Last weekend I participated in a local artist’s tour with two friends with whom I share studio space. We are not very commercial, as artists go – we all draw and paint subjects we deeply believe in, but don’t necessarily seek to sell our work. Some of them won’t call themselves artists, but I do, because art is one of the few realms in which nudity is tolerated. If you’ve seen this blog before, you may recognize how therapeutic this self-portraiture process is for me, and I know it can be so for others. For years I dreamt of getting an art therapy degree, but I decided instead to maintain my status simply as an artist, because it is freer, and the people I work with can decide for themselves where to place boundaries on what is most comfortable and ethical for them in respect to drawing or photographing the body.
The exhibition is called Self-portraitrure to honour the body and consists of twenty drawings of myself, nude, over a period of twenty years. Twenty years I’ve been doing this! It was suprisingly easy to choose some favourites from nearly two hundred drawings produced over this time. Instead of showing the originals, I did some page make-up to present two similar drawings side by side, and to express in writing what was going on during each period and how photographing and drawing my body changed things for me.
I speak of negative self-image, disordered eating, weight gain and menopause, but I also share how liberating it is to photograph myself and learn to honour my body from different perspectives during the drawing process. A friend who visited made the observation that the subject is very intimate, and yet at the same time, universal. I saw some people read passages that brought tears to their eyes, and others said they recognized themselves in my stories. A few turned away, uncomfortable, but the majority took the time to understand why I do this, and I hope it left them with the notion that all bodies can be perceived as beautiful, or at the very least, as something worth honouring.
This showing was a big deal for me because it is a cumulation (but not the end) of twenty years of work, and it was the first time that I was ready and comfortable enough to share it locally. As yet I have only done so anonymously on this blog. I recently cut some professional ties that were holding me back, and with time, the process has matured. It feels good to finally be boldly transparent about what I do and why.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to see a PDF version of the exhibit. Your feedback and comments are as always greatly appreciated!