As a birthday present to his (former burlesque dancer) wife, Mike commissioned me to paint Maggie’s portrait, in a style based on my “Big Paintings of Sexy Women” series. When I went over to their place to sketch her, she showed me a few of the many drawings and paintings her grandfather did of her grandmother. They were RACY! My portrait was intended to be sexy enough to reflect that side of her and her family lineage, and tame enough to not make Mike’s family run screaming from their home.
When she and Mike came over to pick it up, I decided to make a to-do, and set up the painting on my easel in the middle of my studio and arranged a piece of heavy velvet over it (my bedroom curtain). I put on an evening gown, I gave them glasses of wine, and eventually unveiled the painting like a gameshow hostess.
Maggie had posed for me in two sittings, and I made the portrait from my pencil sketches and a bunch of reference photos.
Maggie emailed me a short video of walking into their home, and the first thing you see when you walk in their door is the portrait at the top of their staircase. “The reception of the portrait has been resoundingly fantastic. People have been impressed by your ability to make such a striking portrait and describe your work as so distinguishable.”
Continue on this post to see other paintings in the “Big Paintings of Sexy Women” series (note: NSFW, if your W isn’t cool with nudity).
“Big Paintings of Sexy Women”
2003 – ongoing
I just dug through my files and found my artist statement from the first showing of this series (in 2003! jeez) at Secluded Alley Works in Seattle. I was very excited about working large-scale, and my statement is full of exclamation points. (“This is only the beginning!!”) Many of my indignant concerns about narrowly-defined beauty ideals have since been addressed by Suicide Girls and shmillions of other forums that aim to break the mold, so I’ll skip my introduction about standardized beauty. (Still relevant but, yawn).
Here are a few of the paintings, with some excerpts from my artist statement:
My intent in this series is to show women who are:
Self possessed: cheeky, dead serious, or smirky; luring or hamming for the viewer; but doing what she thinks is sexy, it’s her show.
Deliberately sexy: she knows it.
Aware of the viewer: this goes back to feminist theory from college, about the male gaze objectifying women and in that way seizing the power of the interaction. [I know I know, the objectifying gaze isn’t necessarily male, and is objectification really always bad?, and etc. Nevertheless.] The models here are objectified too, but also gazing directly at the viewer in an objectifying way, creating an ambiguity of the power roles between the viewer and the model. (Like, is the viewer the one who’s deciding if the model is sexy? Or is the model like, “Yeah yeah, I know. What makes you think you deserve it?”)
Portraits: I wasn’t idealizing these women’s bodies – dimples, freckles, thighs. All the models are friends of mine that I think are beautiful. They chose their poses themselves – I asked them what made them feel sexy – like, by themselves, how might they pose in the mirror? (Except K-O with the bottle – I asked her to pose like that. It was her own favorite beer, though.) So the poses were personal to them and what made them feel sexy and powerful.