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Trans figur ation BY CARMEN GUILLEN CASAL A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Kim Anderson Sarasota, FL Ap r i l 2011
i TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowled ....iii Abstrac .. iv 3 ...3 6 Artistic Influences ............... ............................................................. ... .................... ........6 13 16 20 23 Conclusio 25 3 4
ii I MAGE LIST 1. Carmen Guillen Casal, Tersum Vexo, 2011, encaustic on panel, 5x7 in. 2. Dove Advertising, Real Women Hav e Curves, size variable 3. Carmen Guillen Casal, Papilla, 2011, encaustic on panel 5x7 in. 4. Lisa Yuskavage, Pieface, 2008, oil on linen, 48x40 in. 5. John Currin, The Bra Shop, 1997, oil on canvas, 48x38 in. 6. Carmen Guillen Casal, Saeta Damnum, 2010, waterco lor, 3x5 in. 7. Kiki Smith, Lilith, 1994, bronze and glass, 31 1/2 x 27 x 17 1/2in. 8. Carmen Guillen Casal, Saeta, 2010, oil on panel, 9.5x20 in. 9. Ariene Lopez Huici, Marie Jo et sa canne, 2007, gelatin silver print 20x24 in. 10. Carmen Guillen Casal, Tendo vestigium, 2011, encaustic on panel, 5x7 in. 11. John Coplans, Self Portrait (tor so), 1984, gelatin silver print 3 x 8 in. 12. Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic, 1875, oil on canvas, 96x78 in. 13. Tim Hawkinson, Egg, 1997 ground fingernails and super glue, 1 x 1.5 x 1 in. 14. Carmen Guillen Casal, Untitled Boxes, 2010, plexiglass, wood, hair, skin and mucus 15. Jenny Saville, Branded, 1992, oil on canvas, 7x 6 ft. 16. Carmen Guillen Casal, Pedi vorago, 2010, oil on canvas, 30x36 in. 17. Carmen Guillen Casal, Venter Subluceo, o il on canvas, 68x16.5 in.
iii A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am eternally grateful for the support of my family who has stood by me emotionally and financially on this long journey and who has never ceased to be supportive of me and all I do. They have helped keep me on track and have always inspired me to keep questioning. I could not have done this without the help of Luke Spence, whose relentless support I will always treasure. hip over the years. This thesis is dedicated to the late Carmen Casal (1919 2010) without her love for her grandchildren, her eagerness to expose us to the arts this would have never been possible.
iv TRANSFIGURATION Carmen Guillen Casal New College of Florida, 2011 ABSTRACT This thesis explores the disparities between our ideals of beauty and imperfect bodies, using painting as a vehicle to de artists Jenny Saville, John Coplans and Lisa Y uskavage, I hope to diversify views of bodies and confuse the spaces that they define through abstraction. I n doing so, I encourage the viewer to examine expanses of flesh in order to decode the culturally prescribed values which the viewer has been assig ned. The subject volunteers a formerly concealed body and in doing so reclaims agency. This agency over their own bodies is garnered where the lines between beauty and abject are blurred. Kim Anderson Humanities
1 I NTRODUCTION In the early 1990s, the issue of surgical intervention on our bodies exploded onto the front pages of tabloids and the art community as a whole. French performance artist Orlan employed the use of her body in her work in what she called Carnal Art. The Reincarnation of St.Orlan w as a series of seven cosmetic surgeries which were presented in the style of an operation theater, complete with elaborate costumes, lighting and additional actors. Orlan compiled images of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, digitally combining the feature s of the iconic, beautiful women painted with those of her own. This synthesis led to the decision to undergo surgery and reconstruct her body, highlighting the pain and depth of the cosmetic surgery process. By creating this series, the audience got to pa rticipate in the full spectrum of these operations, witnessing the first incision, the healing process and finally the end result with which we are most commonly acquainted. cha llenge how we define beauty.Though my work does not implement surgical methods, process of my images is so severe that they become their own ephmemeral entities, detach ed from their original meaning. Where Orlan uses fragmentation to deconstruct and it w as inspired once it is reassembled on her reconstructed face. In the same way, the bodies I paint are perhaps not specific body parts, but extensions and fields of flesh and
