Photography and Styling by Shayla Hickerson
Makeup by Saskia Pateman
Written by Saskia Pateman
I remember one of my first thoughts as we started the shoot was comparing how my body looked to the other girls in the room. I quickly stopped myself and came to the realization that I was doing exactly what this art piece was trying to discourage. I was objectifying the women around me, dissecting their bodies into neatly packaged boxes, trying to create the perfect woman.
“She has a bigger chest than me”
“wow her skin is so flawless”
“I wish my thighs were smaller like hers”
“her face will be so much more captivating in the photos” etc.
I focused on the positive physical aspects of them instead of analyzing the other parts of them that actually matter. Like their kindness, intelligence, world view, humour etc. We so often tell women they are beautiful or pretty before anything else, but why?
Women are so much more than their bodies and this shoot just helped me learn that even more.
I stood beside the other women, confident and proud to be among awesome, likeminded, bold women. I’m glad that the shoot gave me that.
Model: Jacqueline Heinrich
Photographer and Stylist: Shayla Hickerson
Makeup: Jacqueline Heinrich
Models in order of appearance: Allison Drechsler, Amelia Eirynn
Photographer and Stylist: Shayla Hickerson
Makeup: Jenna Scali and Jessica Frappa
Photo and Styling courtesy of Shayla Hickerson
Models from left to right: John Forget – Fantasia LaPremiere, Allison Drechsler, Amelia Eirynn, Jacqueline Heinrich, Saskia Pateman
Makeup by Jenna Scali and Jessica Frappa
Reclaiming the Feminine Image (Part 2)
In the beginning of the Volume geared towards ‘Exploring Art and the Male Gaze as Influential of Body Image’, members of the community studied the effects of art in the past and how it is still relevant today. Visual representations often become reflective of the current social events, value and life. Pablo Picasso used the topics of prostitution and objectification of the female nude to create his work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).
Fast forward half a century, and objectification remains a notable topic depicted through artistic means. Similar to Picasso, Yves Klein produced art under the male gaze. In his piece, L’Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue (1960), Klein is glorified for his ingenious technical approach. Klein is observed to have listened to classical music, while orchestrating nude, female models covered in Klein blue paint to imprint their bodies onto canvas.
Fast forward another half a century and we end up with similar objectification regarding the current female identity.
I want to examine the continuation of objectification in art. To recreate a historical piece created by the male gaze and present it through a modern, feminine directed experience. I want to create an image, where the creative process within Klein’s work is reversed and the models are shown in a still-shot, pre-imprint.
The imprint of the female nude is depicted on the models to redirect the focus of the human subject. In the original work by Klein, you see an image created by using the female body as a tool, as a stamp, as an object. Her identity and humanity is removed, but through redirecting the focus on the models, they regain their identities. The imprints are recreated, and painted onto female and male models to re-humanize their form. These models exist not for the male gaze, but rather by owning their own image.
Model: Saskia Pateman
Photographer: Shayla Hickerson
You’re too tall. You’re too pale. Too big, too flat, too boyish, too old.
These thoughts bleed into my soul far too often.
You, too, probably have criticized yourself for being too something. We talk about body positivity, about self-love, about girls supporting girls. But most of us succumb to self-judgment at least some of the time.
“Standing out” is something we celebrate and applaud; “sticking out” conjures fears of lacking community and support. I’ve worried about sticking out ever since I was old enough to be aware of social culture. From being nearly six feet tall to having small breasts to likely being unable to have children, I’ve often felt apart from and awkward around other women. I’ve felt like an outsider because I’m too this or too that, too much or not enough. And in the end, I tend to be the one who holds myself apart from the community I so long for.
As we prepared for this photoshoot on a sticky Canada Day weekend, I shared the space with six beautiful women (and a very cute cat). The models and photographers all were significantly younger than me, and as we models undressed, I worried that all of those “too” fears would come flooding back. I know the tricks my mind can play.
Instead, I found kind hearts and minds, gathered to celebrate feminine beauty in all its forms. For an afternoon, at least, I had my community. We were seven strong women creating art, honouring one another’s beauty, softness and power.
Before we began, I sat with one of the photographers as she painted my eyelids.
“You’re a work of art, my dear,” she said dreamily, a near-whisper.
Her words reminded me of why I started art modelling more than a decade ago. I hope to see myself as others say they do, to trust a photographer to show me the grace that often eludes my own eyes.
And so, I’m still learning to be OK with myself as I am. We all are still learning.
Thunder Bay, July 2018
Models in order of appearance: Adrianna Harvey, Sonny Rupert, Saskia Pateman, Adelie Bergstrom, Elizabeth Alberta
Featured Cat: Vivianne
Photographer: Shayla Hickerson
Models in order of appearance: Adrianna Harvey, Sonny Rupert, Saskia Pateman, Sonny Rupert, Adelie Bergstrom, Elizabeth Alberta
Photography by Shayla Hickerson
Reclaiming the Feminine Image
The male gaze is a hot topic of discussion in the art world. Countless of critiques have been made to assess the lack of female artists prevalent in the artistic limelight. Rather, females have been historically deemed worthy to play the part of the artistic subject. In other words, historically, women weren’t encouraged to study art, rather they were studied through art.
First, I would like to note that art becomes reflective of the popular cultures and social beliefs present during the life-span of the respective artist. In other terms, artists typically comment on topics that are current in social conversations. Historically, it was common for academic, male artists to train by painting still-lives… or more specifically nude portraits of women. At the time, women were usually subject of prostitution or considered to be sexual objects. Thus, women were posed beneath the male artist, while exuding a submissive atmosphere.
As exemplified in Pablo Picasso’s artwork, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), 5 women are depicted as objects to be viewed by the male eye. Ultimately, the females are posed as if they are waiting for their next client. Through this observation, it becomes evident that Picasso is reflecting the accepted social reality of females as sexual objects. Yet, he depicts them as less than human. The depiction provides a cubist commentary through defined, hard shapes, rough brushstrokes and dehumanized features. The female becomes more objectified than the unidentifiable bowl of fruit positioned before the models.
The themes of sexualized objectification are still present in our current society, although the impact may be visible through different circumstances. Women are no longer stereotyped heavily through prostitution, yet the feminine image is still comparable to submissive, docile characters.
I want to close the gap between the years of female depictions as sexualized subjects and depict a modern rendition of one of the most iconic paintings created by the male gaze. This time, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon will be depicted by modern day women, captured by the female eye to reclaim body and identity. The models stand empowered by re-humanizing their presence in front of the lens which becomes a window to society. The animal-like depictions of prostitutes awaiting their next client are replaced with the powerful, everyday, real female identity. These women exist not for the male gaze, but rather by owning their own image.