Art of Woman

Christmas

I went to church on Christmas Day and saw a delightful video clip. Our church, Mosaic Baptist, Belconnen, often puts on dramas, interesting clips and info gathered from Christians from around the world. I attend a vibrant, active church that engages with modern technology.

The clip is an entertaining interpretation of the Christmas story from the angels’ point of view acted by some very cute children. There were some poignant comments that illuminate both the fragility of the Christ child and the enormity of the salvation message. I was amused by the gun-ho attitude of the boys who wanted to bring Christ to earth with an almighty army to conquer the world. The girls came up with some practical questions of where He will live and who will be welcoming Him. God shocked both the boys and girls by choosing a peasant girl to give birth in a stable! One angel showed impeccable logic and asks “What if they don’t notice?”. God’s answer is worth listening to carefully. All the angels were horrified that Christ was being born with animals! and hay! and POO! The look of disgust when they said “Poo!” was classic.

Christ was born physically in the same way that we all are, as a helpless baby born through the vagina of a woman, then suckling at her breasts. We can take joy in the physicality of our bodies whatever shape we are in - God certainly affirms the importance of our bodies. We are all fragile lumps of vulnerable flesh in a harsh, difficult and even hostile world. Christ’s humble natal family show us that we can all be agents of God regardless of our status in society. Christ’s example shows us that we all have the capacity to have an intimate relationship with God creator. Being rich and privileged does not give any advantage with God. Christ became one of us with a vulnerable physical body. He needed to eat, drink, have warm clothes and shelter, just like all of us.

And he died - just like all of us will.

The production was made by St Pauls in Auckland, New Zealand.
View on youtube: “An Unexpected Christmas

Women Under-represented in the Arts

Guest writer Jennifer Amos writes about the participation and recognition of women in art. Many of the points Ms Amos raises applies to other fields. An Australian example is a recent study that found that women are under-represented in Architecture in Australia. According to the University of Melbourne, there are approximately equal male / female student numbers in Architecture faculties around Australia, yet, only 20.6% of the women registered for practice after graduation. There may be many reasons for this. Dr Niomi Stead has built a website forum to encourage debate about this issue. The site is called Parlour. Is there a similar site for artists?
Yes, women still have work to do to claim equality.

Margaret Kalms


No Going Back – There’s Still a Long Way to Go
Since 1960 I have been concerned with the creation of formal imagery that is specifically female, a new language that fuses mind and body into erotic objects that are namable and at the same time quite abstract. Its content has always related to my own body and feelings, reflecting pleasure as well as pain, the ambiguity and complexity of emotions." From Hannah Wilke, A Retrospective, University of Missouri Press, 1989
Two recent art exhibitions have brought forward this question of a specifically female “formal imagery”, but perhaps most importantly, have sought to re-examine the history of art through the work of female artists. These are
 WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution and  Elles: SAM - Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists. Read More...

Realistic Female Body in Nude Scene Shocker

It is a privilege to introduce guest writer Jennifer Amos who has written this post. She has insights into how women’s bodies are portrayed in nude scenes in popular TV shows. I agree that the way women are portrayed in the media can have a huge impact on women’s body image and self esteem.


Realistic female body in nude scene shocker

Fans of British drama Downton Abbey may have either been upset or unmoved by the death of Lady Sybil in the third series that finished its Australian run last month. Readers of this site however may applaud her refusal to slim down for nude scenes when shooting the film Albatross recently.

Jessica Brown Findlay as the actress is known in real life has said that she has since regretted doing the nude scenes at all because she wasn’t aware she could refuse. She has admitted to a certain amount of naivety but she surely deserves admiration for refusing to conform to the supposedly ideal body image of ultra thinness.

Most films and television programmes do unfortunately still portray this ideal image that for most women is unattainable. Contemporary creative art and photography can play a role in promoting positive body images for women by avoiding the airbrushed super slim images so common across the popular media.

Young Australian women plagued by body image issues

It is crucial that young women and girls are exposed to as many positive representations of female bodies as possible given the worrying trend in eating disorders and body image issues. According to recent reports 
eating disorders affect as many as one in 10 Australian women. The research suggests that body image issues are presenting in younger children, especially girls, and around half of all 10 and 11 year old girls are unhappy with their body.

It’s a shame most young women and girls are more likely to see skinny models in magazines and painfully thin actresses on the big screen than read about how Jessica Brown Findlay admitted to eating burgers and drinking pints the night before shooting nude scenes. This is not always the headline news. The actress said she would never succumb to Hollywood pressure to be a size 0 and that she thinks it is terrible that women are criticised so much because of their bodies.

