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August 22, 2017


Subversion of Freedom


OkeefeI was recently at a fabulous dinner party with artist and professor friends hosted by my art mentor and friend, Darlene. On one of her walls was a print of a nude photo of Georgia O'Keeffe that had been taken by photographer Alfred Stieglitz. I had known of O'Keeffe's flower paintings but I had no idea that she had allowed so many nudes of herself to be taken through the artistic eye of Stieglitz.

Within the Expressionist movement ... where tensions that were leading to WW1 were rising, many artists including painters  like Paul Gaugin wanted to return to primitivism and find freedom. Freedom from the forces of war, freedom from social convention ... just freedom plain and pure. This revolt against worldwide tension caused artists like Gauguin to start painting nudes as they viewed nudes to be the ultimate reflection of freedom.

Prior to Expressionism, Impressionist artists like Édouard Manet also painted nudes but with much more controversy as the viewing public felt shocked by the kind of vivid nudity that Manet painted.

After the dinner party with Darlene and friends, I looked up the photos of Georgia O'Keeffe which are just so achingly beautiful. The photos were also used to reference to make many beautiful paintings.

Earlier this year when I turned 50 years old, I also had my first nude photos taken through the artistic eye of @narcissusholmes. I had always thought of getting nudes taken and I think at the age of 50 I thought to myself: "Life is short ... let's do this." Though at the time I hadn't known of O'Keeffe's nude photos, I in hindsight feel an extra connection with O'Keeffe. I understand why she had so many taken. Because she likely felt what I felt from the process and the product ... which is freedom from social convention ... freedom plain and pure.

There's always controversy when it comes to freedom. Manet felt it when he released his paintings of nudes ... and perhaps it's less so today but controversy and judgement still exist ... which is why I go to the trouble of editing the photos (sepia tones of O'Keeffe and black&whites of me to not be kicked off of social media). There's something about the audacity of freedom that is inherently unnerving to convention. True freedom is always subversive.

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