Sunday, July 6, 2014

NAKED JULY: "Masked Nude No. 1" by Roger Walkup

Image posted with the permission of the artist. More of Roger Walkup's prints can be found at his website and for sale online here.

I could have done a post on Roger Walkup's whole series of female nudes (which can be viewed on his website's gallery.) But the mysteriousness of this piece especially spoke to me.

The torch is lit, blue flames licking base, red climbing the walls. Red reflected in her face, the mask. Eyes recede, mouth opens, large, round teeth revealed. She has unfastened the halter top of her dark dress. Light from the fire illuminates her fair skin. Her breasts hang free, open and inviting. 

The idea of the woman undressing, revealing her nakedness to someone, yet keeping her entire head covered is compelling and can lead in different directions, some exciting, some dangerous, some sad.

Anonymity in a sexual encounter is certainly titillating. In a mask, we can be seen how we want to be seen in, at least for a short while. This is why one common role play among couples is to pretend to be strangers picking each other up; not only are we aroused, but the ego is satisfied.

Sometimes the mask more truly describes the subjective, psychological state of a person. Here, perhaps the it expresses an immediate and primordial, sexual experience.

There is also potential tragedy in this masked image. The quiet sadness of the true self being hidden, isolated and unknown. When my mind drifts in that direction, this image reminds me of the Shel Silverstein poem Masks. 

All of Walkup's woodcuts have those sort of raw, primitive qualities of German Expressionism. Facial expressions are loaded with meaning - an intense glare or aroused smile. In his female nudes, women appear comfortable and confident in their own skins. The feminine form is emphasized by fleshy, weighty breasts, bellies, butts, and thighs. Accurate proportions are exchanged for emotional impact. When Walkup uses color, it is just as harsh and demanding of the viewer's attention as the dramatic linework and play between light and dark.

As a bonus, I feel a personal connection to this work because, like me, Walkup hand prints small editions using a wooden spoon. Like me, he regards each individual print as its own unique work of art. On his website he writes:

I love the smell of wood and the sculptural nature of carving a woodblock. I also love the fact that, although each image within an edition is quite similar, each image is unique since I can never apply ink to the block in exactly the same way or transfer the ink from the block to the paper in the exact same way. 

It is always comforting to find fellow primitives in this high tech age.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes it's hard to tell exactly who I've stolen from, but here, I mined my childhood in Alaska, particularly the ethnographic collection of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Museum, Picasso, and impressions triggered by William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy.