I admit it. I can paint men. I just don’t want to. These are drawings from life class in art college many years ago. Acrylic on paper, no idea why I can’t paint in acrylic now, guess I just got out of the habit.
I can’t wait to get myself back into a life class. Because my models aren’t professionals I take photos to work from. I can remember what it’s like sitting still for all that time and I can’t ask someone to do it for free, but just looking at these makes me remember what a different process it is to working from photos.
I just hope this time the models in the life class are female
I don’t know why I’m puting off new photo sessions since I got my new camera. I have new props, two fantastic new outfits and still I can’t seem to commit to actually geting some new photos taken.
I’ve been making some sweet decorative little pieces on small canvases which I’ll list on etsy soon as they’re dry but what I really need is a new studio session. I was thinking yesterday about trying to get men involved again. My photo sessions with men have been unsuccessful, for different reasons. Mainly because I just don’t seem to know what to do with them. When I’m posing girls it’s easy, I’m projecting myself through them.
It’s like lingerie, girls have got endless options, guys look silly in anything but the most basic stuff, or they look great- but gay. Same with posing them for photos or drawing. I can put them into basic life class poses but giving them the same look I give my girls is just so wrong. Funny, but wrong.
Men in my work are best used as accessories. They come with a partner who I direct around him and what happens to him in the photo session is just perfect for my work. The trouble has been that the couples have been self conscious and not believable. Girls who give me great erotic photos when they’re here alone stiffen up with a man there. Strange but true.
I have a friend who does a bit of cage fighting, I thought about going along and taking pics there. Men all angry and sweaty and not wearing much. It might give me a better idea of what to do with men without feminising them and to make them a more active part of the process.
Maybe I should get a naked man of my own instead of borrowing other peoples, but they’re so much nicer when you can give them back
People do ask me what my work is really about, but sometimes they’re better off not knowing. These paintings are about me, they’re about people I know and mostly about the dark peculiarities of the human condition and sexuality. They’re about the theatre of sex, the performances people put on and the lies behind the act.
People do remark that they’re obviously painted by a woman, and I know that’s true. Men painting these things are often as happy with the illusion as the viewer. Again I must clarify, this is not an anti male rant, in the private world of sex there’s equal responsibility, the games are part of the fun and eroticism can be the antithesis of honesty.
It occurred to me while I was reading eroticism and art by Alyce Mahon that the position I find myself in has interesting echoes in art history. She recalls the paintings of Ingres (1780-1867) and his contemporaries who pandered to a fantasy ideal of a world in which women were sexually available and libidinous, and more importantly a world which wasn’t readily checkable for factual accuracy. If they were portraying women in Wales, people would have just gone to have a look and returned deflated and disillusioned.
There was a recent resurgence in the popularity of orientalist art. The Tate hels an exhibition in 2008 “british orientalist painting” One of the featured paintings is by a female artist also working under a pseudonym. Henriette Browning’s “harem interior” caused some consternation. Alyce Mahon mentions that in 1861 Olivier Merson complained that Browning’s paintings showed “silent and bored women… chaste in the muslin of their long dresses” and that “these paintings somewhat disrupt our dreams of the orient”
Shame. The interesting thing is that in this description of the reaction to the disappointing reality that people are basically the same the world over I am reminded of my own experience and that now it’s the west which has the capacity to disrupt dreams currently very active in the orient. The most casually offensive messages I get are from the middle east. This isn’t because men there are fundamentally any different. It’s just that they’re believing the advertising of the western porn industry and lack the ability to come and check. There are more than enough men in this country who believe that women on the internet are from a strange and wonderful world where girls just desperately want to see badly taken mobile phone shots of nondescript body parts. (I know I go on about that a lot- but I get many less photos in my inbox these days so I just thought I’d throw it out there again and repel a few more.)
