The Naked vs. The Nude
A written and visual conversation with Samantha Dick.
"Right now is a very exciting time to be making art."
Tell-Tale: "The Female Gaze" has become a bit of a buzzword recently, with artists of many disciplines being celebrated for creating art from a decidedly female perspective. What do you feel makes this act so important in 2017? Do you consider it to be revolutionary?
That’s why gender equality is so important, particularly now when the word ‘gender’ is being redefined. It's helping us engage and understand various forms of identity.
Samantha Dick: If you look at the history of the Gaze particularly in art, it was considerably from a male perspective - the male artist and his female muse. I think the surge in artists making art from a decidedly female perspective comes from wanting to have control over one's image, wanting to have control over how women are seen in society. Being able to have our voices heard and challenging those social boundaries that are engraved in our culture. It's this liberation of the female artist which opens up so many possibilities.
I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by so many talented female creatives, who use their knowledge and experience to start conversations; not only about gender, but race, sexuality and social class, among other things. Although it isn't just about the female gaze, there are artists coming from the entire gender spectrum who are conveying very different perspectives. That’s why gender equality is so important particularly, now when the word ‘gender’ is being redefined. It's helping us engage and understand various forms of identity. I think people are really starting to question these ‘social norms’ we’ve been brought up with. Right now is a very exciting time to be making art. So being able to spectate, collaborate and be inspired by the diversity around me is just amazing and I fully believe it's revolutionary.
TT: Upon first seeing your portraits, we were struck the hardest by the intensity of their intimacy. Often intimacy is associated with a sense of softness and togetherness; perhaps two people lost in an embrace. We feel that your portraits inspire a feeling of fearlessness. The poses are both fluid and determined with the individual taking up space as both the subject and the object. Is there an element of portraying intimacy in your work? How do you, as an artist, aim to do so?
When I take shots like these I don’t see my body as mine, I want it to become part of the surroundings. To see how it engages and reacts to the environment, like a piece of furniture.
SD: With these images I think this fearlessness come with the decapitation of the head. The figure can't be identified as me, therefore the poses are more confident and purposeful. However, if the head were present the images would be completely different, perhaps showing a more timid and closed form. I've looked a lot at the naked vs. the nude - the idea that to be naked is to be one's true self whereas the nude is almost a form of disguise, to be seen only as an ‘object of sight’. When I take shots like these I don’t see my body as mine, I want it to become part of the surroundings. To see how it engages and reacts to the environment, like a piece of furniture. This is a focus in a lot of my recent work.
I think also by allowing the viewer to see a part of me which is usually concealed creates a feeling of intimacy. All these images are shot from an autobiographical point of view. They are taken alone often in intimate spaces such as my bedroom and around my flat, where I spend solitary time understanding my own body. Looking at this idea of myself as both the subject and the object and how my figure relates to the space it's in. It's a side of me I’m allowing the spectator to see, something which is both honest and real. I tend to find a lot of people comment on how confident I am to create the work I produce. But in reality I have just as many insecurities as the next the person. Being naked in front of anyone is terrifying. You're revealing the entire true version of yourself, something you only really do with a loved one. For women and society's views on their bodies it can be a very daunting thing to over come. We’re constantly being told we should look a certain way to fit an idealistic image and if we don’t then we don’t make the cut. Throughout my life my relationship with my body has been in turmoil, which is why I challenge myself to make the work I do. For me this ‘ideal image’ captures little if nothing of the full beauty of femininity today, in all its forms, nor does it do anything for our self esteem. I think it is important that as women we are able to look at ourselves and see beauty no matter what we look like. Accepting ourselves as our own muse, flaws and all.
TT: You talk about being inspired by ourselves and becoming our own muses. What does being your own muse mean to you? How do you seek to celebrate yourself and your own form of Femininity?
I celebrate my femininity by trying to redefine what it means.
SD: I think for me, it means having an understanding and acceptance of yourself.
Frida Kahlo, a big inspiration of mine, once said 'I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best, the subject I want to know better’, which is an ethos I abide by in my own work.
Through my practice I’ve gained a greater appreciation and acceptance of my own identity. Understanding the way I think and feel. How my body and image is constantly changing and different ways I can depict that visually, whether that's through film, photography, sculpture or drawing. I know I may not be seen in the stereotypical sense that a women ‘should’ be, but I can say that I’ve never felt more feminine. I celebrate my femininity by trying to redefine what it means. I’m really interested in looking at these new diverse forms of femininity. Diversity which reminds us that femininity and masculinity aren't gender specific, both of which I have felt in different points in my life. There are so many layers to what it means to be a woman now, so in turn the image of the Muse must change.
We live in a world with ingrained social constructs, so it's hard to break through and make up your own mind, that's why art that challenges them is so incredibly important and is what I try to do in my own practice. *
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- Jul 24, 2017 The Naked vs. The Nude Jul 24, 2017