2 hair which open up to expanses of nothingness, challenging the physical spaces the y create as a parallel for the challenges to the ways by which we conceive of our bodies. In Tergum Vexo (fig. 1) I too rework the feminine visage. This painting depicts a section of reated with salicylic acid found in many over the counter drugs. The correctional process of a tool which she uses to parody our search for the glossy ideal. My encaust ic paintings are completed on a small scale, and I use the scale to further abstract the image. In the case of this painting specifically, the smallness of the image encourages an intimacy with the flowering red form that emerges from the bottom right hand side of the picture plane. The inclusion of the closed eye deliberately parallels the red amorphous form to reinforce the selective acceptability of some of these facial features. Orlan sought to deconstruct the possibility of reaching an ideal womanhood, even through the most advanced technological means, to underline the absurdity that women were stripping themselves of their features to present a facsimile for a one singular notion of beauty (Hirschhorn, 118). In doing so, she also addresses a correlati on between the publications such as the Sunday Telegraph as well as art critics disregarded her work as exhibitionistic and unhinged, asserting that several surgeries were either er oding her natural beauty, or alternately, that despite all these surgeries she still remained unattractive. However, in her insistence upon the use of local anesthetics, she regained agency as a body who could be aware of the power imbalances between her p assive self
3 and a medical professional who stood in as a Godlike figure who could manipulate flesh to create beauty (116). In my work, I too feel as though I serve as a mediator between a subject who seeks to reclaim the agency over their body and the audi ence, to whom I scope of her work to encompass standards of beauty more broadly. Because the female form is explicitly the site of desire and sexuality, it serves a useful vehicle for challenging conceptions of beauty among women, but gender and body policing is still a problem among men. As I address later, artists such as John Coplans deal more directly with the issues surrounding masculinity and beauty. BACKGROUND Modern Western s ociety is inundated with images of the human body. Despite the sheer volume of these images, the ir content is remarkably similar and remarkably beautiful Western notions of beauty has been addressed in print, motion pictures and galler y walls so much so that it has come to be associated with the inherent worth of a person. Beauty, like most other fashions will change in its criteria as time progresses, but the standard of beauty generally accepted by society becomes so oppressive that m any people reshape, recolor, and rework their bodies, often through physically grueling means such as to feel as though they might have a chance at achieving perfection. My paintings work within the system of critical observation and policing which are us ed to cement current conceptions of beauty. By taking these processes which are so
4 commonly engaged I re appropriate the process of looking, taking the subject who has been scrutinized made to feel in some way inadequate and allow them to delineate what it is they show to the world. In doing so, I enable the subject to limit the gaze and undermine what consumer driven socialization has done to our perceptions of our bodies. We can observe the increased emphasis on beauty in young adulthood through the chang es that adults make in media targeted towards children and youth. The adults ultimately set the standard for what children will receive and create a commodity that is sought after, both in terms of consumer goods and beauty ideals. The manufacturing of con sumer goods such as most dolls as well as magazines reinforce the idea of a specific body type that is generally accepted as the norm, or the most desired. Bratz dolls, which were widely popular amongst young girls and teens, portrayed an adult, sexualized look at adolescence with heavy makeup and suggestive clothing. The American Psychological While Bratz dolls might stand in for a lowbrow art object, they are still mass consumed and readily available, as are many of our mechanisms for regulating beauty. These dolls encourage sexualization of the youth who play with them at a very young age, and in doing so mirror the process of re inforcement led by paintings of traditionally beautiful people. Images of attractiveness are most often fed to us by mass media and center on a limited scope of body type, race, age and the list goes on. Most recently in 2004, Dove, a
