Monday, July 17, 2006

Body Image and Imaging the Body

Well, I'm always better with pictures than words so here is my contibution to the debate below on obesity and how it is dealt with by one artist at least. Jenny Saville is a British artist who paints on a grand scale. You can find out more about her work here. If you have every seen one of her huge, voluptuous 'bodyscapes' then you will appreciate how the enormity of scale affects the viewing and our experience of them. Saville's early paintings considered the traditional art historical genre of the female nude in a new and challenging way. More recently she has begun to explore issues around gender and sexuality. These larger than life images speak for themselves. Later photographs of her own body, seemingly deformed by being pressed against plexiglass, were certainly not the first of their kind. Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta had made similar images in the 1970s. The difference, however, is that what Saville shows is a woman uncomfortable in her own skin. Why any woman should feel that way is what links this body of work to the debate foregrounded below. We look, we judge, yet have we any right to do either?


Unknown said...

That's a fabulous image! What's with the writing behind it?

Beth Williamson said...

I don't know for sure about the writing but my guess would be that as Saville is interested in identity then it might be about the way in which culture inscribes us with an identity, whether we like it or not. Perhaps it is faded and difficult to read because (and this is just my reading) the woman is refusing what is being inscribed or she is trying to assert her own sense of who she is but no one is listening.