Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Artists with Abs

by Drew Martin
(Top left) The Barberini Faun from a mind-boggling 2,200 years ago has amazing abs. So does Michelangelo's David, from 500 years ago.

Art has celebrated ripped torsos for thousands of years, and while most of those bodies are idealized models, the artists working with marble and other heavy materials must have been chiseled as well. The labor to copy the human form eased up over the years with the less-physical advance of painting and photography. 

In the 1960s Yves Klein created the most immediate reference to the body with Anthropométrie de l'époque bleue, a chauvinistic and absurd romp of nude female models rolling in ultramarine blue paint, who then pressed their bodies against blank sheets of paper lining the walls and floor of the performance space. (silly and profound at the same time) 

We do not see a lot of self portraits showing off the artist's physique through the millennia even though narcissism is really convenient for a solitary creator. When I think about somewhat current artists exhibiting their six-pack abs, Matthew Barney (left, second from top) is the first to come to mind. As a transfer into the artworld from jock sports, Barney made his athletic body central to his work. I never liked/had the patience for his pieces but anyone married to Björk is OK by me.

Artists are, like homeless people for some reason, naturally fit. Perhaps it is a restlessness that is channeled into the physical actions of creating artwork. This thought was always milling around in the back of my mind but I became more conscious of it when I started noticing a lot of fitness posts on Facebook by fellow art student, Debbie Beukema, from my studies at UC Santa Barbara.

I do not recall Debbie ever being particularly fit or obsessed with sport, and she recently explained that she had a broad swing of weight changes over the years. Now in her early 40s she is, in her words...

 in the best shape of my life, and in no small coincidence, I am also painting the best and drawing the best in my life. I think they go hand in hand."

Her day includes five to eight hours of art, and a diverse work-out regime. So much for the starving artist in cold-water Paris flats; today's artists are managing their careers, and health like never before.

(Debbie's torso shot and her painting Poppies were specifically provided by her for this post)