Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You Paint With Your What?

My sibling points out, re news coverage of the Australian woman who paints with her breasts, "Surely they'd be all over the story if a man announced he was painting with his penis!"
While this is probably true, I think it would be covered a mite differently. I'm guessing that instead of a photo emphasizing a woman's cleavage, we would get a photo of the man dressed and standing next to the painting.
The art historians among my readers will be aware, furthermore, that it has long been a standard trope for male artists to claim to paint (albeit in a metaphorical sense) with their genitals.
Some male artists take a more literal approach. An Art in America article by Francis M. Naumann (April 2001) details Marcel Duchamp's use of his semen in creating works intended for Maria Martins, a sculptor he was involved with (the article reproduced a photo of the result). My reaction (mainly in jest) was that the substance probably functioned similarly to the egg used in true egg tempera.
A friend to whom I mentioned the Duchamp article told me he knew a woman who paints with her menstrual blood. He sent a link to her web site, which I regret I no longer have. It was interesting. Admittedly, blood has such a strong color of its own that the result is relatively monochromatic, whereas semen presumably mixes well with pigments.
In general, contemporary artists, especially those involved in body art and performance art, use a wide variety of bodily parts and substances. I'd say that much of this work takes some getting used to, but it can be intriguing and even beautiful. In 2003 (or was it 2004?) the student show at Prague's Veletržní palác included a series of sensitively delineated portraits done with strands of pubic hair. I'm not sure how the artist got them to stay in place, but from a short distance her results looked like fine pen strokes. Moving forward for a closer look provided an element of surprise and reassessment.

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