Every picture tells a story, and in art, it is remarkable how different that story can be from one person to the next. For instance, a painting of an apple sliced in half with a knife nearby can look juicy and appealing to one person, but not to another because the apple is cut open and the knife is sinister. In short, artists create pictures, and once they go public, the doors of interpretation are flung open. I have seen this many times in my years of being an artist. This is especially so with figurative work that is “controversial.”
This week I posted a photo on Facebook that immediately provoked debate. The photo was of a young woman, nude, on her side, holding herself closely in an almost fetal position. There is a great deal of movement around her, with textures, and symbolic elements, such as flowers and contrasting values of light and dark. The first comment was from a woman; “Beautiful!!! This is tasteful and gorgeous. Feminine loveliness.” The second commenter, also a woman, made several remarks— “She looks beat up.” “Sorry, maybe it's my healthcare background.... maybe it reminds me of what I faced last yr....queasy feeling . . . reminds me of.... can’t! Tears!” Did she mean it reminded her of death?
First off, I am always grateful for strong response to my artwork one way or another, for the Bible warns, “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” I have had to make choices as an artist, to either stay away from controversy, or pursue and then share visions that may be met with disapproval. (See my Hangup paintings.)
This particular piece began because I have a huge archive of photographs and enjoy combining them into new forms. I like working with nudes because of the divine qualities of the human form, and also because bodies are powerful symbolically. The textures were created in my studio, painting on glass and they are fast moving, like the wind. The flowers are white roses, and an iris seen from above. I like the color red as a symbol of blood—life. Blood can also be threatening, seen as a wound that brings death. For there to be breadth in art, contrasts must be included, thus darkness and light.
After all this, it is up to you the viewer to bring whatever emotion and experience you have into the picture. Or else, look with fresh eyes, like a child, and be captivated in wonder.
Here are the photos that were combined to make the final artwork: