Friday, January 3, 2014



Stand in front of the mirror naked and admire what you see. Whatever you see. This flesh that curves and rolls like the earth. This decorated canvas upon which the world has painted the story of your life. 
from Sing Your Body by Brittany Tuttle 

The other evening when I sat and talked for hours with Brittany of Vesuvius at Home, at some point I lamented my lost girlhood, my aged-over beauty, the weight I'd gained, something dull and self-absorbed to that effect. Brittany was quick to chastise me for denigrating my body, and then we spoke of the brilliant piece she wrote a while back on her blog called Sing Your Body. Go read it now if you haven't, yet, and then come back. Brittany told me that I reminded her of a Bouguereau female. Bouguereau is a late nineteenth/early twentieth century realist painter of whom I knew nothing. Tonight, I remembered Brittany's comment and looked him up, found a series of beautiful paintings -- lush women, lovely children, portraits of great serenity and sometimes amusement. The first painting that I pulled up was this one:



What struck me was not my resemblance to the woman pictured (there isn't much) but the title of the painting which is Pleasant Burden. I thought, of course, of Sophie and my life with her, the paradox of burden and honor in the carrying of it. I then noticed this painting and thought of Sophie again:



When I saw the following painting, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I might have been a Bouguereau in another life, when flesh was exalted and burdens honored. This year I might just possibly exalt my own flesh, and at the very least, be amused by it. I will also honor my burdens more, recognize and reaffirm the dignity of carrying them lightly.





11 comments:

colleen said...

Wow, when bloggers meet each other beautiful posts result…. thank you and keep visiting…your readers will be as fortunate as said bloggers. Need to ignore my childrens protests and take them to an art museum which they say they will assuredly find "boring", unlike all the science ones we've explored multiple times all over the east coast. There is so much to learn in the world, how could one ever be bored?

Leslie said...

I love this post, and yes, I can see both you and Sophie in these paintings.

Tara Crowley said...

the resemblance to Sophie is striking...shocking really. What a wonderful piece on the female body. I remember is a high school class (anthropology) the teacher asked the girls to raise their hands if there were parts of their bodies they hated. Can you believe I was the only one who didn't? We must have been talking about cultural norms of beauty and body decoration. Of course, now, I fret over my sagging flesh and have to remind myself to love it. Massage, regularly, monthly, helps me do that. I look at pictures of my youthful self and I think "Wow, what a beauty." I didn't know it then, I just knew I was mostly comfortable in my body and actively rejected the popular notions of what a woman should look like. I was lucky to be 18 in 1975 when women were taking back their bodies. Ack, what we do to our girls. This is a lovely post, thank you.

Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

Yes. Exalt. Even while you eat cake. You are bougerootiful.

Radish King said...

You and your entire family are extraordinarily beautiful. Inside out. thanks for these gorgeous works of art.
xo

Vesuvius At Home said...

Dark hair, creamy skin, large eyes. You were a muse in a past life, but now you are the artist. It makes me glad that you found this symbol for you and Sophie. To honor our burdens is a new concept for me that I will roll around in my head. I think amusement is a great place to start on the road toward love. Mostly I am just so honored, and grateful. Thank you.

Ms. Moon said...

You know, my life has been so enriched by blog-reading. I sometimes wonder how in the world I lived without it, this world where I am introduced to new and wonderful ideas and cultures and lifestyles and realities and poetry and art...
You, Elizabeth, are a huge part of that.
Thank you. And I am so glad that Ms. Vesuvius introduced you to Bouguereau because now you have introduced him to me. What a glory this post is in every way!

kario said...

Such lovely images! Whenever I start to lament the form my body has taken, is taking, I work to remember how hard it truly works behind the scenes - digesting food, converting oxygen to carbon dioxide to exhale, repairing cells and fighting off invaders, and I am placated. It is doing important work and cannot be bothered with managing wrinkles and cellulite and if it delights in the occasional indulgence of sugar or alcohol, I must remember that it is a truly amazing piece of machinery that houses my soul and honor it so.

Lisa Peters said...

I believe in an interconnectedness of all things. I believe that the questions we ask are sometimes answered in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. This is certainly not a subtle answer.This artist, these photos, I believe, are an important validation meant specifically for you dear Elizabeth. It is chilling (in a good way) how much these paintings capture Sophie's spirit. It is as if the artist could see into her very soul. The "pleasant/burden" is a Taoist philosophy and a tribute, I think, to you. Honor the messenger, Ms. Vesuvius and the message by placing it somewhere in your home, your wallet, etc. Remember to look at it often and be reminded when you need strength and love that it will always be there, sometimes from the most unexpected places. Thank you for sharing this (and this artist)....I feel so very inspired and happy for you. This is some powerful stuff.

Alison Piepmeier said...

Good lord, these pictures are GORGEOUS! I might use them in my intro to Women's and Gender Studies class, in which we always discuss body image. Every single girl who's ever taken my intro class has struggled with what she looks like, and how her body aligns with cultural ideals. I think Naomi Wolf has it right in The Beauty Myth: when women started getting more equality, our culture responded with a backlash--devastating beauty expectations that sucked up a lot of energy we might be using to change the world.

I'm sorry I've been absent for so long, Elizabeth. I am now reading old posts and loving them, of course.

Kathleen Scott said...

Brittanny gave you the treasure of knowing you and your days, as hard as they often are, are treasures. Hope you're well soon, Sophie too.

What does Ollie want with a metal detector?

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...