Saturday, July 14, 2012

Femininity, Insecurity, and My Art

Lately I have been musing about beauty, confidence vs. insecurity, and what it means to be a woman in today's culture. Yes... it's a HUGE topic -- one I can barely wrap my brain around. Yet, for the past few months, I have dwelt upon the subject - sometimes openly in conversation, and other times silently, letting it marinate in the back of my mind.

Questions I have asked...
What makes a woman beautiful, or... what makes a woman believe she is beautiful?
What makes a woman confident? What makes her successful? What makes her smart? Important? Relevant? Furthermore, how do women undermine their own needs and desires? How do women inadvertently destroy their own joy and happiness? What is woman's biggest weakness or downfall?

I am certainly not going to attempt to answer all of these questions (entire books have been written on the subject!), but I wanted to give you some insight into my latest set of work. Not only does the work say something about the subject, but it comes deep from within my own feminine heart and soul, and the thought process I have had.

Let's start with the artist (ha!). :-) First of all, I am a woman. Like any other woman, I have insecurities that stem from past hurts as well as current struggles. These insecurities are diverse, ranging from how I feel about my body to whether or not I feel affirmed in my work as an artist. Every day I experience the nagging temptation to doubt myself and worse - doubt my perfect Creator. But I have been learning, through daily prayer and time in God's Word - that if I keep my eyes on the Author and Perfector of my faith - His grace is sufficient, and I can have true joy and contentment. I can live with that number on the scale, or the art competition rejections, and even rejoice in them, because God's purpose is bigger than mine, and His mercies are new every morning. Furthermore, He has given me the gift of creating and expressing my struggles through canvas and paint. What an honor! To create and echo His work - no matter how small and insignificant and imperfect mine is. He is still glorified.

That being said, the insecurities will probably be something I struggle with for the rest of my life. But I hope to bless others who struggle with the same things by offering some insight through the artwork I have done recently and will continue to do.

First off, my summer has consisted of painting unclothed figures - and not because it's 100 degrees outside! I have been exploring femininity, beauty, confidence and insecurity through the timeless subject of the female nude. Of course, I have had a wonderful time painting skin tones and playing around with lighting... but on a deeper level, I've also had a chance to meet some amazing women who are brave enough to model for me. I've made some paintings which I feel are some of my best because there was genuine empathy, or simpatico if you will, in the collaboration between myself and the models. They are not just "subjects" to me, but real people with real struggles and joys.

I am not going to pick apart the meaning behind my paintings here, but simply let you view them in light of what I've just said, and interpret them for yourself.

 "Reclining Nude on Blue" - 14x18" - oil on linen panel

"Unmasked" - 18x14" - oil on linen

"Burlesque Dancer" - 9x5.75" - oil on linen panel

One painting (which I haven't posted yet because it's not quite finished) sums up my thoughts rather perfectly. It is a portrait (clothed) of a very dear friend of mine. It took her a long time to muster the courage to sit for me, for various reasons, particularly an insecurity regarding her eyes. Well, the painting isn't finished yet, but those who have been to my studio and looked at it have all said the same thing. They have said, "She has the most beautiful eyes!"

I guess what I am trying to say is that my goal in creating these paintings is to help my subjects (and myself) feel confident and happy with our bodies, and with our inner and outer beauty. My hope is that by conveying the outer beauty, I can somehow draw out some facet of the inner beauty as well and display it for all to appreciate. :-)

Oh, and by the way... look for more work exploring this topic later on this summer. I have a large piece in mind that I can't to start!



  1. great blog Anna!! I love your thoughts!

  2. Great post Anna! Just fantastic to read about, I do think we all struggle with beauty/self-consciousness/appearance/what we present to the world as females and as artists. It is always interesting to hear other people take on this aspect of our lives

  3. Thanks for your post, Anna. It's a great topic, relevant to every woman, and it wonderful to get a glimpse of your heart behind your work. The paintings are beautiful and respectful, and I think accomplish your goal very well. Thanks so much for sharing them. This post makes me wish I had spent more time talking with you about art and music at Hillsdale! :-)


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