Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Body of the Female/ Born of Art and Pornography
What is love?
I nominated myself as artist when at the age of twelve I enrolled at the Metropolitan Museum of Art summer classes. It wasn't my choice, more or less a calling which came about based on the understanding my parents surmised. I was given a toy camera at that time, a project I undertook intensely, taking a photograph, developing it and doing the printing as well. As memory serves, the only picture I took was of the Chrisley Building in clear view outside our window. I made a print of it. Certainly my first professional work of art.
At the MET I sat in classes based on the interpretation of art, writing exercises and the overall appreciation of the profound works of art by the Masters. Sitting or crouched on the floor at a particular wing of the museum we did drawing and writing exercises. At times Rikah Burman our instructor took us through the museum stopping in front of one painting after another to inform us of the painting's history and thereby ask us what we thought. Our impressions were formal at that age, an attempt at philosophy.
The wings of the museum which made an impression were the American and the Modern. I remember painters like Van Eyk and Peter Paul Reubens, marble sculptures and the activity in front of the museum and the interior as we prepared ourselves for class. The afternoons wore on me as I made friends and gained respect from Rikah. This experience at the MET was a gift from my parents I haven't thanked them for because without it my path towards art would have been different. At that age I hadn't a clue about who or what I was. But as great parents do, they formulated a path for me.
With that came an overall piercing interest in what was art as in literature, even music, a definable acceptance that I was an artist.
Growing up in the city of Accra, Ghana, two distinct memories which carried over into my days in New York were my love of illustrating and working or (playing) with the muse. I sat in the back of the class at the Royal Preparatory illustrating horses and equestrians at the finish line or athletes playing soccer. As a child I had a playmate, her name was Regina, we would sit in the veranda playing house. Even then I knew of gender politics, the role of the male and the female.
I think of art and women and I think of Picasso's D'Amoiselles d' Avignon, the first art work which defined women for me. I had grown use to the classic works of painters like Titian while studying at the MET. But D'Amoiselles as abstract and pornographic as it was gave me a modern understanding of immorality and the interpretation of the animalistic sensibility. In retrospect I still am fascinated by the abstract depictions by Picasso of his muses, Dora Maar for example. They were my introduction to what became pornography.
In my youth I used centerfolds in publications like Penthouse magazine to illustrate women. I'm at a point now where I have to redefine my role as artist and my understanding of who and what is female. Over the years I reinterpreted the meaning of the woman as pornographic in art to fetish. Helmut Newton for me was some one who had the presupposition of pornographer but his photographs bordered on fashion and sex. This notion remains with me. I spent time as a child sitting next to my mother while she sewed, reading her Italian fashion catalogues. It brought about the notion of the Super Model to me. American Super Models like Christie Brinkley and Carol Alt begot what became Europeans like Claudia Schiffer.
My mother has always played a superior role in my life as mother, friend and mentor. Most of my heroes are women, both personal and some historical. As time has passed I am independent of my mother as I watch her grow into her own. Somehow she remains the cult of who the woman is to me as beloved. I have come far from when I viewed women as objects. That is where I draw the query because I desire women, a continuous charge that will never cease.
The physical body of the female has grown to be virtual in my life. What ever titillation I get is on line or the female passer byes in the streets. The female as she floats through time is not represented in my life through her physical breasts, pubis and buttocks. Once again, there is the query! I was chaste for many years wanting a cleansing. Madness contributed to an overt amount of perversion. The muse for me bacame disposable. I observed her at will, taking advantage. So chastity brought about my recharging and wanting a better solution, learning to communicate with something else other than the body and sex. I have found it. That is my sense of renewal. The ability to curb madness by making the transition into humanity.
I have love now, love of self and love of family. A community now grows on line and virtually. But the question then becomes how do I interpret the body of the female which once was of art and pornography. The availability of internet porn is an excuse. It is not a representation. It is not my vice. I need the total body, conforming from the canvas and paper to the bed. The very idea is love not fornication. The body of the muse is a gift, to touch, smell, sense.
The privilege which defined me for so many years as artist has passed. I no longer define myself as artist to muse. That very exercise changed when the artist became pornographer to a sex muse. An act which has been in practice for so many years. I saw the transformation as my muses were being drafted into more sexual practices. I turned the other cheek and became chaste. I found love, love of a girlfriend for what was almost the first time. It was short lived. It's been two years now. There is a sense of disllusionment.
How do I approach the body of a woman? How do I communicate with my body, not that I ever did. It was always my heart and mind. I feel defiant now as if I am in control. I approach with my physical self not the virtual. Time has yet to bring about my newer definition of woman.
In a virtual age love still exists. The body is still crucial in mating, loving and accepting.
I prepare myself now to find myself among women. The notion of her as art is different. She is a warriror, self made. Virtual and floating.
I continue to desire her body. I speak to it with a different language.
A language of love. Not of art.