Tag Archives: art

Draw Me Like One of Your French Girls (art, self esteem, and taking it all off)

Fly Art combines hip hop lyrics with art history, resulting in ultimate flawlessness.
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus meets Beyonce (Fly Art combines contemporary lyrics with art history, resulting in ultimate flawlessness.) The day I see this painting with my face I’m going to cry with joy.

I used to walk along the halls of the Philadelphia Museum of Art soaking up self esteem from the curvy bathers of Renoir, the tender and thick thighs of Botticelli, and the voluptuous lines of Rubens’ ladies. Gazing at these images, I found a reverence for bodies like mine. In these bodies’ lumps and bumps the artists found something worth not only honoring through the creative process but also preserving for years to come on canvas. Fat was not the antithesis of beauty; it was a part of the beauty.

Each time I undress for a shower or bath, I try to take a minute to look at and really appreciate myself. Some days it’s harder than others. Embarrassing as it is to say, I pretend I am art. Sometimes I’ll be Venus on the half shell, or one of Renoir’s bathers. For an instant, the countertops and jars of lotions and creams disappear, and there I am in the canvas of my mind’s eye in all my curvaceous glory, surrounded by a lush landscape.

But imagining is one thing; to act is another.

A friend of mine recently asked me to pose nude for her. At first I was confused that she wanted to paint me. Why me? I’m just…so not perfect. Why spend the time to paint someone so flawed, who could really only achieve that magical standard in her mind’s eye?

Tina french girls
Pop culture inspired artist Aaron Morales puts this gem on t-shirts. Yes, please.

As a word of advice, she told me “This sounds silly, but think ‘Draw me like one of your French girls.’” As I stretched on her couch, my head resting on my arms, I was self-conscious, constantly noticing the swell of my tummy, the folds of my chubbiness, the stretch marks that tiger stripe my hips, and wow, my nipples are weird looking. Slowly but surely I became more comfortable as I watched her measure my thighs with her charcoal and gauge the rosiness of my breasts. After a while, it stopped feeling weird and started feeling comfortable. When I began to recognize that sense of comfort, I found a new sense of liberation.

The first time she showed me a painting of myself, I was shocked. Where I saw imperfection, she found grace, comfort, plushness.

I was beautiful for the human body’s sake, not for sake of sexuality or of being objectified. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of my body or whether they considered it sexy. All that mattered was that I existed in curves and swells, in tangled curls of too long brown hair, in pointed toes, in a sloped neck.

Renoir's The Large Bathers
Renoir’s The Large Bathers from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

In that moment, I got to stop pretending to be art. I was art. Everything shifted. My own body became infinitely more precious to me. Other people’s bodies became more precious to me, more beloved for their individual quirks and characteristics, for their myriad shades of color, for their thousand perfect details.

So, if you have a minute to spare today, just stand before your mirror and remember that your body is complex and amazing. Try your best to ignore any habitual criticism of yourself and silence those unkind voices attempting to compare you to others. Just be, and be beautiful. Let yourself be art for art’s sake.

And for your own sake as well.

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Of Love and Leather (Relationship Role Models, Happiness Loops, and my Gapaw)

My grandfather, whom I called Gapaw, was a leather worker in his spare time. When new rolls of leather would come in, he would spread whole skins wide on the living room floor and let me roll and play all over them to flatten them out since they had been rolled for shipping. I would lie on my back for ages, wiggling happily, soaking in the smell of fresh leather that in the skillful and weathered hands of my grandfather would turn into keychains, belts, and Bible covers. I wouldn’t be content until I’d rubbed my cheeks on every inch of that sweet, pale brown smoothness. I traced the silky edges against the rough carpet, which was so pristine after its regular steam cleanings that my grandmother wouldn’t let me have apple juice in a Care Bear glass in the living room.

The leather seemed like something magical. It was potential made tangible, the stuff my grandfather’s dreams were made of.  Knowing that I was helping in some small way by working the leather after its long journey to my grandparents’ house, knowing that I played a teeny part of his beautiful works, made me happy. Having the opportunity to be silly and loved and important all at once made me happy.

Of all the gifs I've looked at, this moment from Hey Arnold! captures this cycle of happiness best.
Of all the gifs I’ve looked at, this moment from Hey Arnold! captures this cycle of happiness best.

Gapaw just sat there watching in his maroon velour recliner, crossword puzzle in hand, a smile on his face which was so worn with age that it was as soft as leather. He let me be happy, equally thrilled that I was so happy. It was a simple moment. Yet, even now, I can remember how important that happiness felt. It wasn’t that this moment was supposed to bring us joy. There was nothing contrived about it. There’s no script or prescribed plan for such a moment. It simply made us happy, and that made it so earnest and true. Even at age 6, I felt how special this happiness was right down to my core.

Rare are the people whose happiness brings you a joy surpassing even their own. Rarer still are the people with whom you can share a happiness feedback loop, with your elation sparking the other’s happiness, which then increases your own in turn.

The friendships I have that grew from such a loop never fail to leave my heart radiating joy. However, I have yet to find this in a romantic setting. I hear it exists, but I suppose it’s not something one can seek out. I can be on the lookout, but if I hunt, I’m convinced it just won’t happen right. Someday I will find someone who will be happy at my joy at being silly and loved and important, and whose happiness will make me every bit as happy.

I used to look to other people’s romantic relationships to find models of what I wanted out of love. As time passes, I realize increasingly that I don’t want what other people have, even when it seems pretty great. For one thing, understanding other people’s romances feels a bit like trying to explain how something really delicious tastes. You can get the gist of it, but the nuance and the magic are lost in translation.

Instead, I know what tastes good to me, or rather I know what are the flavors I most crave, what’s important to me from my own relationships with my friends and family. You taught me the wonders and nuances of integrity, compassion, earnestness, enthusiasm, and joy. More than that, you have taught me what to expect and request from others, what I do and don’t want, how I like to be treated. You showed me how to value myself, and in turn, what I want others to value in me. You have raised the bar for me again and again.

As I navigate the world of dating and love, I’m grateful for such little moments that have taught me what I want. Someday maybe I’ll find a romantic love that will reflect some of the things that you’ve made so dear to me. Maybe that will be on Tinder. Goodness only knows.

But whether love comes my way or not, the smell of leather takes me right back to that moment of love, joy, and pure happiness, and for now, that’s pretty great.

Happy belated Fathers’ Day, Gapaw. I miss you heaps.

I have a date with Jesus.

L’Ultima Cena by Leonardo DaVinci

Tomorrow I’m going out with a guy who looks like Jesus.

Ok, well, not in the actual sense of how Jesus probably looked, but rather in the long haired skinny white dude way that he’s so frequently envisioned in Western culture. I swiped right on him pretty much just because he looks like Jesus, and he played that up in his Tinder photos (including a DaVinci’s Last Supper/L’Ultima Cena inspired photo, which definitely spoke to the art nerd in me). I found it hilarious. In actuality, he’s a pretty cool guy, and I’m excited to get a drink with him and just hangout a little bit.

Maybe I’ll order water and see if he can turn it into wine.

Also apparently I have a thing for musicians, and my mother keeps calling me on this.

In other news, I’m looking for some guest writers to feature! Got a weird Tinder story or some profound thoughts about app based dating and the way technology influences our relationships? Comment below, and I’ll get in touch with you. Also, be on the lookout for my new series of posts about freaking out when people don’t text back immediately (which is a more common issue than I’d thought).

Basic Instincts (or why I don’t have a ticket to Thailand)

Sometimes you find someone who seems absolutely perfect. He was a total gastronome and travel enthusiast. He had favorite modernist painters and strong feelings about local museums’ art collections. On weekends, he was trying to visit every country in South America.

He started talking about flying me to Paris and Thailand and visiting me in London or San Francisco for grad school.

I’m a firm believer that the gift of travel is one of the most beautiful, intimate things you can give. You’re giving someone new perspective, new tastes, new conversations. You are filling their eyes with new sights and their minds with new ideas. It’s more than a plane ticket; it’s a little piece of the world. I’ve always identified with Sandra Bullock’s character Lucy in While You Were Sleeping. She has this dream of traveling to Florence, the point that she carries her passport everywhere. I love to travel, but most of my experiences have been through working on cruise ships. This guy seemed like a dream come true: someone who loved to travel and whose priorities matched my own while doing so, namely seeing fantastic art and eating beautiful things.

But I had a funny feeling about him. Something just didn’t seem right, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. But even from the very beginning, I remember remarking to my best friend that something about this guy seemed off.

I got sick and had to cancel on him once, which seemed to really piss him off. I’m no fun when I sound like a baby seal and my ears hurt. So I’m really not too sorry for this. It sucked to cancel, and I definitely understand being disappointed, but at least he wasn’t the one whose cough shook the walls.

We had decided to go to the Brooks and then to Bari for dinner. That had been the plan. We were working on rescheduling, even as he bitterly threw guilt trip attempting zingers at me about how I hadn’t really wanted to meet him and would he ever get to see me in person.

Then suddenly the text conversation changed to demanding erotic images.

Here’s the deal. You can ask all you want, but you don’t get to demand anything. Ever. My body is my body, and only the people I want to see it get to see it. I love my body. And sometimes, I let people see it, but it’s only if I want them to do so. It’s an intimate experience of sharing, something that stems out of trust and a mutual desire. I have to want to show you just as much as you want to see, and even then, it’s totally up to me if you get to see anything, and on top of that I get to determine what someone gets to see. And you can be damn thankful for whatever you get, even if it’s just a shot of my face. You want more, there’s a whole internet full of porn for that. I used to run an underground porn club. Trust me. There are plenty of boobs out there to be seen that aren’t mine.

So I told him off, and thankfully he hasn’t texted me back. I’m thankful to whatever germs kept me from meeting up with him in the first place, and I’m glad I’m learning to listen to my instincts.

If someone gives you a weird feeling, don’t walk, RUN. Life is too precious for us to waste time on people who make us feel bad about ourselves and who want to deny us our personal autonomy, and we should never put ourselves in situations with people who make us feel remotely unsafe. We deserve to feel safe and respected at all times, bare minimum. Trust yourself before you trust anyone else, especially a stranger.

In other news, anyone for a friend date to Bari and the Brooks?