Brown Findlay admires strong women and recently enjoyed playing a strong female role in the television adaption of Kate Mosse’s best-selling novel Labyrinth. There certainly aren’t that many roles out there portraying strong women that go beyond the objectification and sexualisation of 
female body image but a few serve as interesting examples. Rather than eating burgers and not worrying about the consequences, Angelina Jolie trained for months and months and lived on a high protein diet to bulk up her muscles and strength before she filmed Tomb Raider. This was a role that was never going to have an idealised or realistic body image - instead Jolie went for powerful and worked very hard at attaining it through diet and exercise. Hilary Swank reportedly relied on protein supplements and shakes all day in addition to hard core training to be super fit and strong for her role in Million Dollar Baby. Strong, even powerful female role models on the big screen can only have a positive effect on young women but it would be great to have more realistic characters with equally realistic bodies that normal women can relate to. Young women should be able to recognise normal bodies up on screen or in photographs that aren’t the result of extreme fad dieting or hard core physical training.

Reality check for mainstream culture please

Cinema and television can sometimes be a great art form, but it does not work hard enough to help promote a healthy and positive female body image and sometimes it is guilty of doing just the opposite. Women and young girls are constantly bombarded with unrealistic and unattainable female bodies and images that rely on objectification and mythical ideals.

Art and photography can and should be used on a wider scale to reach more mainstream audiences with a positive message for women. Going beyond art galleries and niche exhibitions, art needs to be out there in the public arena portraying women as they really are.

Cultural and advertising imagery should not be relying on the safe Hollywood ideal of women that is ultimately so damaging to the self-esteem and body image of thousands of young women and girls. Only by changing the way women are portrayed in all cultural and artistic mediums can we hope to let young women and girls know that it is ok to normal.

Jennifer Amos

The Century Project

Recently, during research for my art, I saw the very powerful photography of Frank Cordelle.

Frank Cordelle has created a photography exhibition called “The Century Project”. He has photographed girls and women from birth to 98 years of age. These are women who have faced struggles and problems with their bodies. Their stories, in their own words, accompany the photographs. Some of the stories are confronting, some are angry, some are sad, some are joyful, some are a triumph. All of the stories are intimate person experiences.

Frank has photographed the women in the nude to express their vulnerability and their humanity. Cloths can enhance some parts of the body and hide parts of the body we find difficult for various reasons. Cloths express culture, social status, occupation and wealth. These nude images cut through much cultural clutter and gets past assumptions and prejudices to see the real woman underneath. Sometimes clothes hide things so well that health issues are not address properly and the woman does not even know what is within the normal range for a female for her age.

This project is extremely important. Even healthy women struggle with body image because the media display so many ‘perfect’ images of women’s bodies all around us. When women have health and other body image problems, they can feel that they are inferior somehow. The shame some women feel about their bodies can restrict and limit their lives. For example, many women limit their participation in sports, especially swimming. These limitations are unnecessary, often inconvenient and in some cases even harmful.

The Century Project gives women dignity and a voice. It has changed the lives of some women who have felt alone, disregarded, afraid and ashamed of their struggles. This project has given many women the courage to treat their bodies with respect and inspired some women to get the medical care they deserve.

The Century Project is beautiful and has been shown in 63 colleges around the USA and has been viewed by thousands of people.

You can obtain your own personal copy of the exhibition in a book called “Bodies and Souls”.

Body Language

What a wonderful weekend! The opening of Body Language exhibition, part of Escape ArtFest 2007, was attended by many of the participating artists along with friends and supporters. An exciting atmosphere developed as artists discussed their various works and interpretations of 'Body Language'.

Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

The works were varied in size, media and style from the exquisite cuttlefish bone carvings of Kylie Douglass to a large bold collage by Thea Wooten. Faith traditions were represented including Julie Williams' reclining Buddah and Lindy Delain's blending of the human elements with symbols of the land. Emotions were shown by Marjo Jones' detailed figurines and Ken Ball's soft focus photographs.

The variety of styles was inspiring. Together they made a very powerful statement about the diversity of our bodies and how we give them meaning. Some of the works were confronting and bold in addressing difficult issues such as bondage and menstruation. All of the works were beautiful.

It was an honour to be a part of the celebrations. A big THANK YOU to our hosts Chris and Wanda Bridgland whose work preparing and promoting the exhibition was rewarded with a stunning opening.

