Over the last few months, as well as reasons like packing and moving, being pregnant, and the ridiculousness that is life, I have found it very difficult to contemplate the breadth of the concept I was hoping to work on.
Some of my many questions/queries/issues included:
- Do “flaws” get airbrushed out in images of women now?
- Do I leave “flaws” in because it could just be society distorted calling them flaws?
- Can I get around the sexualisation/objectification of the naked body by just asking people to try to think differently?
- Is it possible to attempt to show a person’s potential through an image of a body where someone has felt it has been misused/abused previously?
- How do I even find models who would get all this and pose?
- How do I represent all womanhood (or should I even try?) when I am white and British and there is so much diversity in the world?
- How do you show confidence within nudity in a post-Fall world who might see it as exhibitionism?
- What style do I do artwork in when relating to renaissance imagery as well as cave-like paintings aiming for simplicity?
- What is my main reason for this project? Critique of media and fashion industry? Accurately portray a pre-Fall Eve? The emancipation of women (viewers and performers) from previous exploitation and hurt? Challenging preconceptions of the perfect woman, media impact, potency of fashion, women’s agency or lack of it, or Eve as purely bad?
- What does this mean for women now, in the church, married/unmarried, childless, career-focused, etc, etc?
Quite a lot for one little brain to deal with, and there are probably far more able minds dealing with fractions of it all over the world!
Trying to deal with something as large as a Pre-Fall Eve is difficult when you’re writing about it, and when you need a visual representation it gets harder because being clear about your meaning is difficult in imagery. After a conversation with a very wise woman I know I decided breaking the subject up was very important if I was going to make any progress at all. Five pieces will make up the whole and hopefully be concluded with a final sculptural piece:
This is an attempt to deny Eve’s part in the fall, no matter how you read it, humans went wrong and Eve was part of that. However, the continual emphasis on Eve’s fatal mistake also makes the same mistake so many Christians do when they place sin over the forgiveness offered: they forget God. God created Eve before the Fall, with so much potential, and since then depictions have been empty in comparison with the original purpose. Eve has been represented as fallen, shameful, hiding, and on the odd occasion as a mother (but Mary tends to be the main image of this within the Christian church at least).
In order to counteract the images of Eve so far I need to attempt to present something different, looking at what Eve might have been made for originally, what God suggested of woman as the ideal rather than our perceptions of woman in a post-Fall world. These pictures need to relate to the innocence, the creativity, the curiosity, the helper, the child, the beauty, the natural figure. Obviously this is difficult because I have my own preconceptions post-Fall, but you might have to forgive me for that.
As these images of Eve, and of women in general, have been used to teach women through the centuries, I also want to look at how a redeemed Eve might speak to women now, how she might encourage and teach and assist in becoming the women God created us to be, more closely resembling Him and yet with all our individuality and blessings.
Although overlapping with lessons for today’s woman, looking more closely at the potential that was forgotten, we should be able to also look at the potential of women as a whole and what is possible in God. This is not just traditional images of child-bearing and wife-dom, but also many other skills and characteristics given to us within our bodies, formed into our minds. My hope is to encourage women to be who God called them to be, fully themselves, without the preconceptions and judgements of society (including the Church).
Because it has been on my mind and features as an example of how creativity could have sprouted in and of itself despite the need to “cover up”, fashion will become my final point. I will look at fabrics and styles from cultures and patterns which symbolise the diversity in God’s world.
And finally… a decision!
As well as breaking them into parts I have decided how best to both show the feminine form, whilst dealing with the potential nudity, shame, abuse, etc issues. I will be using myself as the model. Before many of you groan and claim your not that interested in seeing pieces of exhibitionist nudity, that’s not what I’m aiming for and it took me a long time to come to my decision in a way I felt comfortable.
I am pregnant, and although I do not wish to claim it as the ultimate female form, pregnancy does hold symbolism for potential and creation. I hope to use the form of my growing bump and transfer designs symbolising each of the above sections onto the form. I am currently 26 (going on 27 weeks). As long as all goes well, I should have 10 weeks in which to create images, transfer them, and photograph from just below my bust to around my hips. This is not meant as exhibitionism, but a use of my body in which hopefully to encourage women, and I hope I will be forgiven.
One other positive side effect of this is that it may well be far harder for those often tempted by nude images to find the images arousing, because a. if they see them they may well be in my vicinity and part of me feels like I can at least challenge the objectification by staring them in the eye if need be, b. they are of basically just a bump, and c. the body will be the canvas not the point. This may seem like a side issue but it is also something that has been on my mind.
Would love to hear what you think if you have anything to add and from this point forward hopefully you’ll see some more progress!