Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I walked into Susan Cummin's gallery and saw many pictures by one artist that each included a woman wearing lots of clothes and a woman wearing little or nothing.

As soon as I looked at one of the nudes I knew the artist was a woman, because the nude had a neck.

I mean she had a neck in the way I have I neck. Like I'm sitting on a chair thinking and staring and I have a neck. I inhabit and am a body that includes a neck, elbows, back of hand, the whole gang.

Nudes, on the whole, in art tend to be women looked at from the outside in the context of desire. So body parts that that guy artist is drawn to are presented in a emphasized way and things less famously female than breasts and bellies, things like necks, are underpresented.

I hadn't really though of it that way until I saw this painting of a woman who just had a neck, matter-of-factly.

She was quite good looking in the manner of this time. She looked like she exercised and spent much time outside, not working but being outside. She looked like she was reasonably intelligent and that the person painting her could handle that easily.

All the paintings of her had another women in them. The other woman was from Dutch 16th century painting. Instead of California outdoorsy tan she was central Europe overcast and staying inside pale. Lots of clothes.

Her clothes, were, in a general sort of way, like old fashinoned nun's habits. Old fashioned nun's habits come from a time when all women wore clothes that put a big perimeter around themselves and covered their heads a lot, and also had a substantial head barrier.

The other woman in these paintings had barrier clothes like that, though not black. She wasn't a nun. She was standing next to her husband, also pale, in the midst of a house filled with possessions.

He, the husband, had legs. He got out to earn possessions. She presumably had legs but they surely didn't show.

She seemed very contained by her clothes and the whole scene.

The clothesless woman and the clothed woman basically had the same body. Evolution hasn't changed the human body in the wink of time of a few centuries.

Yet they used their bodies differently. They were allowed to use their bodies differently. How could that old-time woman have not gone along with her confinement?

Feeling all the ways we are still confined would hurt. Some we notice and then try to forget because it's a pain to think about it all the time. Some we never notice. Sometimes we do escape or break through confinement.

I noticed the neck of the woman of the present first. Neck, the throat, the way to express yourself. Say what you want. Some of what you want to say goes by smoothly. Other words you want to say get you a lot of painful kickback, which may be a surprise the first time. The second, third, etc . times you are hassled about statements in that category, you are being trained.

Even if you break through the training and pain and speak, it's not the same words it would be if you could have been relaxed the whole time and just sat there knowing what you know and living in a world brave enough to hear what you know.