Left: Sandro Botticelli´s “La Nascita di Venere”. 1486.
Right: re-touched by Anna Utopia Gioardano. Year unknown.
Anna Utopia Gioardano is an Italian artist and model who was brought to my attention through a Facebook link to an article in The Huffington Post (see link at the bottom of this post). Is her work “really” art or is it more like social commentary? It does not really matter to me, because the most interesting aspect about her images resides not in the work itself but in how it makes me think. Contemporary art is good in that way - sometimes - it makes us think about the obvious.
I don´t know if it is just me but I really do not like these trimmed down/toned up versions of classical beauty. They taste like margerine, when you´ve eaten butter all your life. To me it feels almost as though the magic of the renaissance nude resides in its glorious depictions of the fatty tissue itself. The excess seems to underpin the undying appeal of these beauties. Although it is hard to assess the artistic originality or even craft in Gioardano’s contribution to the art world, these re-touched bodies ask us something, and I think we should really think about the question. It has to do with feminine beauty and body ideals - a most complex topic, too vast to cover in a good way in this medium.
However, I am trying to go with the flow here and sometimes provide preliminary or immediate responses to things that find me, and I find interesting. For example, there has recently been a Facebook flutter of photos depicting 1950s and 60s Hollywood icons like Marily Monroe counter-posed with the willowy starved-looking icons from our own time like Keira Knightley. The general message is: how could we get it so wrong, thinking lean and boney more attractive than big breasts, thighs that touch in the top part, soft curves on the hips.
In this sense, Gioardano’s “work” works to bring awareness to our gazes - to think about old and new beauty in the same context. But moreover, I think it is a question of sensuality. And sensuality involves more senses than the look. In art works, like Bronzino’s “Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time” (see below), it is precisely the invocation of touch that is suggested - you want to look because you also want to touch. We are allowed a sense of touch through the Cupid, whose hand is caressing Venus´left breast. And what you imagine, when you picture yourself kissing and simultaneously touching Venus in this way, is the softness of her luscious pale flesh - not the hardness of her ribcage against your hand.
Above: Bronzino’s “Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time”. 1545.
This voluptuous representation of femininity speak of an age where fullness (fat) was a way to signal wealth and health - an opposite of our current ideals. But does the fat on these feminine bodies really appall the modern eye, or do they whisper to us an old dream of rich (symbolic) encounters, meetings laden with silky skin and malleable flesh - soft on the eye and soft to the touch.
Question is: do you like the copy of the slimmed-down Venus or do you prefer the original fleshy one?
Above: re-touched by Anna Utopia Gioardano