It seems that Valentine’s day is one of the most controversial celebrations. On the one front stand those who reject it as a marketing trick to get people to pay double for flowers and chocolates or a heaven for restaurant managers and their special menus. On the other front, stand those who say that it’s just a day to express your love.
For this post, I’m inspired by something less discussed. I remember a colleague walking into the office on Valentine’s day showcasing her new underwear (yeah, I work with cool people). And I think there is something that needs to be celebrated there, the energy and will to be sensual in an everyday life that puts sensuality and playfulness at the bottom of our check list. Why is this crucial part of our identity so underplayed? Hell, we don’t even flirt anymore, we just use Tinder.
To add to this, I am following a lot of artists on Instagram, and lots of them do female portraits that often are quite sensual. If anything, I will be the first to celebrate the beauty of female bodies, but where are the men? I mentioned the lack of male sensual portraits to my boyfriend and he replied “But male bodies are not that beautiful”.
This reply came to me as an absolute shock. Why did the celebration of male bodies that took central place in ancient greek or Renaissance art disappear? This calls for a PhD thesis!
So this blog post is a celebration to sensuality, to all bodies, female and male, and their ability to excite, lure and seduce.
1) Male beauty
Kicking off with my latest discovery, Igor Sychev. Igor is a Russian artist who paints male nude portraits in quite surreal settings, such as resting under a rainy sky, hovering over people walking with their umbrellas, or hanging from chandeliers like Sia.
The detail of male anatomy is exquisite and the absolute proof that male bodies are beautiful. His figures seem like Ancient Greek gods, full of vigour, strength but also emotions.
His Naiad boy is full of sensitivity while in Message to the Skies or Sparkling Morning these men look full of confidence, ready to conquer the ominous sky or sparkling blue waves. Take a closer look at his use of shadows and light as well, masterful!
2) Real female bodies from a female perspective
I want to start on Lisa Yuskavage by a post by her on Instagram, that’s actually not a painting. She posted a photo of a sexy mama at Frieze Art Fair, rocking her high heels and shorts while carrying a buggy. “respect sister!!! why i fuckin love nyc” she comments. Hats off – let’s have a bit more of this attitude from women instead of feelings of threat please.
“We raise girls to see each other as competitors – not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
By looking at Lisa’s paintings I feel that this is her attitude at depicting sensual female bodies too. Her women are real, their breasts hang naturally, their bellies fold, their legs open comfortably and unapologetically.
On her website she explains that her figures “assume dual roles of subject and object”. I see them as sexual objects, but in their own rights. They often look like caricatures, the politeness has disappeared. Their attitude is more like “this is my body, I love it, it’s sexual, deal with it”.
I find her paintings of couples extremely affectionate, honest and tender.
3) The small moments
What he calls a “certain way” I understand as a sensitive focus that you find in his paintings. It is this tender focus that a lover shows to his/her loved one. It is the ability to find beauty in the wrinkles of someone’s eyes as they smile, the way they bend their knees or stretch their arms when they undress.
Liepke only paints subjects that interest him, and even though there is no background to decorate his paintings, there is a story to tell. Even when it’s only a painting of someone’s folded legs and you can’t see a face, his paintings remind me of these small moments, when you pause to notice the person you’re in love with, and you fall in love a little bit more by noticing their gestures, and loveable imperfections.
I want to finish with one painting by Sarah Stieber called “Marriage”. Look at the smile on the face of the man on the left, their hands holding each other, their eyes meeting. A reminder to all of us. Turn off Netflix now! Here’s to a sensual day, month, life. 😉
PS. Know any more artists celebrating sensuality that I should check out? Leave a comment to let me know.