Monday, March 30, 2009

Ever Wonder? Beauty, Sex and Desire in Female Art

Subject art has always been used to convey sex and sexuality. Regardless of whether we see the art of the Ancients of a vast number of cultures and civilizations or we look at the computer and TV screens today, image allows us to get our behavioral instinct of reacting to sexuality and sex out.

Aesthetically each culture and civilization past and present will form an appetite of what they find appealing. Take the subject of a woman in art. Typically in ancient art women were seen as more appealing based of robustness and form in physicality. For example the idea of wide birthing hips on a female figure was seen as widely desirable by many cultural traditions. Procreative function seems to play an important part in the representation of ancient women.

Lending to this idea are such markers as subtle yet voluptuous breasts and as mentioned, wide hips. For the antique woman clothing and accessories were reflective of class, marital status, regional decent or at least some sense of cultural origin, and also her sexual frankness. Mainly public displays of female sexuality were not seen as admirable or and in appropriate regardless of age or being wed.

African Woman from the Djenne culture, Mali, 12th-14th century A.D.

On the other end of the representational spectrum of women in art are the temptresses, the geisha, the courtesan, the mistress and simply the woman other than your wife. Art is not only about reality it is about fantasy and that is what these women were in both real life and as subjects of art. They provided escapism from everyday struggles, the constraints that sex, sexuality and religion put on openly expressing sexual appetite.


A modern day geisha in Kyoto, Japan. Relatively geisha are modern in their emergence, dating back to the early 1700’s. But “geisha-type” women have existed since the earliest history of Japan to entertain men.

A contemporary woman today in art splits the idea of the virgin with penetration of the whore. Enter one mainstream hard-on. A woman of sexual confidence is more comfortably thought of as sexy in the Western world. Obviously the forms of artwork have always varied drastically from steelwork to sculpted stone, but we all cultures are influenced by their ideas of what is desirable and non-desirable.

It seems the places where new media has taken shape into lives there is more a shift on what the perception of beauty is and Western culture has defiantly impacted wide ideology on what a sexy woman looks like. Still today I don’t think a woman living in a remote village in India they would draw a skinny white woman as her image of female beauty. Phew.

Sex sells not even if it is being sold and women can choose to be sold or sell themselves, both now and then. Beauty, sex and desire all interplay with themselves in art and the definition of what is beautiful, what is sexy and what is desirable is molded by what we think these things are at a specific era in time.
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