5 company owned by U nilever attempted to break the boundaries of these ideals. Through the Real Beauty campaign, Dove conducted extensive research on standards of beauty in women who w ould otherwise not be shown on any other media spots. The campaign included elderly women, women of color, women with freckles, and those who were overweight all with the promise that these women too could be considered beautiful. The flaw in their design was twofold: One, the women depicted were actually chosen because in many ways they fully outside the scope of what is beautiful. These women had symmetrical faces, typically long, well groomed hair, lacked cellulite and showed as quoted by a Dove 2 ) Further, the company claimed that these women were beautiful while peddling products that, if successful, essentially, more traditi onally beautifu l (Postrel, 2007) While this study shows that there has been a push to expand our limited notions of our bodies, this study also shows how far from complete this process is. When re conceiving of beauty is left to companies who profit from our skewed notions of self, the reformation of this ideal is hardly genuine or effective. Though claims can be made about the progressive attempts made by this campaign, it still roots the ultimate worth of a person in his/her physical beauty, and encoura the peak in the number of cosmetic surgery procedures performed yearly should raise the
6 question of why we allow others to dictate what parts of our bodies are acceptable, an d which portions need improvement. With this ad campaign standing in for any kind of real change, it is not surprising that the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) reports a 155% increase in cosmetic procedures since 1997. The expectati ons for men and women to look like a certain mold are widely circulated through the abundance of technology, and often reach younger children who experience a huge drop in self esteem upon reaching adolescence. The concept of changing bodies is glazed over in the public school system and often leads to these young people turning to other sources for their information on their bodies. In doing so, we ask our children to look to aspire for physical impossibilities usually achieved through the magic of Photosh op ARTISTIC INFLUENCES Artists have employed different means to explore the complex relationship between beauty and the figure including irony, the abject and the subversion of traditional imagery. John Currin, Will Cotton and Lisa Yuskavage all play of f of the assumptions of female sexuality and availability to undermine the frequently overlooked inclusion of beauty in images of women. Figurative painter, Lisa Yuskavage, utilizes an attraction/repulsion dynamic which I employ in the creation of my pain tings. Unlike the work of Yuskavage, my
7 paintings are far less representational and do not employ irony to deliver a concept. My encaustic work involves built up in layers using pigmented wax resulting in a luscious and thick, as well as luminous surface. The light permeates each wax membrane, which come together to form an image; however, the use of this medium enables me to work with layers of luscious film, and create a textured abstraction that is fairly unique to the medium. The surface which is build up sits upon a rigidly constructed panel, yet it undermines this sterile presentation by spilling richly over the edges with color. The buildup of the surface is integral to the creation of this abstraction and works through creamy glazes to create visual information. Specifically, Papilla (fig. 3), an encaustic panel measuring 5x7 in. uses these tools to create the illusion of three dimensional space on a two dimensional picture plane. The color complements enhance the depth of the painting, and the bumps seem to rise off the surface to create an abstracted art object that could pass as a fragment of the body removed from itself. grossly sexualized and available women is in fact c onsidered repulsive and backwards by objectified, even it used ironically, it still reinforces the readings of bodies as exclusively sexual. Ultimately, her paintings garner c riticism because they continue to edify the portrayal of women as sexual bodies. Yet, her deep understanding of art historical cannon as well as the painterly marks and color interaction in her work have made her paintings successful and alluring.
