The other day Niki and I were assessing the final color edits needed before printing Madame X [after John Singer Sargent] from the Muse series. Visually combing through the whole image, she noted the usual process of balancing skin tones, and then mentioned bringing up the color in my lips. Observing the lips, I immediately looked for adjacent color relationships to ensure balance. In all artistic seriousness I replied, “Oh nice…my lips match my nipples.” After a half-moment’s pause, we both burst into laughter having realized the disparately serious tone against the slightly absurd words. Fortunately, these exchanges are an often occurrence during our collaboration, and we revel in their beautiful spontaneity.
In addition, we are proud to have this image included in the Kinsey Institute 2013 Juried Art show from May 17 to July 13, 2013. View an online gallery of the exhibition – but note that, considering the nature of the exhibition, sexually explicit images are included.
Also, “Girl with a Pearl Earring [After Vermeer]” is on exhibit as part of the Face Value: Portraits from The Kinsey Institute exhibition from April 12 – August 30, 2013.
Face Value: Portraits from The Kinsey Institute explores the various ways that artists utilize the portrait. This exhibition in the main gallery includes contemporary and vintage photographs, as well as painting, prints, and sculpture.
It’s truly an honor to be included in the same exhibits as Pierre et Gilles, Herb Ritts, Joel-Peter Witkin and other artist who’ve provided artistic inspiration along my journey.
A woman at a gallery opening once respond to the Valpincon Bather [After Ingres] photograph by proclaiming, “I don’t like art about art.” My recoil, barely disguised by years of engrained Midwestern politeness, quickly shifted to pensiveness.
As the lady toddled on to an adjacent piece in the show, I stood perplexed by this concept I’d never before considered. I tried on her idea like a new pair of pants in a fitting room. Right leg: the Muse series is heavily influenced by and based upon significant works from art history. Left leg: …. Conceptually, I couldn’t try the idea on any further. It just didn’t fit. I realized that all along, the art historical works have merely been a starting point – a familiar face from which to re-interpret and re-invent.
When Niki and I initially conceived the Muse project, we dove into our respective art history books and tabbed pages. We reconvened to discuss our sources of inspiration, and much to our surprise and delight, we discovered that at least half of the works we’d marked were identical. We quickly recognized a common thread. Most of the works were well known/fairly recognizable to the mass populace.
It wasn’t until we had shown the first few photographs that we (or at least I) realized the significance of this one element. As people began to interact with the work, we started to see a trend. Initially, there would be a moment of connection/recognition. A drawing closer would then reveal a liminal moment where most women would continue to engage their curiosity with the work, whereas straight men would commonly withdraw and move away. We learned from a generous few, most of whom who would fall into two camps: Those who would express their appreciation for a beautiful figure but immediately follow it with a proclamation of their solid heterosexuality. And the second camp being those who would express confusion for their captivation of a male figure in a distinct and identifiably feminine pose.
Despite the various responses to our works in the Muse series (including those by ladies of a slightly hunched and peculiarly opinionated sort) we are grateful. They have helped us to further understand the significance of the the art historical inspirations. The original works, widely recognized for their beauty, serve as an invitation by their familiarity. We not only hope that people subsequently engage with the works and the layers contained within, but that viewers’ observations and responses may foster conversations around pre-conceived notions of beauty and gender.
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