The Beautiful Belly

February 4, 2013

(This is my belated New Year post.) When a new year begins, it seems that people are pushed into a “reshaping” and “new beginning” gear. We make resolutions to be a better person. We pledge to blog more consistently, or we sign up for the gym or promise ourselves we will use our membership. Not that toned arms and a flat belly are bad things, but I refuse to believe that super skinny is the only way to be beautiful. I’ve collected some images of beautiful bellies, contemporary and classic.

The inspiration for the grouping was Rembrandt’s Bathsheba. The first time I saw this image in a magazine, I became lost in Bathsheba’s soft, sumptuous stomach. Rembrandt’s painting made me long for more paintings of woman with full bodies.

While the slender body is a coveted thing in our society, these paintings are an example of how something classified as less than perfect can be a source of great beauty. This year I hope to find beauty in other hidden places.

Look. Listen. Respond.



To Polish or Not to Polish

November 10, 2012

Looking back at old sketchbooks and quick studies, I find myself falling in love with the smaller quick works I have done. In my last couple semesters of art school, I definitely struggled with the concept of what a completed work was and how much “finish” it needed to have. This question is not unique to me; throughout art history you can see artists pushing the boundary of what was considered a wall-worthy piece.

Of course the first piece that comes to mind is Manet’s scandalous Luncheon on the Grass:

Manet, Luncheon on the Grass

This image is now an important part of art history. It draws my attention, not because of the nude woman with the clothed men or because they are in modern dress, but it grabs me because Manet has played with the proportions, the space. The woman in the “back” of the scene is too large according the space Manet appears to be setting up. Despite how refined this piece seems to be, to me it represents Manet rebelling against the conventions of his time, against the polish.

As I began taking an inventory of other “rebellious” pieces of work I could recall, I thought of both favored and hated pieces.

Munch, The Village Street 1906

Alice Neel, Pregnant Woman 1971

Julian Schnabel, St. Francis in Ecstasy 1980

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Skull) 1984

R.B. Kitaj, The Autumn of Central Paris 1972-73

Egon Schiele, Girl with Purple Stockings 1913

Jenny Saville, Time

Then, there are the beautiful pieces that we don’t even know if the artists themselves considered finished pieces, but we put them in museums or on pinterest anyways.

Degas, Nude Woman Drying Herself 1880

Rembrandt, Self-portrait with Open Mouth

Kirchner, Ruhendes Paar

Picasso, Portrait of Fernande Olivier

A completed piece of work cannot be labeled under the narrow characteristics of quality materials, a polished look or value according to a gallery owner. Fun, quick, or un-polished pieces continue to exist because the artists allow/allowed them to. While beautifully rendered works strike me with awe, these strange or misfit pieces speak to something more human in me, just like my own sketches. I am glad that both types are able to exist in this world.

Look. Listen. Respond.


Stealing Art

September 5, 2012

Picasso is credited with saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Picasso was a painter who could make someone else’s painting his own; he “picasso-fied” many classic paintings. I am always amazed at the connections you find throughout time in the art world. Soutine’s Side of Beef always sticks out in my mind as an image used for stock material. (For Julia Robert’s fans, you may remember this slide as being labeled “grotesque” in Mona Lisa Smile.)

Soutine, Side of Beef (1924-5)

Both Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville have referenced Soutine’s work in their own paintings:

Jenny Saville, Torso 2

Francis Bacon, Figure with Meat

Bacon is also referencing another artist in his work. Figure with Meat is one of several Pope portraits that Bacon painted, and it is referencing a portrait done by Diego Velazquez. (One of his most famous works is Las Meninas.)

Francis Bacon, Study of Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Diego Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Most recently, I have discovered the painter Caroline Westerhout, who draws off the style of Gustav Klimt, giving new meanings to some of his paintings.

Caroline Westerhout, Judith-After the Trial

Gustav Klimt, Judith I

The connections you can find are endless because artists are always “borrowing” or “stealing” from each other to make a new idea or to reform an old one. Through this theft, art becomes more than a history lesson, it becomes a time machine for artists. We turn the dial back to see the stories of others, then return safely home and make them our own.

Look. Listen. Respond.