I don't usually delve into the thoughts behind my work on this blog, but today I am taking the leap in doing so. Thank you for those who commented on my portrait of Seamus, and brought up the issue of adding the male figure to my work. It has come up more than once over the years that my work is almost exclusively of the female form, and to date the only men that have made appearances in my formal work are or have been murdered by women. I am sure this has prompted many to speculate on certain aspects of my psychology, as various Freudian theories could be applied, but for now I thought I'd explain my bias as I see it.
The first and foremost reason that I focus so much on women in my work is simply that I am a woman myself. I am often seeking to express an idea or emotion that is mine, and it is difficult for me to try and 'speak' through a male image. I'm not a male, and therefore I don't so much think or feel from the perspective of a man. Many ideas are universal and are experienced by both sexes, that is true, but there is still a difference in the way men and women experience life, and therefore the gender of the person in the image has an affect on the way the message comes across.
For example, in my painting, "Insecurity," and it's companion, the nearly finished "Security," try to imagine the same compositions, but with men inserted in the women's places. In my mind, at least, the paintings wouldn't make sense and would even seem silly... I mean, men in general aren't that self-conscious about themselves, or at least they aren't perceived that way in society and in my experience don't behave the same way as women when they are in the buff. Perhaps it is sexist for me to assume these things, and of course I know that men can and often do have body-issues as well, but I still can't generally seem to wrap my head around truly expressing myself through the male image.
Secondly, let us simply consider the natural beauty of the female figure. A woman's form, in my eyes, naturally composes itself without much hassle and has so many aesthetically pleasing curves and rhythms in comparison the the relatively utilitarian male figure. It seems to me that much of the really great art containing the male figure portrays the subject in a rather feminine pose. I've included two beautiful works by Michelangelo here as examples. The Dying Slave, especially, I see as not only a relatively feminine but nearly an erotic pose.
Slightly unrelated, I have had more than one conversation lately about male and female bodies in pop culture vs in fine art. It almost seems like the standards are reversed in each situation. In pop culture (even with TV news anchors, etc.) it is OK for men to have a sub-ideal body, so long as they have the personality and sense of humor to make up for it. Women, however, tend to need to be very thin, regardless of if they are a singer or a comedian. In fine art, though, quite a variety of feminine forms are and have been considered beautiful while throughout history only one real male body-type has been preferred by artists.
Edit: After I wrote this post, I found this image on my Michelangelo search... it is supposed to be an image of what the sculpture David might look like it done after a modern-day American model. Of course, it was done as a commentary on today's obesity 'epidemic,' but I think it also goes along with my point, above.
In closing, I have been planning for a few years to add the male form to my body of work. I do have a handful of paintings that I have had sketched out for some time, but have yet to be started. Stay tuned and these may appear in the near future. And no, the men in these new compositions are not there merely for the women to murder! However, it is going to be a real challenge for me to get past something purely academic in these pieces, for the reasons mentioned above. Also, for those that asked, yes, there will be more of Seamus soon. I have been drawing live from him this week, and am about to head out to the studio to finish up. I have yet to learn how to create an expressive pose with the male figure like the images in this post, but perhaps over time I will become more comfortable with the male subject and something will click.