The exhibition runs until October 6th 2007 at Hibiscus Gallery, 16 Wallaroy Drive, Burrill Lake, NSW.

Escape ArtFest "Body Language" exhibition

Escape ArtFest 2007 is an exciting festival of events being hosted in the Ulludulla region of NSW south coast, Australia. For 16 days a celebration of artistic talent will flourish in this normally quiet region. There will be a range of events, workshops, music, film and video, literature, art walks, sculpture and exhibitions and even prizes! Check the Artfest calendar.

I am excited about entering an exhibition called "Body Language" being held at the Hibiscus Gallery, 15 Wallaroy Drive Burrill Lake, from 22 September to 6 October 2007, open daily 10am to 5pm. There many very talented artists participating in this exhibition. Their varied contributions will make "Body Language" an exciting event.

Currently I am preparing six photos for this exhibition. Five of these photos are new and have not been shown anywhere else. They are not posted on this site.

Three of my photos are the sub-theme of "country girl", a light-hearted view of women in country life. The other three photos are the sub-theme of "veil", a look at how a woman shows or hides her body and how that covering affects her identity.

I invite you all to come to the Hibiscus Gallery to see this exhibition and meet me at the opening. Spend the weekend, or a week or more, and enjoy the exciting events happening during ArtFest .

Older age sexuality

In "The Canberra Times" today, page B5, Virginia Haussegger wrote an article about older women showing cleavages - or not. She makes the observation that older women do not usually show their cleavages. When they do, they are often criticised. It seems women over 40 are not supposed to be sexy!

Virginia Haussagger links women's display of sexual power as a measure of her confidence. That is until she becomes about 40. Why should society be afraid and affronted with female sexuality when that female is past her fertility? What is so threatening about older female sexual power?

Many older women seem to be happy to become immersed in their grandchildren or enjoying a quiet life on their own. However, there are also a significant number of older women (and men) who do not fit this mold and simply refuse to give up their sexuality simply because they are considered by others to be too old.

Take my mother for example. She fell in love at 70 and got married at 71! Yes married. A full wedding. Bride's maids, flower girl, minister, lots of guests and yummy food. The works. Their marriage is an obviously affectionate one and it has given both of them a whole new lease of life. They still hug and enjoy each other's company more than ten years on. I congratulate them.

My family is not the only example of older age sexuality. "The Canberra Times" today, on page B11 under "Adult services" there is an advertisement, "GROANING GRANNY Sixty+." Then a mobile phone number and rates charged.

I wonder what she talks about!!!! I'm glad that she is bold enough to be sexy in her sixties and even advertise the fact! Many older folk have good health and feel just like the rest of us inside. It is terrible loss that older sexuality is so ignored. Many aged care homes do not have double beds for example, or even double rooms. Yet human touch and contact, especially hugs are very soothing and healing. The comfort of a loved and special person can literally mean the difference between life and death when older people are suffering isolation and stress. I would like to encourage any loving relationship, no matter how old the participants are.

Getting dressed

My model rung me to apologise for being late because she needed to shave her legs. She arrived and we did some interesting work. The incident reminded me of a book I have been reading, "Dirt, Undress and Difference - critical perspectives on the body's surface" Adeline Masquelier ed, Indiana University Press 2005.

There is a description of a strip dancer preparing for work. It goes into detail for three pages (96-98). This makes me think about the whole notion of what is dressed and what is undressed and which bits to show and which bits to hide. Certainly the dancer took great care in presenting her body in a particular way. She took longer than most people to get 'dressed' for work!
We all have the right to present our bodies the way we choose.

Sexual health and christianity part 2

The entry I wrote yesterday was about a guest speaker that visited my church. The usual preaching at my church allows much more room for individual thought and for God to guide and direct. The sermons emphasise christian morality and integrity..........

The Bible is quoted and Jesus' actions are discussed. There is a special time during each service after the sermon/message where the congregation is invited to think about the issues and how God is speaking to us individually. We even have special message cards that people can fill in if they want to discuss things further with the pastors or elders. So the church I attend does not demand specific actions. It offers direction and guidance. This approach allows each of us to have a personal and dynamic relationship with God. We are able to respond to God individually.

Our church does support sexual health along with all types of healthy living. For example; three of our women supported a calendar that raised funds for Women's Centre for Health Matters. Many of our missionaries support sexual health and hygiene, helping mothers and babies, and supporting several homes for children with AIDS/HIV. Of course, safe sex practices will reduce the need for orphanages.