lizhead

‘Symphony’ (detail)

During my lifetime, a revolution has occurred in the power dynamic between male and female. I long to live out this change in my own art. How satisfying to make the reversal more conscious—for self and others.

For my mother and for her mother, (over a century ago), the young female art model posed as the vulnerable object of male desire and control. She was in the usual precarious situation of all young women, in relation to powerful men in their lives. While they were not art models, Grandmother’s and Mother’s lives were devastated by the decisions of men with immense power over them.—As was mine.

How might I now paint this subject from a resistant position rather than a complicit one? Just saying, ‘Here the artist at work is a woman,’ hardly says enough. In revisiting James Whistler’s famous ‘Symphony in White,’ I reframed the old motif several ways.

My departures in color, costume and accessories, the posture, all deny the contradiction once assumed—between depicting purity and representing the adult female. Another note of change is the artist’s own face in the mirror on the wall—existing as a female witness and critic of the quality of the gaze of the viewer, male or not.

Finally, I chose to build this artwork collaboratively with professional model Liz Jorgensen. We shared the same wish, to cast the theme of the young woman entering the adult world in a new way. So we did, for the sake of further revelations about truth and beauty.–Carol Lois Haywood

[“Noir-ish!” said a friend at seeing ‘Shadowy Symphony.’ Noir-ish indeed!]

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whistlerwhitesymphony

‘Symphony in White’ by JAMcN Whistler (1 of 3)