8 Lisa Yu images of fecund women in sexually compromising positions. The painting, Pieface (fig. 4) uses implied sexual fluids as well as unreal proportions to lure the viewer in. As Kate Lin involvement as an artist in the reproduction of it. Once one approached her painting, they find that the proportions of the figure are unnatural and somewhat repulsively so, reinforced by the alien quality of the green toned canvas. In her work, Lisa Yuskavage works from small scale models she creates to map out the light patterns of the c omposition and how shadows might fall on her outlandishly they seem to float in a dreamy sort of glowing landscape that is in direct opposition with the thickness and weighty rendering of the 170) encase the figures who turn their attention inward. The models in the paintings seem taken by their own bodies, examining the bodies they inhabit while lingering between close examination of their bodies, carried by an air of innocence and vulnerability. Although her work is far more explicit in its questioning of beauty ideals, I find the conceptual elemen ts of her process tie in quite fittingly with my work. John suburban Americana. They call upon a mannerist aesthetic which distorts and elongates the bodies, the faces of whom a re derived from magazines such as Cosmopolitan, or in
9 in a compromising position with the rise of female figurative painters like his Yale classmate Yuskavage (Schje mischi evousness about them. The disfigurations he subjects the female figures in his paintings to he plays on the desire to over sexualize the female form, creating a pornographic caricature. The paintings are openly offensive and distorted, forcing the watching and simultaneously disapproving of the image before them (Bryson, 16). Despite claims of misogyny, when placed in contex t, alongside other famed contemporary painters such as Lisa Yuskavage, one can see that Currin is embracing the The Bra Shop (fig. 5) The two women in the painting have unnaturally large breasts, which are highlighted through the use of measuring tape and tight fitting clothing. The subject matter is overtly sexual and is more like fantastical lesbian scenes from a loc ker room than fine art, particularly when one learns of the unabashed libido which seems to motivate the paintings (Rosenblum, 15). The paintings read as grotesque criticisms of a society obsessed with perfection and sexuality. The faces of many of his wom en are caked in makeup or much like caricatures of our beauty ideal. Parallels can be drawn from the playfulness of these images and the ways in which Currin uses recognizable poses and cues from pin up magazines, and the cues that are used to indicate the process of aging and loss of beauty.
10 In the watercolor painting, Saeta damnu m (fig. 6), I show the swirl of thinning hair that many men incur over the course of their lifetime. This specific bald spot has become a near playful moniker for the less gracef ul process of male aging. The colors used in this painting are playful, including various shades of light blues standing in for the natural tones of the hair. The lines twist inwards, pulling forward the gaze of the viewer into this space that flattens and nullifies itself. By using an established vernacular of symbols and line quality, I was able to show this depiction, even though it varied from Abjection is another tool that is used to underm ine the standards of beauty. Abjection was used by Kiki Smith who used fluids in her sculptures and undermined traditional feminine space and action. Abject art is categorized by Julie Kristeva as but is still rooted in repulsion and the body. Kik of a woman defecting, an action that is traditionally not feminine and recalls the interior these expectations. This body recalls t abject art has come to embrace. My painting of the female genitals, Saeta (fig. 8) is rather small by comparison to the other pieces in the show. The paint handling is such that the thickness of the mark howe ver, overwhelms the space to create a sense of unease and
11 disgust. Yet, the coloration, in the warm flesh tones is somewhat inviting as one pauses to contemplate the pink forms which penetrate the vertical space. Finally, Ariene Lopez Huici is a photogra pher who similarly challenges the beauty myth engulfing our society. For Lopez Huici, the issue is one of conformity, and of trying to break an otherwise repetitive pattern of women who have been represented through the annals of art history. In her artist statement she continuously refers to the excess of the women she paints, and the near decadence of their physiques. She criticizes the tradition of using slender or otherwise traditionally attractive bodies, and reformats her photographs to include women In her photographs, she repurposes fairly traditional poses borrowed from any art history survey book, and inserts cripples, amputees and the clinically obese in the place of young, serpentine women. While her body of work does work towards undermining the exclusion of race, sex and certain body types, it still works within a system that is very much flawed. The repurposing of these images feels somehow incomplete, and while Lopez Huici states that there is a degree of spontaneity in the photographs, they b egin to look posed. In the photograph, Marie Jo et sa canne (fig. 9) the model assumes a typical pose from the period of Boucher, and other are ultimately different, she w orks within a tradition and format that opens the models up to a scrutinizing gaze, and establishes a firm imbalance of power between the viewer and model. It should seem, then, that rather than broadening our scope of be auty, Lopez fur ther reinforce many of the problems of figure painting. Here, the work of John Coplans seems more suited to undermining the traditional portraiture.
