About the work

 

My recent works started by inserting a male body in:

1. the pose of a female body

2. the place of a female body

To pose is: “to put or set in place, to place in a studied attitude” or “to assume a posture or attitude usually for artistic purposes, to affect an attitude or character usually to deceive or impress” (Merriam-Webster). A pose is a performance, a disguise that has been informed and shaped by the accumulation of the poser’s assumed places, and the assumption is exerted by a sociopolitical power and internalized by the poser. A gaze is a prerequisite for a pose. Projected, internalized gaze continues to haunt the poser even in the absence of the gazer. To pose is ultimately to please, to satisfy the gaze, the desire behind the gaze, and the power that can undisguisedly express the desire. The abundance of fictional imagery of conventional female poses and places have preoccupied me only because they are not independent of what I see, read, hear, and feel the rest of my day outside painting.

Fig. 1 Nudes from 1916-1919 by Amadeo Modigliani

Fig. 1 Nudes from 1916-1919 by Amadeo Modigliani

I began by re-placing a female body with a male body in Modigliani’s female nudes from 1916-19 (fig. 1). These paintings stuck with me not because Modigliani was singular but exemplarily specific and powerful in his gaze, his desire, and his power as a man and a painter. Nu Couche, La femme Dormant. The Artist’s Muse. While diverting little from the conventional poses for the eroticized nude--reclining, supported by props, arms behind the head, torso twisted so that the breast and the hip are shown at the same time--Modigliani’s female body is invariably cropped at its extremities. The footless and often handless torso and head fill the canvas horizontally from the left end of the canvas to the other. What is outside the body (pillows, sheets, cloths, bed, wall, floor) is painted with similar heavy impastos as on the body and instead of receding, the plastic and material space fastens the body on the same picture plane as if there is no air.

Inserting a male body in the pose and the place of female body was an exploration into the tools of power and eyes of desire, the erotics of lost agencies. In a straightforward way I mimicked the seemingly formal constructs of painting of cropping or hiding extremities, fitting a reclining body to the edges of the picture. The impulse was to desire, idolize, decorate, impose as unabashedly subjectively and uninhibitedly as possible.

There was a second impulse, an itch to renegotiate, negate, and fight the former. I imagine that the dynamics of power is not reversible. A reversal presupposes a singular opposite, the other end of the binary as well as dichotomizing correspondences between the two polarized positions, and there is no such thing. The map of my desire is not designed with a singular mastering eye. I worked from memory of observations in constructing these paintings. The detachment from the actual moment of looking was crucial not the immediate result of looking but a grotesque amalgamation of self-awareness and the struggle to shed it, the experience of receiving the gaze imbedded in my act of looking.

I am interested in the in-betweenness, vulnerability and awkwardness pestering a more dictatorial, impervious version of a desire, the fumbling moment of trying to retain a fluid in a porous container. The figures teeter from the adolescent male to the androgynous, from a real body in tangible flesh to a translucent apparition, from appealingly constructed poses to smears of sallow violet and green, from the familiar erotic nude to an imaginary landscape of superimposed, floating bodies with no ground or prop. They are in performed poses that suggest closeness and vulnerability but are blown up, all returning the gaze but with their eyes hollow, faces idolized but in generic duplicates. I thought about David and Goliath (fig. 2), and imagined them in one body. The body is not a ripe plated fruit for me to open and consume, but rather a stone made out of thin paint that I get to caress, fear, marvel but continue to be haunted by.

Fig. 2 Guido Reni,  David with the Head of Goliath , 1606. Musée du Louvre, Paris

Fig. 2 Guido Reni, David with the Head of Goliath, 1606. Musée du Louvre, Paris

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