Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Blog for Grownups

“You can lose the essence by detailing a lot of extraneous things.”
-Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth is an American artist who works mainly in watercolor and tempera. Here are a couple of his pieces:

Beautiful, yes? Realism (my favorite). Detail to draw the eye but not to distract. Pristine lines and subtle color. Subjects of life that do not scream of sensationalism.

And now for my favorite. Note: if you are uncomfortable with nudity....well a lot of ancient beautiful art pieces are bound to make you uncomfortable.

All the qualities of the former paintings are present in this one: realism, detail, subtle color and non-sensationalist subject matter. "But she's naked!" I know. Calm down and lets talk about the painting for a bit.

This (and 246 others like it) are all nude paintings of a woman named Helga. They are a part of Wyeth's most famous and critically acclaimed work. Why? Here's what I think.

- Naked does not necessarily equal pornography. Think about Botecelli, or any of the other renaissance painters. The nude form, whether male or female was a celebration of the body rather than an exploitation of it. Notice that in this picture, Helga is asleep. In bed. That's a natural place to be nude. And she's alone. There is no suggestion of illicit behavior or expectation - there is merely the depiction of a woman at rest. Is that ponorgraphic?

- The female form has long been either one of two things: an image of seduction or an image of idolatry. Either you worship a queen/goddess or you hide a dirty magazine under your bed. This image however, breaks out of those two choices. This is not an image to produce lust and neither worship; instead, Wyeth's depiction of Helga is an acknowledgment of her and her physical form. It is neither negative or positive, it merely is. As our bodies are - they exist and may be used badly or for good, but in their created form they merely are. If you see this picture and feel ashamed, ask yourself: why does the naked human form embarrasses you? Do you think it embarrasses God? I won't say that we should all walk around nude, but I will suggest that you learn to love the body that you have. Look at Helga and see a woman at rest at piece with her body; a body that is not 'ideal' but is still beautiful. Like yours.

I'll end with another Wyeth quote:

"With watercolour, you can pick up the atmosphere, the temperature, the sound of snow shifting through the trees or over the ice of a small pond or against a windowpane. Watercolour perfectly expresses the free side of my nature."
- Andrew Wyeth

No comments: