end for you and this series. It reminds me of the problem the local arts council has here in this very artsy little town with a few people offended by any art with nudity. If it were a sculpture, something would get draped over the offending part. If it were a painting, it might get turned to the wall, even taken off the wall and turned. One woman even left a 3 page hand written letter explaining why the council had no right to show nudity in a public place - mostly on religious grounds. Now the council has a gallery that is not considered part of a public place and it can show anything it wants!

    This is a very well thought out explanation you've written here - and definitely not shouted. Onward!

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  5. Thank you Sheila, Although my explanation is not new; I've said it many times before, I occasionally feel the need to repeat myself! Your comment has amazed me - nobody wants conflict and this person is able to influence unduly I guess. It would be very hard to stand up and say "you're wrong" to this woman, and engage with her, but I'm sure there's lots of folk who secretly wish someone would. I'm really glad the gallery can now show what it wants and forge ahead and open the hearts and minds of it's visitors.

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  6. Annabel Your quilts are amazing. The first I saw were on Design Matters TV and I was at first uncomfortable but when viewed further they reveal so much more than the naked body. It is also our innermost feelings and vulnerabilities. It is who we really are without the trappings of society imposed upon us. Thank you for your work. Mary Ann

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  7. Grrr!!!! I just posted a long and profound comment which bl&*%y Wordpress swallowed whole and then spat out. Suffice to say that they are wrong and you are challenging but honest and one day the world will catch up. Gawd Bless yer M'am.
    PS my previous post was much more erudite and articulate...

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    1. I know! That's so annoying. I posted a long comment on mags ramsays blog the other day and it got wiped. Somehow you just can't do it all over again. Thanks for both comments though, good on you.

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  8. I am glad you show the work Annabel. As I said to you at the show, I think a lot of nakedness is there to shock - at least in these days- and I think instead it should be preserved as a precious thing between 2 people.
    However, I really appreciate your telling of who we are as women. Here we are - without the roles and the costumes that go with the roles. I don't think it could be done better actually. It makes people think.
    I also appreciate your explanation about the challenge of artistically getting it right, and so the attraction of 'life drawing'. Something I couldn't understand before.
    Sandy in Bracknell
    Just saw the new post with the censorship. not right to accept something and then to demine the art and workmanship in that way.

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  9. Hello Sandy, it was good to meet you, and thank you for your comment, and understanding the challenges involved in Life studies. The sensorship is rather annoying, and I've asked for my quilt back.

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  10. I love your work. The body is the message and you do both so well. Brava

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