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Beauty in the details

Posted in Things We Love, and Women's issues

aleah chapinI am no stranger to old, naked bodies, especially female. During the course of the hours I spend volunteering at the hospital, I see bodies ravaged by disease, scarred by surgery or just plain old. There is something about a hospital setting that allows for intimacy and a shedding of prudery. There is also a generosity in women who share their stories, complete with images to match.

Our society exalts the female form in all the glory of its youth – to a certain extent, Western culture has always done that, through the ages, and through literature and the visual arts but, in the last century, our obsession with beauty and youth has gathered strength and obliterated the process of aging from our collective consciousness.

aleah-chapin-flower-galleryIt’s a shame. Because there is something inherently beautiful in a body that has walked through decades, withstood the blows of life – a body that incapsulate wisdom and a variegated narrative. A we should learn to love, not hide, long past its prime.

Aleah Chapin understands that, at the tender age of 28. Aleah paints enormous canvases of naked women, in all stages of life. Women she knows, who willingly posed for her.

It was the sound of their feet
It was the sound of their feet

We [women] generally care more what we look like – probably too much at times, me included,” she says.
“Young women are still trying to fit in. I think when you get older you care less –that’s not a negative thing at all. You’re just more accepting.
“When you get past a certain age you become invisible – and that’s a whole other problem.
“For me, it’s about finding beauty in every imperfection.”

The tempest
The tempest

As I look at these realistic paintings, I am struck, once again, by the generosity of women and by the multitude of facets – feelings, stories, directions, roles – that we, as women embody at different stages in our lives. They are to be found in the sagging breasts and distended bellies of motherhood, in the folding skin of a good long life, in the strong legs that carried untold weights, in eyes filled with tenderness, in the acceptance.

aleah chapinAn art critic called Aleah’s work “repellent…a grotesque medical record”. And maybe that is why the visual story of our bodies need to be told past the age of youth. Our bodies are vessels that keep on filling for decades, as interesting and multi-faceted as the rest of us.

If you are in London, you can see Aleah Chapin’s “Maiden, Mother, Child and Crone” at the Flowers Gallery until November 8.
The exhibition will travel to Los Angeles sometime next year.

Many thanks to Bonnie for putting this on my map.

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10 Comments

  1. silvia
    silvia

    This to me is natural beauty. Thank you for sharing and for being so honest and straightforward about your own experience

    October 4, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I was certain it would appeal to you.

      October 5, 2016
      |Reply
  2. I used to volunteer to a local hospital as well. I would walk elderly wheelchairs all over the place. It was a very fulfilling time of my life.
    These are whoa-amazing!!! So life-like. Such incredible talent, and you most definitely gave the painting justice with your pictures.
    I think I was the most comfortable with my skin only last year in Greece. Those water are so pristine, there is no hesitating of taking off clothes. 😀

    By the way, I featured one of your quotes from one of your posts for my 400th post. I hope you don’t mind me using your words.

    October 4, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      That is so sweet. No I don’t mind at all.

      October 5, 2016
      |Reply
  3. I love her portraits. I always think of cavewomen when I see them, simply because there’s a sort of savage pride in how the subjects pose or how she portrays them, an unpolished naturalness that’s at odds with society’s more submissive, preening, posturing depiction of women. These women…it’s as if they’ve never been subjected to that. I love them and want to be around them, to be free like that. Really unique.

    October 4, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Love your take on these women. They all do emanate a beautiful strength, as if it had never been subjugated. I am glad someone put these paintings on my path.

      October 5, 2016
      |Reply
  4. meri mastro
    meri mastro

    Magnificent article . . . yet again you’ve struck a note which resonates with me. As a third-time breast cancer surgery patient, I have gone through issues with my body in many ways. Feeling at times “deformed”, misshapen, unattractive, insignificant and “not what I used to be” . . . all of that and more . . . finally evolving into acceptance, relief, respect and ultimately love. I guess it is age which changed me into appreciating so much this vehicle which still gets me around, allows me to exercise daily and dance frequently . . . and generally to keep on truckin’. And I love these women who proudly show their bodies! Love them all.

    October 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      My first (and hopefully last) breast surgery turned out to be minimally invasive but it brought up issues of desirability and femininity, while my tissues adjusted, hardened and got severely burnt. While I was undergoing radiation, I was painfully thin, more the result of stress than anything else, and I hated the image staring back at me from the mirror. Until I realized that this skinny frame was fighting to stay healthy, to absorb the radiations while keeping me safe and allowed me to still go through my life. We expect so much from our bodies and, even if we live a healthy life, we rarely give back what our body needs most: unconditional love. Thank you Meri.

      October 4, 2016
      |Reply
  5. Winston Moreton
    Winston Moreton

    I wonder if the huge numbers surviving 70 plus is a 21’st century phenom. Would account for the preponderance of youthful models in older art

    October 3, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You bring up an interesting point but there are plenty of older models in Flemish paintings and even more so in the Asian figurative arts, where I think old age was more revered.

      October 4, 2016
      |Reply

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