Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
Home PageSend Comment

The unclothed body is autobiography.

—Billy Collins, from his poem, Winter Syntax

So glad you were inspired by these paintings. I, too, was inspired by each of those brave older women who respected their own body as a temple of their soul rather than just a shape, and were willing to share them with the world.

—Alice Matzkin

Naked Old Women

In the office bathroom, I noticed that someone had left a copy of Ms magazine. Yeah, I've always been curious what is so special about these "chick zines" and figured that I would only appreciate it if I could start to acquire a taste for "chick flicks" as well. But on the cover in the list of article eye catchers was one that really got my curiosity burning.

The article was entitled, Naked Old Women. I was so intrigued that I just had to thumb to it to see what it was all about. Well, what it was about is Alice Matzkin, an artist who made a series of portraits of … well, naked old women. And some of the paintings were featured in the magazine, and let me tell you, they were simply fabulous. Each painting captured the unique essence… the soul of the person. So inspiring.

This got me thinking… and not just about my own motivation of opening up the magazine in the first place. What is our fascination with nekked people? I mean from the neolithic venus stone carvings to the Renaissance to our "naughty mags" we've been painting, drawing and sculpting their form. Granted, we have this ideal perfection associated with young, nubile women, and I'll admit if you've got to paint something, that is just a good a subject as a bowl of fruit. :-)

This fascination we have also gets me wondering about why we hate the human body so much. I mean, we are always piercing, tattooing, painting, combing, shaving, and clothing these things as if we loathe the very sight… and every culture does this, so I really think that it must be in our genes.

But getting back to the art of the nude… art is seldom realistic. In fact, that isn't usually the goal of the artist, as the real objective is to capture something more real… more real than just the external appearance. Perhaps to capture the reality we can't see. Maybe that is the reason why we try to alter our bodies… we are trying to express something deep while stating that we are just covering up.

But really constitutes art? Funny, I guess I have to agree with Potter Stewart, for I know what art is when I see it. A great art composition can literally take your breath and mind away, and then it returns refreshed and inspired.

And so it was with the paintings of these naked old women. Each wrinkled hide told more stories than the flawless, airbrushed skin of a supermodel. It tells the stories, because the soul inside experienced the stories… of birth, death, love and loss. And the shedding of clothes not only reveals the tails, but also the tales of the person, and there are some stories and experiences we'd better keep covered.

Hmmm… when I'm 80 years old, I wonder if I can talk some young artist into painting my disrobed frame as I dance to the music I've acquired in my head.

Well, now it is time for you to skeedattle and go see these pictures for yourself. My personal favorite is Anna, age 75.

If you enjoyed this essay, you might enjoy Is All "Nude" Art?
Tell others about this article:
Click here to submit this page to Stumble It