Deconstructing the Nude Model: Women Artists Challenge Male Dominance in the Arts World

Article excerpt

MANILA, Philippines - In art history, women in the early times were regarded merely as objects of art rather than creators of art. Sixteenth century artists portrayed the female form, as passive- simply an object of male desire; their counterparts, on the other hand, depicted virility and power. The 14-foot sculpture of David, a Biblical hero, for instance, has been standing in Florence for centuries now.

Feminism in the 20th century has significantly thwarted this belief. Women artists began to emerge and challenged stereotyped gender roles as they expressed their own identity and style, and most of them have carved their own niche in the arts discipline. Nevertheless, this hypothetical question lies: Are women duly recognized in the visual arts world?

Jane Arrieta Ebarle, a marketing person by profession but an artist by passion, and who calls herself "a transformational feminist and an intuitive abstract expressionist", thinks society should be aware of the gender issues within the circle of the visual arts. An encounter with a female model for nude painting sessions sparked her interest in discovering the current state of women in the arts-both the artist and the model. The usual practice involving a female nude model getting paid a meager sum of money for her services and always exploited by her manager guilty of earning a far better share, is an obvious misrepresentation of the female's role in our machismo society. But this is just another part of the story.

Wanting to satisfy her curiosity, Ebarle had gathered together esteemed women artists not only to create yet another masterpiece, but also to deliberate amongst themselves on what seems to be an issue that has remained untouched in the arts industry.

Aptly entitled "Deconstructing the Nude Model," the nude painting session was a closed-door, by-invitation-only event held last August 26 at the University of the Philippines, College of Fine Arts auditorium. What sets this apart from the usual sessions is that, it was highlighted by a dialogue in between the sittings participated by the following empowered female artists: Imelda Cajipe-Andaya, Menchu Arandilla, Marivel Mari-Galang, Lia Torralba, Khristina Reed-Manansala, Monie Domer, Ella Hipolito, Lourdes Inosanto, Raks Molata, Lorraine Badoy and Rhea Adonis. Their model was Jeff Luna, a young, male indie film actor who posed sans his clothes for the first time in a nude painting session. He was quoted as saying, "Iba pala ang feeling pag naghubad ka in front of the camera at dito sa nude painting. Mas nakakakaba. (It's a different feeling when you strip in front of the camera and in the nude painting session. It's more nerve-wracking.)"

Yes, it is not your usual nude session. The women artists painted a male model this time.

Each of the women had a stimulating exchange of views and personal experiences on gender issues, some of them touching on their dual roles as an artist and as a wife/mother. When asked about their opinion about gender equality in the arts world, most of them believe that artists of their kind are not given the chance to go full blast and pursue their passion, since, according to Menchu Arandilla, Senior Director of the Arts Association of the Philippines (AAP), "some of us are also mothers. …