The Nude in the 21st Century

Lisa Ackerman

Carrie Alter

Harriet Barratt

Grace Benedict

Grace Benedict

Robert Bibler

Robert Bibler

Kelly Blevins

Jamina Bone

Tedd Chilless

Hunter Clarke

Hunter Clarke

Mona Cordell

Jennifer Cutshall

Rhoda Draws

Bruce Erikson

Shady Eshghi

Alexendra Eyer

Jeff Faerber

Rachel Foster


Elaine Green

Annie Heisey

Keith Howard

Kathryn Hratko

Sebastian Hyde

Tom Jensen

Tricia Kaman

Mark Kaufman

Patrick Kernan

Monika Linehan

Katherine Liontas-Warren

Cathy Locke

Daniel Maidman

Jessica Marshall

Jim McComas

Jim McComas

Jessica McCoy

Christopher Mooney

Thu Nguyen

Andrew Ogus

Michael Reedy

Michael Reedy

Nick Reszetar

Bethany Rowland

Paul Rutz

Joseph Shepler

Brian Smith

Darrell Weaver

Denise Weir

John Whitehouse

John Whitten

Daniel Maidman
(Brooklyn, NY)
Artist Website

The Barrista, Oil on canvas, 48" x 48"

Let me tell you a favorite story of mine on the subject of "why I paint the figure." It's from Pliny the Elder, and it's one of the Greek myths of the invention of drawing. In this myth, a young woman from Sicyon, near Corinth, is sitting with her boyfriend. He has to leave the next day, and she's going to miss him. They're sitting by the hearth fire, talking. Suddenly she turns and sees the shadow of his profile on the wall. So she grabs a piece of charcoal, and makes an outline of the shadow, to remember him by. And that's the invention of drawing.

Parallel to this is a medieval story about the crucifixion. Jesus is on the Via Dolorosa, hauling the cross toward Golgotha. He's sweating, he's bleeding. He's covered in mud, people have been spitting on him. And a woman in the crowd, a sympathizer, takes off her veil, and pats his face with it. When she takes it away - a miracle! There is an image of his face imprinted on the veil. This image is the true image of the face of Jesus, and in the middle ages, they even had a fakey Latin-Greek term for this concept of the True Image: the vera eikona. With a bit of folk etymology, the name of the True Image, the vera eikona, becomes the name of the woman - Veronica.

Both of these stories, the woman from Sicyon, and Veronica, are stories about the True Image. They are myths based on the importance to us, as human beings, of making a True Image. But they have something else interesting in common: the means of producing the True Image is essentially mechanical in each case.

So the question arises - if the means of manufacturing the True Image is mechanical, why do we still feel a need to paint after the invention of the camera?

I think we can answer this question by drawing on a very interesting concept raised by Neal Stephenson in his recent novel Anathem. In this novel, the main character is press-ganged into serving as an amanuensis. "Amanuensis" is a fancy word for a stenographer - somebody who writes down what somebody else says. The main character, very reasonably, asks why they don't just get a tape recorder and some voice recognition software. And his boss explains to him that what is needed isn't a record of the words alone, but also that the words should pass through consciousness on their way to the record. It is absolutely essential - for narrative reasons - that a consciousness parse the words.

This pertains to our question:

It is necessary that a consciousness parse what is seen for it to be a True Image.

Why? To answer this, we have to answer: what is the True Image a true image of? It is entirely possibly to measure the density or volume or boiling point of iron, for example, by mechanical means, or to find out the color of a star. These are purely physical phenomena. Machines are good at representing physical things. But it is next to impossible for a scale, a telescope, a surveillance camera, to represent consciousness, or the soul, the spirit - whatever you want to call it. The True Image is an image of something that is not physical. It is of the same nature as consciousness, and this is why consciousness must parse it to represent it accurately.

When we paint, we are making an image of a spiritual phenomenon. The image itself begins to partake of consciousness, owning itself and making person-like demands on the viewer. It is very difficult to make such an image. It is not hard for the artist alone. It is also hard for the model. Modeling as a practice is physically demanding, it is a form of athleticism. And more than that, the model must present themselves, make who they are available; their consciousness must, unhidden, interact with yours. It is very difficult to do, and I am very grateful to all the models I work with, who commit in this way to their work.

Now, given how difficult it is, let's ask again: why would anyone bother? Why is the True Image so important to us? I think Plato addresses this problem with his distinction between Being and Becoming. Everything eternal - ideas, mathematics, things like that - is described as partaking of Being. Everything that changes, that comes to be and passes away, that lives and dies, is described as partaking of Becoming. And Plato says that that which is Becoming is an illusion. It doesn't really exist. Why does he say that? It's a radical rejectionism. He's rejecting death. He says, "It is impossible that death should exist."

Consider again the woman of Sicyon. She looks at things that are partaking of Becoming - her boyfriend, who will leave in the morning. The fire. The shadow. And she realizes she will miss these things. So she reaches for those objects closest to her which partake most of Being: the charcoal and the tiles of the wall. And she translates that which is Becoming into that which is Being.

We pursue the True Image as a less radical version of Plato's rejectionism. We say, "This thing, which exists now, is real. I see it now. I love it now. I don't want it to go away." So we reach for whatever we can reach that partakes of Being, and we make a True Image of the thing we see. We make an image using materials that will last longer than we will. That way we can remember, and not die, and we can go on telling the future what we thought was so precious and so important.

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