Friday, November 13, 2009

Why I paint nudes

In conjunction with's month long gallery feature on the subject of the artistic nude, they've asked several artists whose work focuses heavily on the nude to write a little bit for their blog on why we paint it. My feature is today in the blog but I thought I would repost it here too. Please visit the EBSQ Blog for more features!


My work has predominantly encompassed the subject matter of the nude ever since 2003 when I was pregnant with my son. Pregnancy felt to me like an invasion and a loss of identity. This mass growing inside of me, pushing my stomach outward, the object of strangers pawing and prying…a loss of self. I’m aware of how that sounds, and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade being a mother for the world, but the pregnancy part really put me in a strange place. Like, I hadn’t fully gotten to know myself and now, I must get to know this little being even before I have laid eyes on him…Even surmising “how he’s doing” to satiate strangers and their relentless questions at grocery checkout lines seemed so peculiar to me, since I knew he was fine, while I on the other hand carried quite a burden. I didn’t have much of an outlet for this. Wasn’t even sure *how* to go about addressing it, since, even the mere mention that a pregnant mother might not be enjoying every single moment of such a “joyous” time instantly paints horns on ones head and places a pitchfork in one’s hand and the demon that is the uncomfortable, not quite so “glowing” matron gets holes burned through her maternity garb by the same strangers asking to “touch” her bulging belly….

So, I painted. My first real attempt was aptly titled “In Utero”, a woman suspended in painterly viscosity mimicking the bottom of an unclean pool…it grew from there. With each painting I get to know myself a little bit more. It’s me. Bare. Exposed. Much like I felt standing in line at countless check outs. Sitting in class barely able to fit between the seat and the desk. Standing in front of the world silently screaming that I had a voice too.

In short, each nude is a therapist. And I’m cool with that.


Alisha said...

I appreciate your honest words on pregnancy. I'm 6 months along right now, and yeah, I feel ya. There's tons of good mixed in, but lots of awkward and annoying in there too. Interesting though...lately I've had this desire to do some nude paintings of a pregnant figure...myself for starters. I've taken the pictures, but I've been chickening out on the next step.

Aja said...

Alisha - trust me, it helps put all of those emotions out onto the canvas and allow the painting to embody how you're feeling (instead of you know, snapping at unsuspecting patrons in the frozen foods section *wink*) It really did wonders for me, and then, when I had my son, I had this series of works that remind me of the journey, which was pretty amazing too.

Congrats on your pregnancy too :)

Anonymous said...

Aja, I have loved your art for several years now...Thank you for the emotion and strength you portray in your paintings. Truly beautiful~

alexkeller said...

my mom still doesn't get why i didn't like being pregnant. i'm glad you do!

Andi said...

Not only is it always interesting to hear why others paint, and why one paints a specific subject or type -but I can relate. I was the devil with the horns when I was pregnant! While my mother was understanding, others were not. I felt very awkward and rejected because I happened to be one of the few who suffers through it instead of glowing, like my sister and cousins do.

Now, of course, I am the happy mother of a spoiled but well-loved seven year old boy. But I still think I will adopt or foster instead of being pregnant if more children are in my future!