12 Coplans, a former art critic photographs the process of his aging body in dramatic black and white prints that do not reinforce the injustices of figurative work, but in fact expand upon this genre. Cultural icons such as Superman, G.I Joes and even male models who cover the pages of magazine publications do not necessarily identify with the same personal ambi tions. Many of these, however, have a certain body type which reinforces the idea of a masculine assertiveness and usually hinges on body shaped by rigid musculature. The idea of softness in the male body becomes analogous with weakness and unattractivene ss. It is this masculine beauty which is challenged in my painting T endo V estigium (fig. 10) which shows the stomach and stretch marks on a male body. These features act in direct opposition to the heroic male nudes of romanticized paintings, and yet refle ct a growing trend in American bodies and a far more realistic picture of ourselves. John Coplans was fully aware of the taboo nature of showing an aged, male body, and how it did not seem to have a place within the tradition of art history. In a 1994 in terview by Jean Franois Chevrier Coplans defends his process by saying: "I'm seventy years old, and generally bodies of seventy year old men look somewhat like my body. It's a neglected subject matter ... So, I'm using my body and saying, even though it's a seventy year old body, I can make it extremely interesting. That keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It's a kind of process of energizing myself."
13 transforming our noti ons of anatomy and displaying a process all bodies undergo but we generally disregard (Samson, 518). His photographs, specifically Self Portrait (torso) (fig. 11) show the body of a man who does exemplify the ideal, whose bodily contours does not follow th ose of a herculean model, and whose flesh turns and rolls. PROCESS In my paintings I capture pieces of our bodies which we have been trained to be ashamed of. These parts of our bodies which we seek to correct are clearly outlined by the sales of cosmeti cs, weight loss tools and cosmetic surgery procedures. According to ASAPs the top procedures performed has consistently included breast augmentation, liposuction and eyelid surgery. The financial patterns of where we spend this money to self correct indic ate that there is a pattern in what parts of our bodies we give the most criticism. In the process of collecting images from the participants, there was some overlap with the plastic surgery statistics. Often, people would identify parts of themselves whic h they thought could benefit from trimming through a process of liposuction, such as their stomachs and parts of their legs and thighs. Indeed, there was also a photograph of what was considered a sunken eye and atypical eyelid that was volunteered. Even t hough the subjects of my work were primarily young, college young bodies.
14 While there is often intersection in what we consider taboo, abject or simply unattractive, th ese are not always one in the same. For instance, while the overgrowth of taboo. Taboo portions of our bodies refer more specifically to a site where we defy socie refers more specifically to a psychological horror provoked by elements of the body. Usu ally, these challenge our notions of a clean, pure body and reference the internal bodies such as hairs and nails have traditionally been abject. Finally, unattractive part s of our bodies are likely more culturally specific than abjection and are determined by cultural norms. In the context of an art exhibition, the subject/artist are able to reclaim agency and limit the scope of what may be scrutinized using the narrow imag e depicted in these paintings By presenting these otherwise undesirable images, I challenge the importance of traditional beauty as a measure in the art world, and invite the subject, the artist and the viewer to reflect on their bodies and why they so ad aman tly revolt against their nature such that we can reevaluate how we assign worth to our bodies and have an overall healthier relationship with them. The process of painting becomes especially important in my work because of the nature of the material. T he painted marks and colors slowly come together to create