My work focuses on these illusions. The large scale ones I’ve already mentioned. And the smaller ones. The reality of being alienated or connected and the ways sexuality is used in honesty and in lies. My paintings are often lit as if they show a stage performance. Sometimes the subjects are confrontational and direct. Sometimes they’re anonymous and turned away, but still aware of the viewer. Sometimes people are more honest in sex than in life, sometimes the opposite. Sometimes people will engage in levels of intimacy in the bedroom but will be unable to communicate with their clothes on. Sometimes women will put on the sexual performance of a lifetime and not see it as absurd that they can’t ask their sex partner if they’re in an exclusive relationship. Sometimes men are tender and sweet in the bedroom in a way you just wouldn’t recognise if you saw them in a pub with their mates. It’s a different world, a mystery. And the reality of it can be uncomfortable. The reason my work is “obviously done by a woman” is that I talk about these things with my friends and I’m always amazed by the illusions we weave. A question I’m often asked by men is why women seem so much more sexually experimental at the start of a relationship and suddenly the more exciting and forbidden acts are birthday treats. That’s a common thing to happen. It’s part of the game for many people.
I’m fascinated by the dissonance which sex causes in the power balance of relationships. How far women will go to convince themselves their man is different to those others and doesn’t look at girls while strangely feeling the need to check their every move by some fairly extreme cyberstalking. It takes some effort to achieve something erotic within the constraints of modern life, insecurity and domestic normality.
But there’s a double bluff in my work, it’s deliberately staged, but there’s an underlying truth. It actually depicts what women are when there’s no men around at all. It’s aware of the eventual viewer but it’s not contrived to deceive. Some of my best paintings are of phoos taken in moments just before massive laughing fits. Because in my experience with every single one of my models is that girls left alone just don’t take themselves all that seriously. And that’s why my paintings look obviously done by a woman. Men just don’t really know what that world is like because it changes when a (straight) man is present. It’s a world as remote to the viewer as Ingres’ turkish bath, but it does exist. It’s a lot more real in essence than the art copied from pornography or glamour shoots by male photographers, that’s for sure. It’s just different, that’s all. I’m a girl painting girls, because that’s what I know and understand.
Ok maybe “understand” was taking it too far
Sometimes I don’t know what my paintings will be called until I’m listing them for sale. It has to be something which makes sense. Luckily, when I was listing this on etsy I was singing “modern day delilah” by Kiss in my head and so she was christened.
I often trawl through my itunes playlist to find titles (please don’t look at my titles now, the knowledge of what I’m listening to while I’m painting might take awaty any erotic mystique my work has left!)
Modern day Delilah could be a title for my whole body of work. It sums up my feeling about making erotic art in these times and this whole thing of blogging about postmodern sexuality and erotic representation of the female of our amazing species. Both in the photographs I take- which are never seen by anyone except my models- and the paintings which they are created for.
I suppose she represents the contradictions of putting my work up with full awareness that I’m going to appear alongside male oriented pornography and this will always get me in trouble and ultimately be my downfall. The devil in the keywords. But I refuse to be driven out. Like I’d refuse to give up wearing miniskirts if my legs had ever been good enough to be up for the task!
You can look at her, you can buy her and put her on your wall. But you can’t tame her.
“Same old ways,
Modern day Delilah”
I’m feeling nostalgic this week. This painting is taken from a set of photographs I took exactly a year ago.
I always think my work isn’t particularly allegorical but there’s always something that reminds me what was happening in my life, or my state of mind when I imagined the pictures into life.
It’s often because of the items of clothing or props I’ve used. I often search something out and post up an appeal for somebody to come and wear it. When I’m buying a pair of knickers I’m imagining a finished canvas, I’ve worked out the colours and lighing scheme and how I’m intending to pose the model.
I’ve got a couple of things, including a purple feather tickler that are demanding to be in a painting. Better get my feelers out for a model who isn’t too ticklish
I’m struggling to work out when my women grew faces and started feeling emotion. They were all faceless performers until recently. I really can’t seem to stop them looking like me. No matter how different the model in my photo is, how I alter the features. At the end, they all feel like they’re me. It’s most annoying!
My blog is turning into more of a catalogue of my feelings about postmodern female sexuality and it’s inherent problems than about painting. But it keeps me amused so humour me.
In all likelihood, my reader, I’m about to tell you of a world about which you know nothing. So please suspend disbelief and judgement and hear me out.
