Figure painting has been one of the major forms of art for centuries. Some of the first recorded artworks were nudes. I take a slightly different approach to the traditional genre, though. Many nude art pieces show objectified women, “damsel’s in distress,” and are voyeuristic, or at least somewhat overly sensualized interpretations of women’s bodies. I have always considered the human body to be the most beautiful subject to paint, but don’t feel the need to sexualize it, or imply that nudity should be equated with vulnerability. I try to strike a balance in which the figures are allowed to be sensual but not erotic or pathetic.
After millennia of patriarchal culture and a society filled with misogyny there is a desperate need for images that depict women in a much more positive, empowered light. The people in my artwork are not objects to be ogled. They are not helpless creatures needing recue. They are not sexualized bodies waiting to be ravished. They are strong, bold, flexible, balanced, and powerful beings. They find joy in their movement and grace. Their bodies express confidence in their own abilities and talents. They are the kinds of images that are so remarkably absent from art and contemporary media.
Everyone has a body, and they are all beautiful in their own ways. Bodies have many uses and purposes, but once the external clothing is removed from a body, many people associate nudity with sex. This association is responsible for many things that are very unhealthy in our society. Just as one example, rape culture could be mitigated men could detach nudity from sexuality. One of the ways I hope to inspire people through my art is to help them see bodies in a different light.
In my artwork I use nudity as a form of expressionism, not exhibitionism. I take away clothing and other embellishments from my subjects to reveal their internal spirits. The figures become more universal and allow for a deeper connection with the viewer. Rather than judge my subjects by the kinds of first impressions one makes when seeing clothing, I encourage the viewer to look deeper and differently, and discover the inner lights that shine through the bodies.
Abstract expressionism helps me convey my ideas more clearly by dissociating the subject matter from a literal, realistic interpretation. It allows me to avoid cursory, shallow interpretations of my art as being prurient or pornographic. Instead of creating visual objects of desire I create symbols of humanity to be admired. Rather than idealize and idolize the figures I show examples of how bodies can be wonderful and beautiful, while celebrating the souls inside them.