15 abstractions, simultaneously revealing and concealing information, using the abstract forms to invi te and deny the gaze while promoting careful introspection. The idea of heading this project with self portraiture seemed a natural decision, in the tradition of feminist artists such as Cindy Sherman. While I use the words self portraiture to describe this process, the paintings are far more figurative and indicative of my body anxiety, and therefore serve as a psychological portrait moreso than a depiction of my facial features. In using images of myself, I could curtail some of the power imbalances created through the structuring of an artist model relationship. The issue of this power structure and the question of how to depict often concealed pieces of the self without being exploitive led me to believe that it would be impossible to use any other subjects. When I opened the project up to include the bodies of friends and people close to me, I was initially concerned that this may have seemed exploitive. By asking one to reveal their insecurities then documenting and displaying them, I walked a fine line between exploitation and a more sensitive mode of creation. There was a process of asking the i ndividual to partake, that involved a near scripted description of my work and to photograph themselves or allow me to take the photographs for them. The loose param eters for how they should take the photos themselves included not showing any specific indicators of their identity. I asserted it was very important that these images remain anonymous, and that if the shots were to include the face that they should not do so completely. Through the insistence upon anonymity, the subjects were able to feel
16 secure that although they were divulging their most vulnerable parts of their body, they tially work back into these photographs to make decisions regarding color and cropping, but that they would remain close to the original. The decision to crop these images usually fell into place on a case by case basis though I typically liked to work wi thin a frame that would loosely reference a slide. The elongated format of the paintings would underline the elements of censorship of the identity of the subject matter. Similarly, the decision to paint in a given medium was determined by the polished (cr opped, adjusted) image alone and had no bearing on the individual. Quickly I discovered that certain images were harder to depict in a given medium, such as hair in the encaustic paint and could be more clearly expressed otherwise. U NDER THE MICROSCOPE It is a common misconception that art and science are not meant to coexist, sharp divide between beauty, which is allied to art, and problem solving which remains in the domain of the sciences. Many artists have bridged the two fields, including Leonardo daVinci, whose anatomical drawings are a part of Western visual vocabulary. Perhaps it is Thomas Eakins though who best embodies this crossover. Eakins, a painter of the late 19 th century studied among medical professionals, and often sat in on dissections and autopsies to gain a better understanding of human anatomy
17 for his figurative paintings. Far from simply observing, Eakins was well respected in the scientific commu nity and submitted a paper in 1894 on the workings of musculature and joints to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (Werbel, 31). His involvement in these processes ultimately led to the execution of two controversial paintings: The Agnew Clini c and The Gross Clinic. In The Gross Clinic (fig. 12) a group of figures are shown around a body, while the painting is primarily stark blacks and whites, the opening on the leg is a jarring, glossy red. The guardian of the man being operated upon cringes a response Eakins was sure to receive from the general public. The Agnew Clinic, painted fourteen years later is a far more subtle version of the surgical scene, lacking the same intensity and certainly the candor of the gaping wound in the first paintin g. Despite the fact that this painting was toned down considerably from his first work, it still received art critics. The subject matter in these two paintings seamlessly combines the practice of scientific observation with the world of painted realism, h owever was rejected from the art world on the basis images were praised in the medical community for their attention to detail, and realism. The procedure of the op erating table was far too much for many spectators, a pattern such criticism, however. Critics responded very favorably to paintings of athletes, which (35.) It was the idealized body, that of heroic, athletic males and of passive female nudes
18 that was acceptable to the general public, and yet the inner workings of biology seemed extraor dinarily inappropriate for an artist. Later, abject art would touch upon the same tensions between the body and high art, utilizing materials such as hair or menstrual blood which are typically cast away from e to be made of, or even imply abject Levi, Jones, Tayler and Houser, 1). Perhaps one of the pieces most commonly appropriated wit Fountain. This sculpture was a bathroom urinal that was displayed in 1917 to help demystify the body. Still, abject art seemed to be effectively used by a group of feminist artists in the 1960s. These women we re working against the backdrop of the historical struggles against the patriarchy and used abjection as a tool of self exploration and to establish the 34). While created installations that exposed the realities of the female body such as menstruation which others sought to hide, pushing to unravel the taboo behind the biological functions of the body. Abject art, much like my work often combines elements of disgust and awe (45) in that the viewer may become entranced with that which they are observing on the surface, then, when the reality of what they are gazing upon hits them, the feeling of disgust emerges. The effectiveness of this juxtaposition is that it allows the viewer to
