Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NAKED JULY: "Looker" by Wendy Willis

Image posted with the permission of the artist. Wendy Willis maintains a frequently updated blog found here.

I wrote about two other linocuts of women in water by Willis last year. I'm happy to revisit the subject as well as the subtle mysteriousness I find in her imagery.

The depiction of both moving water and naked bodies in color relief print is an interesting challenge. The picture plane is essentially broken into a mosaic of lyrical shapes. Cracks, globs, and wiggly slits describe a voluptuous body immersed in water, distorted by refraction. The water seems like something alive itself, or at least populated by living beings, some of which scatter and others which eagerly swim up to investigate a large and warm body passing through their territory.

I'm not sure what to make of the windows. They strike me as decorative, antiquated, and far off, almost like drawings displayed in a museum or illustrations found in a book about art or architectural design. It is a stark juxtaposition; such still and specific, unusable windows, beside an anonymous woman, so full of life, swiftly swimming, naked and unencumbered.

Willis created this print for the Naughty, Taboo, Just Plain Wrong print exchange, which makes me smile. When I first saw this image I thought of the swimmer as enjoying a peaceful swim in solitude. I figured she is naked because she enjoys the feel of it or forgot her bathing suit, opposed to anything risqué. I think skinny dipping falls more into the category of naughty than taboo or just plain wrong. Everything about this scene feels right to me!

On her blog, Willis writes:
 I've named the print, Looker,  meant to reflect not just the beauty of the swimmer but also about how your view of nudity can depend on where you stand, through which window you see it.

One of the gifts of art appreciation is that it cultivates a more discerning eye, a way of seeing that uncovers endless layers and types of beauty by which to be enthralled. Such vision yields a sense of wonder and fulfillment that costs the beholder nothing. Beauty is everywhere if we can only recognize it.

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