Sunday, December 5, 2010

Something is Wrong with this Picture

by Drew Martin

I recall trying to look up women's skirts on television when I was a little kid. It must have been funny to watch me walk closer and closer towards the boob tube with my head cocked nearly upside down. To a young boy it was entirely frustrating because everything got fuzzy and flat when I put my face up against the bulging glass screen of our old black and white set. I always remember those early and curious attempts to pass a certain barrier of media, trying to get closer to the real thing.

A couple months ago, a friend who is a painter from Turkey, approached a cartoonish painting I did of a young Goralka (a mountain woman from southern Poland) lying on a tarry, littered surface beneath the Tatra range. I sewed a sleeping bag over the woman, which has a functioning zipper. The painter approached the canvas, unzipped it and protested when she saw the folkloric dress. "She should be naked!"

So I decided to make another painting with some nudes, which only the viewer could expose if he or she so desires. I thought I would do an Adam and Eve scene, with strands of yarn for locks of hair to cover Eve's breasts and canvas leaves sewn over the privies. Perhaps it could be an interesting comment on desire; to move the viewer to act on his or her curiosity, but in a playful way. I was also thinking of Goya's paired canvases, the clothed and naked Maja, the practice by the Romans of covering the pubic areas of Greek nudes and the look but do not touch of most art, especially the recent offenses at Marina Abramović's The Artist Is Present at MoMA.

I wanted to make a fun canvas that was the opposite of all of such titillating displays but I also wanted to take the subjects beyond the Adam and Eve story because it is one that the modern world could do without. In place of the Old Testament duo, I turned to the Hindu loving couple, Maithuna, who are in spiritual and physical harmony. I started with a two thousand year old Maithuna stone carving from Karli, India, flipped the couple and gave them some music (in the form of a boom box) for their pleasure. The male in my painting is actually wearing a pendant, which shows the original pair. Although the large, round breasts of the female in the carving are exposed, the couple's loins are clothed. In my version, I painted them nude with their sturdy forms and then sewed a loin cloth over the male and a dress over the female, which can be easily lifted by the viewer. The material I chose was from a Declaration of Independence tie my brother gave me a couple years ago.