19 establish an immediate judgment of the art object prior to the extended scrutiny which often precedes the repulsion. My initial work dealt with issues of abjection rather superficially I was interested in the work of Tim Hawkinson, who gathered clippings from his nails and hair created a series of small birds and eggs out of these abject materials. In Egg (fig 13.) he grinds these materials transforms them complet ely, creating an object with which the audience would be quite familiar. Through this process, Hawkinson was able to get viewers to approach and engage quite intimately with discarded pieces of his body and completely re contextualize their uses. Similarly Tom Friedman worked with everyday materials from our bodies, sculpting a tarantula from his hair, and even transforming objects which had in some way been processed through our body such as chewing gum. from our bodies, the creations which they made did not serve the same function of abjection in the sense that they did not deal explicitly with the motivation to force the viewer to confront an abject concept, so much as they served as a re appropriation of bodily materials. It was these artists who led me to pursue a scientific undertaking, to question the ability of the viewer to truly distinguish what it was the artist had put before them. As the artist, an eleme nt of trust has been put forth by the viewer to be in some senses, informed. The first project that I embarked upon was a series of small acrylic boxes which contained fragments of my own body. Interested specifically in the abject as it related to feminit y, I collected pubic hair, skin fragments specifically calluses and mucus. To
20 make these objects more approachable, I enclosed them completely and built a small series of stands which illuminated the acrylic boxes from below (fig 14). The cleanness of the presentation as well as the small scale was meant to engage the viewer, however, the lack of transformation of the actual objects within the boxes rendered them somewhat ordinary and uninteresting to the viewer, despite their presentation. It was thro ugh this then that I decided that it was important to conceal some elements of where these body parts had originated, as Hawkinson and Friedman did, to lengthen the period of time in which the audience could reasonably scrutinize them. OUR BODIES TRANSFORMED The work of Jenny Saville explores feminist themes in the acceptance of body types. She works at large scale to emphasize the sensations of discomfort with her body, and floods the canvas with fleshy, thick paint such to invoke the feeling of enormity within each piece, but rather specifically, Plan. In doing so, one gets the feeling of looking upon a body that is far more colossal than the actual proportions within the canvas would suggest. (Rowley 1996) This coupled with the pre surgery marks brandin g her body serve to inform the viewer that she is dissatisfied with her size, and that she is not considered within the range of weight that is acceptable for a young woman her age. In doing so, as Rowley skillfully observes, Saville borrows from the tradi tion of Jo Spence, and the markings scribed on her body to mark her discontent in this and Branded (fig. 15 )
21 While the technical application of paint work is engaging, the message, especially in images such as Branded becomes overly didactic. Pe rhaps the paintings did not need to employ the use of the written text which instead of evoking a sense of drama, less interesting for it. Instead, I find that the Savil is far more convincing in rendering her dissatisfaction and the visceral, fleshy quality of bulging flesh. I seek to evoke this same quality in my painting Pedi vorago (fig. 16) which exists as the third installment in a s eries of self portraits. This oil painting was the first completed in the series and is a form of self portraiture. In deciding what subject matter to paint, I thought that it would be especially important to exorcise this body anxiety built up within me, feeding off of what I have been told my body should look like according to my Latin American heritage and customs. The idea of painting feet came to me as it was my earliest memory of gender policing, and a part of myself that had been weathered out of syn girl stroll around barefoot it was suggestive of a looseness of morals as I was told, and additionally it would lead to the callousing of what were supposed to be supple, fe minine feet. Conversely, years taking ballet was perfectly acceptable, despite the toll that it took sought to push the flexibility of them and the ability and simultaneo us inability of calloused and uncalloused parts of my feet to bend and fold completely.
