Painting women

Painting women
Julia Palazzo - "Surface"

Julia Palazzo - "Surface"

Women are a recurring subject of my work. I think it's because a lot of my art is like a self-portrait, the tiny women riding praying mantises, the girls swimming with whale spirits and the jungle queens in tall fig trees are all expressions of different sides of me... Of some deep unconscious longing for magic and wilderness.

Lately I've been becoming more aware of the way women are represented in images in our society. We see pretty much homogenic beauty standards repeated in imagery EVERYWHERE. 

It's widely recognised now what sort of impact this pattern has on women's self esteems and body images, as well as countless other issues. I often find myself on a daily battle to ignore every visual around me that is screaming "you should look more like this".

We blame this mostly on advertising, the big billboards and magazine covers and brands trying to make you feel inadequate so you'll buy crap to make yourself feel better. 

However, lately I've been paying attention to other visuals in our public sphere: art. How are women depicted by artists? I've noticed a lot of street art (a transgressive form of art) these days represents the same type of women we see on billboards and magazine covers: White, thin women with flawless skin and eyes with lashes gazing blankly into the distance or sensually at the viewer. 

It's not unusual that visual art would depict stereotypically beautiful women. Through the ages, art has represented women according to the beauty standards of the time. If you look at depictions of things like Venus (the goddess of beauty) through different historical periods you can clearly see the changes in those standards reflected in the paintings.

However, I feel that art is more than a mirror of its cultural context: visual art, as part of the cultural landscape, can influence and change that landscape. As artists, we can reinforce current perspectives or inspire new ones. We can contribute to reinforcing beauty standards, but we can also inspire people to broaden their definitions of beauty or see it in places they hadn't seen before. 

I want to keep that in mind for my future work and start painting women that will remind my sisters of how beautiful we all are, instead of adding to the pressure. 

After all, all woman are beautiful, and what a sad world it'd be if we only celebrated one type.