(Continued from Artistic Academic Exploration)
I started looking at a number of points that I found during my brainstorming session around the idea of a Pre-Fall Eve. One thing particularly that came up was the shame that Adam and Eve were meant to have felt once they had eaten the apple and felt they needed to hide themselves. Whilst reading I found that the image of Eve was often based upon the Venus pudica, the “Modest/Chaste Eve”(see footnote).
The problem with this is that the “Modest Eve” is already shamed, already hiding herself from whomever she thinks is watching her. This doesn’t fit the relationship with God that is described in the first moments of Eve’s creation. She had nothing to be ashamed of, she has known nothing but God’s presence in her life, she doesn’t know anything different from her body, her individuality. So there would be no reason to be this ashamed, to be hiding any part of her, why would she need to.
It felt very much like the Post-Fall world, the artists and theologians over the centuries, have labelled Eve, even before the fatal mistake, as guilty, as shameful, as needing to hide herself. In the same way as a reader will often read their own views into a text, I think we have in hindsight tainted the original creation of Eve with the future mistake. By doing this we have judged something that deserved respect and care. With our cynical hindsight view we have tainted that which was pure. Redeeming this image is therefore important, particularly for those Christian women, who have often been labelled with a culture of seeing woman as Eve and Eve as sinful. This judgement ignores the potential of Eve, the original creation, that image that held so much promise. It is this image I wish to redeem as much as I can, so it might help women to see themselves in such a way – as a new creation, living with a Pre-Fall knowledge of themselves, and the knowledge of the redemptive power of Christ.
To start I decided to do a transcription drawing of the Venus pudica and then a response, changing the posture in order to represent a woman, a new creation, without shame of her body. I did this by looking for a fashion design template. I did this in order to get a posture which implied comfort within the clothes they had on (as each was meant to have the clothes designed over the template), and therefore could imply comfort in one’s own skin. I also attempted to flesh out this template away from cultural norms of a model, and more in line with the classical figure of the Venus pudica, to redeem her, rather than bettering her.
The other point that came from this process is the question about fashion as creation. If the Fall hadn’t happened, would fashion have developed? I feel that the design process, the creation, the expression that comes through fashion doesn’t feel like a part of life that is anti-God but of course, it can be used as such – for greed, pride, snobbery, body image pressures and so much, but lying beneath all that is the creation which seems so much of the original creation.
I am thinking about moving forwards by looking at the ethnicity of people in connection to the fabric pattern, design, and style produced. This may also lead into a development of Eve-ish women living out a Pre-Fall unashamedness which can still explore their individuality and creativity through the diverse range of fabrics and fashion but without the need to cover one’s body or hide away beneath layers.
I would love to hear any opinions of thoughts you have on this. If you have any questions I would be happy to discuss if I’ve got an answer for you.
Murray, Peter & Linda. The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture: Explore the Christian tradition in western art, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996) p.3.
“Eve is often imitated from antique Venus pudica types (e.g. the Junius Bassus sarcophagus, c.359), since this was one of the few opportunities for Early Christian artists to display their skill in rendering the nude…”