As the female body image evolves, female artists are now more concerned than ever to keep us aware of the warts-and-all image that is the actual female form.
Reporter: Anisha Chowdhury | Sub-Editor: Andrew Whiteford
In 1866, French artist Gustave Courbet created the ‘Origin of the world’, illustrating close ups of the female genitalia, in its most honest form. The eroticism of the pieces was heightened by its true and rich representation, without the need for flattery or sugar coating.
For the past years, girls around the world have been using art to express their own version of what female body image should represent. Amongst young artists in western society, it has become an increasing trend to be vulgar and unapologetic with their visuals. Through this, women are able to reclaim their body in the 21st century to open up new realms of freedom and individuality.
Spaced spoke to young female artist Karis, 21, about what the implications are for artists including their naked bodies in their work in the modern art world.
Why is it important that women are more comfortable with embracing their bodies in art?
‘You’re in a society where they’re going to show naked women. So, that’s where you choose; do you show naked women to represent yourself to even the playing field?’
‘You’re always going to be misrepresented, so you might as well run a campaign next to them. Even if you don’t win, you’ll make enough noise to draw the attention away from them.’
How and why does your work incorporate sex into its message?
‘With my work I’m trying to make people feel the things that I feel, so a lot of the work ends up making people feel anxious. The last piece I did was a piece in which there was a voice in a dark room talking about how terrifying the darkness is, and saying how does it feel doing an art degree when everyone has a real job and hates you…
‘The work needs to be hideously honest, it’s not made to appeal to artists but more to actual people who may not necessarily want to be honest with themselves about the way that they are. My boyfriend and I did a piece where we covered ourselves in paint and had sex on a bed sheet, which people found hard to look at. It’s kind of like how people find it gross when someone else has sex in their bed. Its easy to look down on sexually liberated people, especially for those who may not be as liberated themselves.
‘Maybe people thought the piece was just rubbish, which is perfectly valid, but I also feel like a lot of people saw it and thought ‘we could’ve done that, but we didn’t. Because we aren’t disgusting sex slobs like you.’
Why is sex and naked bodies still a taboo?
‘I’m usually quite a mouthy person who isn’t scared to talk about sex, but other people can find that quite vulgar so they hold themselves back. If people are exposed to that kind of language and behaviour more, they might feel jealous at the fact that they’re not able to express themselves as freely.’
What do young girls looking to explore their bodies in art need to hear?
‘I think most young girls are really self conscious of their own vaginas. My boyfriend told me about how he had been with this girl from the ages of 13 to 16 but he just couldn’t remember what her vagina looked like, along with any of the other girls he had been with. I was exactly the same, I couldn’t ever imagine having sex while not being under sheets. You shouldn’t let society do that to you. It’s not fair.
‘Everyone’s got a body. There’s no-one who hasn’t got what you have. You should never be scared if you have your reasons, nobody is above you.’
What about your body being seen by the wrong people? Isn’t that something to consider?
‘I wouldn’t want people who innately sexualise nudity, to see my photos. There’s such a difference between nudity and sexuality. You can see a naked baby and think that’s beautiful, even a naked woman on a beach is alright, but a woman in sexy lingerie is seen as this crazy sexual thing. Some old man somewhere is going to jerk off over anything, so just don’t worry about it.’
Do you think that art is the only platform where being naked is okay?
‘Yeah. I think it’s the rise of feminist art, the whole glitter armpit rubbish on skinny white girls who don’t really understand the plights of those who really really need feminism. The white skinny female body is kind of uninteresting because its so overdone.’
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience