Sunday, August 13, 2006

Who's That Nude?

This weekend, the Saugerties Artists’ Studio Tour, in which I have been a participant fpr the last three years.
A comment from one studio tourist: “I don’t like nudes as a rule, but I do like these.”
It’s always nice to have someone like your work, and you probably shouldn’t question why, but it’s hard not to theorize a little, so I started wondering what sets my nudes apart from others.
I know that when I work in graphic arts, I feel it as a total break from writing. I don’t think with words; I don’t think about theme or symbol; I give myself up completely to eye and hand.

But I wonder if that’s as true as I’ve always assumed it was. Maybe my nudes are, to some extent, a writer’s nudes, in that I’m always, to some degree, creating character. I suspect the same is true with my animals.

I work mostly from photographs. I don’t necessarily follow the photographs literally, and sometimes I’ll grab images from more than one source. But I don’t have much in the way of a visual memory. I can’t remember exactly how a head fits on a neck if I’m not looking right at it, or how an arm hangs at someone’s side. I don’t remember what color people’s eyes are, or how someone’s hairline looks. And because, at least with the pointillist works, I spend a lot of time on each image, it would be wildly costly to work from a model.
Besides, while there are things you can get from a live model that you could never get from a photograph – depth, real color, and, well, life – there are things you can get from a photograph that you won’t necessarily get from a live model. A photograph is a moment in time, and sometimes that moment will reveal something unexpected.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I get a lot of my models by surfing those Internet sites where people post nude pictures of their wives and girlfriends. They work for me because they’re bad photographs, so I don’t have to work through someone else’s aesthetic vision, and because sometimes they’ll reveal something unexpected. You might have to look through a hundred pictures, which is a lot less fun than it sounds like, to find that unexpected revelation. But they’re there, and you know them when you see them.

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