Yesterday I spent some time at the MFA Boston’s “Degas and the Nude” exhibition. Confession: for all the concept-based work I’m doing about simulation, observation and surveillance, I’m still a sucker for a well-rendered nude.
In the dim light of the exhibition I observed beautiful line, vibrant color, bawdry images (lesbian sex...consider the era!), smoky scenes of voluptuous flesh made with the simple swipe of a rag through ink, and one heck of a complex relationship with women.
But what resonated most deeply with me was the beauty in the awkward poses of Degas' bathers and dancers. Suddenly the big-assed woman getting out of the bath, balancing precariously on one foot had as much grace and purpose as his earlier Spartan figures. And I recognized a similar desire, as an artist, to show the moment of “coming into” or “getting out” of that I explored in my hair drawing/yoga series from 2003-2007. Now I’m not comparing my work to Degas’…never would I dare...but I read in his work a shared yearning to express the dynamism of the human figure in the complex context of our modern world. (His being, of course, much different than mine.)
So I ask you this: what if Degas had access not only to the brothel, but also to a yoga studio?
Two Degas bronzes ("Dancer Holding her Right Foor in Her Right Hand" and "Dancer Looking at the Sole of her Right Foot") at MFA's "Degas and the Nude"
"Remapping #1", 2007. Human hair on paper.