I Saw Aphrodite
Acrylics on Paneled Mirror, 2017
A final project for my figure drawing class.
As I sat with Makayla Monahan in her studio, both of us drawing, we began to talk about the way art has personally impacted us. I shared with her my feelings about figure drawing, and how I had never realized how much my perception of myself was influenced by the media. Because society tells women to be tall and slender, which is my natural body type, I always thought I had a positive self-image. However, as I learned how to draw the nude figure, I saw many things in the models that would never be put in a magazine or movie as “beautiful.” I anchored the strongest lines in my drawings to the curves where the stomach touches the legs, the directions the breasts sagged, or the rolls on an arched back. My body image had never felt compromised because I had forced my perception of my features into what I thought they were supposed to look like. Seeing the nude figure helped open my eyes to look at the parts of me I had previously skimmed over, acknowledging that those parts are just as beautiful as the things that I had appreciated before.
Makayla shared a similar experience from her time abroad in Orvieto. As she visited museums and saw exhibition after exhibition of sculptures, she began to see bits of herself in the sculptures of goddesses. She particularly noticed this and journaled about it when she saw Aphrodite of Menophantos, and I decided to dedicate my final project to her story, which resonates with mine and many others. I modeled my figure after Aphrodite of Menophantos, painting her in flesh tones to bring out the life and realness of her figure. On the two side mirror panels, I painted selections of the journal entry Makayla shared with me, painting the words backwards. This forces the viewer to read them by looking through the other mirrors, where they are greeted not only by the words they are reading, but also by the figure of Aphrodite. This piece draws in the viewer, encouraging them to look two or three layers deep into the reflections and see Aphrodite in the same manner they would look at themselves.