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Gayle Kells

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VULNERABLE BODY

"change begins with some women having faith in their own humanity to refuse to live down to male supremacy's artificial mold for them. This refusal to conform is what makes it possible to demonstrate that dominant social norms are imposed rather than natural."
Denise G. Réaume "The Social Construction of Women and the Possibility of Change: Unmodified Feminism Revisited", Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 5, 1992.

Form: Oil paint, canvas, foundation garment, pins

Artist’s Statement

Vulnerable: susceptible; defenseless; powerless; frail; helpless; exposed; open to;
in danger; at risk; in a weak position.

My paintings of full-figured female nudes relate to issues of the female body and display a body type generally hidden from public view. As women age, as their bodies change, or if they occupy a large figure, images of their bodies are considered unacceptable for viewing. These works uncover a particular reality of the female body.

Combining this theme with issues of Feminism and the Law, my work in this show reflects my concern with the vulnerable nature of the female body. As women strive for independence, autonomy, self-reliance and mutual respect from others within society, the law struggles to represent their viewpoint attempting to resolve age-old concerns by interjecting new solutions to a male-based structure.

Because of the synergistic effect of sexual identity, inadequate social systems, historically imbedded socio/cultural notions, the law is ineffective when dealing with the female body. Only by addressing all of these elements can we move forward. Although the law intends to provide some form of protection for the vulnerable body, it is only one element. Presenting this work, I ask myself: "Can we eliminate the vulnerability women are laden with?" The following quotation from Lorenne Clark's article succinctly ties into the philosophy of the work presented.

Recapturing autonomy -
"A major objective of this process is to promote genuine and equal autonomy . . . grounded in mutual and intersubjective recognition of the need for the other and which explicitly repudiates and rejects the notions that freedom and independence are functions of isolation rather than of mutual interdependence."
Lorenne M.G. Clark
Women and the State: Critical Theory - Oasis or Desert island?
Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 5, 1992

Presenting the nude female body through this artwork has a dualistic affect - exposing the female body perhaps renders it vulnerable yet this very exposure encourages confidence and self-assurance. Hiding it, however, would leave it inaccessible and faced with greater vulnerability.

 

About the Artisit
Gayle Kells' art focuses on issues of female identity: notions of the gaze, women in society, their lived lives and continually changing bodies. Her series of paintings of full-figured female nudes examines and confronts the idealized image of the slim youthful female figure we are accustomed to viewing in the media, including the tradition of oil painting. Since completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts (magna cum laude), University of Ottawa / 1995, and coursework toward an MA in Canadian Studies, Carleton University, Gayle works from her studio at Enriched Bread Artists, exhibiting widely. Her work is held internationally, in private and public collections, including the Governor General's Residence and the Corel Centre in Ottawa.

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