Most of my friends are poledancers. And at a stretch, given the fact that I’ve completed six levels of instruction and am typing this next to a fully installed professional chrome dance pole, I am too. That statement generally makes people either angry, aroused or confused. I hope to change that reaction. Sometimes I can change peoples’ perception, often I can’t.
Let me first tell you this. I watched nearly 40 pole performances on Saturday night at a competition. Some of those were people just wanting to give it a go, and others were from world renowned performers. In the audience- 80% women, 10% parents, 10% pole husbands (think WAGS) My friend next to me noticed that the young man across from us in the front row looked at the floor when he was in danger of getting an eyeful.
It’s just not what you think. Of course there are poledancers who do it for advertising so they can show their wares enough to get men to pay for a private dance. Good on em I say! It’s good money and if men are silly enough to pay to play the game nobody’s losing on the deal. I’ve been to strip clubs and seen some very impressive performances from some very athletic and pretty girls so if you’re expecting me to berate them, I’m not going to. But it’s not what I’m talking about.
I understand why pole fitness as a concept inspires such ridicule. There’s a basic misconception and prejudice behind it along with a feeling that we’re not being entirely honest about our motivation.
Why have so many suburban women got a dance pole in their kitchen? What place have high heels and photos got in a fitness class? Aren’t these women just doing it so they can go home and shake their booty in the old man’s face and give him a thrill? These questions stop being relevant when you meet us and see what we actually do. If it turns you on seeing a middle aged woman in hotpants red-faced and bruised with a pole between her legs swearing like she’s dropped a brick on her foot… stick around. If not you’ll be sorely disappointed!
The scorn that some people pour on the concept amazes me. The steel pole makes things possible that no ordinary woman will do unless she runs away with the circus! It’s about strength and style. And it’s about music and dressing up. There, I admitted it. We like the shoes. Sometimes we play sexy, sometimes we play it for laughs. But we’re not playing with men in mind. As long as I’ve had my x-pole no man has seen me on it. With the exception of the male student in the class (who happens to be better than me!)
But is it a crime? Does it have to elicit such suspicion? It’s a post-feminist conundrum until you realise that we quite like our man looking at us- it isn’t an automatic violation!! On a recent television discussion about pole fitness it seemed to be that saying a woman might want to use her skill to turn her man on at home invalidates the whole thing.
To that conclusion I say this. Is it impossible that a woman might just understand that men are visual creatures? that she might like dressing up and dancing? That she’s not averse to putting high heels and frills on for bed? That she knows why lap dance clubs are successful and maybe, just maybe…. she’s grown up enough and secure enough to think she might just give those strippers a run for their money and put on a show for the man she loves?
If to that you think- “No, women should just lift up their M&S nighties in the dark and leave it to the sex workers to the dirty stuff” or ” men would rather pay for it with a woman who’s spent ten minutes pretending to like every man in the room til he hands over his twenty quid and she moves on. There’s no place for that in a loving relationship” – that’s a shame. And you couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m really sad today thinking about how perfect my old studio was for photographs. It was the lighting from the velux window. Harsh and directional but so perfect for moody atmospheric shots. I was looking thhrough my photo sessions from about five years ago and realised I’ve been trying to artificially recreate that lighting here.
I was only taking them as photos in their own right then and I just wish I could have a few hours in there to take photos for paintings. I think my tenant might have words to say about it though http://www.etsy.com/listing/57096163/aceo-original-small-oil-painting
I’ve read a lot about copyright online in forums. All that stuff about altering images a certain amount. Piffle. I’ve gone to a great effort to create these images and I don’t want them copied. They’re mine. They are my babies. I thought them up, I got models, I bought underwear and props, I made photos and then I painted them.
They don’t need painting again in a different way. They don’t need to be tagged on facebook and used as your profile picture without asking me first. Get your own sexy friends and strip them and paint them. You can’t have mine, I saw them first!
Because…… they’re just not as nice to paint. I prefer painting smooth dogs to fluffy dogs and light coloured horses rather than black ones. They’re easier and more satisfying. I identify with the subject.
And… most importantly, they are less trouble