I made a note on our bike trip to talk about one thing I kept thinking about in Provence and with the traveling we did before and afterwards. I saw women’s figures everywhere in old bits of art or sculpture and at an amazing quarry projecting masterpieces (Les Baux). What struck me was how curvy the women were who were muses for great works of art. Then there is this contradiction: as the viewer, we can marvel at the beauty depicted and then look in the mirror in a museum’s restroom and see a “fat arm” or leg. There is so much judgment floating around about our bodies, even though, for centuries we admired women of all sorts of shapes and sizes.
I wondered, can we unsee this judgment, this constant surveying of our bodies and each other to see if we measure up to a standard sold to us by advertisers, to see if we are small enough, young enough or tall enough? If it can be done, that shift away from loving and valuing curves, a strong or soft leg, surely it can be undone. I imagine rather than seeing a fat leg, perhaps I see the beautiful curved flesh Picasso saw when he painted. Not just acceptance but with love and appreciation too.
What I am talking about here is really changing the way we see—what happens in our brains when we see a woman’s body. If we assume it is possible, part of this will require us to stop taking in images that tell us that just one type of figure and one age is worth admiring.
But the other part, the part I am most interested in, is creating beautiful imagery, sharing creative pieces, generating new art that celebrates the diversity of figures, and of course, designing for them, designs that celebrate a figure as the art it brings into this world and does not push it to conform. Perhaps we could even improve on the art repertoire of the past by working with imagery that celebrates beauty of all origins, not just the European kind. Is it possible that in this lifetime we can unsee the judgment and the measuring up and see with loving, appreciative eyes how beautiful the diverse array of women’s figures are? Can we see our own form this way? I believe that this is possible.
I have been learning figure drawing for a few years now so that I can generate my own celebratory work on women’s forms, so that I don’t have to use the shapeless, lifeless forms and figures native to contemporary fashion, that a diversity of shapes and sizes inform my designs. It is a long, slow process, but together we are creating a different future.
Food for thought to leave you with: what other ways will we need to transform what we see on our way to a new future?
Happy to include any answers in my next blog if you think of any and want to write me: firstname.lastname@example.org.