This painting is called “Amaranth” which comes from the Greek word meaning “never fading flower”. The Greeks regarded the Amaranth flower as a symbol of immortality – blessed to be the only living piece of Eternity in our mortal world – because it retains its freshness for a long time after being picked.
The painting starts as a canvas covered in various printed essays on the meaning of privacy, the body as a feminist issue, the vulnerability of the unclothed female body and the idea of objectification of the female form. I then used layers of colour and various techniques to try and show a worn but still vibrant background when I created the line drawing of a naked woman.
I painted this for a number of reasons and to be honest, the more I painted, the more reasons I came up with. I don’t expect everyone to like the painting, to like the idea it is of full frontal nudity of a woman (a pose I consciously chose), to agree with the various reasons behind why I created this piece but I hope that it creates some mental dialogue at least as to either why you don’t like it or it makes you uncomfortable or why you couldn’t/wouldn’t hang it in your home OR as to why you like it and have little issue with it.
Since Eve first realized she was naked and scrambled to cover her “shame” with fig leaves, feminists have been divided over the question of how to return dignity and humanity to the female body. Sex-positive feminists believe the answer lies in ridding themselves of the perception of shame surrounding nudity and sexuality full stop, while anti-porn and Nordic-model feminists see the answer in eliminating venues or media where women appear nude or sexualized.
We live in a culture of feminist discourse where it’s normal for women to attack other women who choose to appear nude, and where every public visual exploration of female sexual subjectivity risks being denigrated as objectifying. Why?
There is another factor to consider here. On the one hand, commercial porn and “Men’s Mags” push images of women that are passive and degrading; on the other, reactionary religious leaders tell women they have to cover up their shame. Somewhere in between, ordinary women struggle to feel OK about themselves, worrying about showing too little or too much, about their weight, the shape of their bodies, and the judgement of people close and those that they don’t even know. Posing nude, or dressing provocatively, is rapidly becoming seen as one of the ultimate feminist acts.
I painted it because I love the female form, both clothed and otherwise and if you ever meet a heterosexual man that says different, you are talking to a liar. But, as I grow older and unfortunately more mature, the titillating aspect of the nude image of a woman becomes much more of philosophical issue to understand for me. To complicate things I now have a daughter heading into the later part of her teenage years and regardless of the fact I do my best to stay away from hypocrisy, having a teenage daughter can destroy any Father’s well trenched and held positions.
Would I want my daughter to dress provocatively, or pose nude for artistic or commercial reasons? HELL NO! But what I want doesn’t change the fact that I am not the one making the decision and why should she be ashamed or feel humiliated if she did? There are real life consequences to fighting for things that are right and just and those consequences can often make the living of a life difficult. But in the end, she has the choice and that is the way it should be.
What does all this have to do with a painting of a naked woman? Little, nothing, everything. The whole point is that just the idea I had when deciding to paint it morphed, changed and became simply an attempt to have people think about WHY… why is the naked body and particularly the female body such a lightning rod of controversy.
If women and men were equally likely to be shamed for exposing their bodies, or for wearing “provocative” clothing, then that’d be pretty nice, but that’s not our current reality. Current reality is that you hear an awful lot about what women wear, and very little about what men wear. There’s a cultural taboo on penises, but as long as you keep your genitals hidden as a man you can get away with more or less anything.
Not so for women.
And in a fair and equal world, it would be the same for women.
“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.”
― C. JoyBell C.
This is a video of me creating this painting.