22 This flexibility was expressed through the paint and color application, from which an unknown light source illuminates the frame. For the most part, the fleshy surfaces flood the composition, but the creation of a gaping chasm between them was crucial in that in confused the space created by such relatively shallow parts of the body, and furthermore it made allusions to vaginal forms. Scale became an important factor in the distortion of the image, and allowing the viewer to feel a sense of the sublime when faced with such a large, indistinguishable mass. The color choice was muted and pale in this first piece. I wanted to play with the idea of using pastoral and almost c andy like colors to create a visceral attraction to the abstracted form. By using relatively inoffensive colors to define the rolling planes of flesh, I could incorporate a feeling of initial attraction to the piece followed by potentially a repulsion upon nature. The calluses were painted a sort of sickly green to emphasize the sentiment that these portions of flesh on the same body are often rejected from the more typical, more feminine bubblegum pinks. My painting, V enter sub luceo (fig 17) series and uses luminescence as well as the expansiveness of the canvas to show a body that in essence acts as a believable but abstracted space. The elongated format of the painting allows the ima him/her within an abstracted field of folds and light. While it is not immediately apparent monumental space created by the flickering violets and green tones that cover the surface. This format recalls a landscape, and the cropping of the image does well to suggest such,
23 removing the painting from its original context on the human body and transforming it. The l ight and handling of the paint do suggest the body connotations where they might otherwise be overwhelmed by the landscape format. CONCLUSION The process of abstracting these images started through the lens of the scientific and detached self evaluation of my body. Out of necessity, I transformed these images and sought to transform my perception of self. After realizing that this, though a cathartic endeavor was far too personal to be effective, the integration of others seemed crucial. The paintings ul timately had to transform from beautiful to sublime and in order to do so, a wider scope of images would be necessary. The integration of gender, and the limitations of age in this body of work perhaps target a specific audience, although the paintings ins pire their own sort of reverence and transform a critical gaze into what becomes an overwhelming experience in which one can lose oneself in the work. Overall, the process has been successful, although the works function best within a group, where the fr agmented images come together to create a whole by which we can identify something distinctly human and yet entirely unrecognizable. In doing so, we can reclaim the uncanny parts and elements of our bodies, these aberrations we seek to destroy within our n atural selves and elevate them to something much more grandiose that perhaps we do not fully understand. We can work through the blocks placed by the traditions of painting to reevaluate ourselves and our worth.
24 BIBLIOGRAPHY Postrel, Virginia. "The Truth About Beauty." The Atlantic M arch 2007: 125 7. Print. New York, NY: 1996 Werbel, Amy Beth. Thomas Eakins: art, medicine, and sexuality in nineteenth century Philadelphia Yale University Press, 2007. Print. Hirshhorn, Michelle. "Orlan Aritst in the post human age of mechanical r einc arnation: body as ready (to be re ) made." Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts Griselda Pollock. New York: Routledge, 1996. 110 135. Print. Indianapolis, IN :1987 Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Print. Hudso n, 2008. Print. Gagosian Gallery, 2006. Print. Kristeva, Julia. Powers of horror: an essay on abjection Columbia Univ Press, 1982. Print. Gilbert New York, NY: 1999 JAMC: 3 Sept 2002. Buszek Duke University Press: 2006 Routeledge, New York, NY: 1996
25 PLATES Figure 1. Carmen Guillen Casal, Tersum Vexo, 2011, encaustic on panel, 5x7 in. Figure 2. Dove Advertising, Real Women Hav e Curves, size variable
26 Figure 3. Carmen Guillen Casal, Papilla, 2011, encaustic on panel 5x7 in. Figure 4. Lisa Yuskavage, Pieface, 2008, oil on linen, 48x40 in.
27 Figure 5. John Currin, The Bra Shop, 1997, oil on canvas, 48x38 in. Figure 6. Carmen Guillen Casal, Saeta Damnum, 2010, waterco lor, 3x5 in.
28 Figure 7. Kiki Smith, Lilith, 1994, bronze and glass, 31 1/2 x 27 x 17 1/2in. Figure 8. Carmen Guillen Casal, Saeta, 2010, oil on panel, 9.5x20 in.
29 Figure 9. Ariene Lopez Huici, Marie Jo et sa canne, 2007, gelatin silver print 20x24 in Figure 10. Carmen Guillen Casal, Tendo vestigium, 2011, encaustic on panel, 5x7 in
30 Figure 11. Self John Coplans, Self Portrait (tor so), 1984, gelatin silver print 3 x 8 in. Figure 12. Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic, 1875, oil on canvas, 96x78 in.
31 Figure 13. Tim Hawkinson, Egg, 1997 ground fingernails and super glue, 1 x 1.5 x 1 in. Figure 14 Carmen Guillen Casal, Untitled Boxes, 2010, plexiglass, wood, hair, skin and mucus
32 18. Figure 15 Jenny Saville, Branded, 1992, oil on canvas, 7x 6 ft. Figure 16 Carmen Guillen Casal, Pedi vorago, 2010, oil on canvas, 30x36 in.
33 Figure 1 7 Carmen Guillen Casal, Venter Subluceo, o il on canvas, 68x16.5 in.