Big Beautiful Woman

First I sent her to Asia, to be carved in a soft grey granite from the mountains of Eastern China. They said she would have to be 4000 pounds - now that would be one Big Bountiful Woman, all right, but she'd probably crash through my studio floor.

Isn't she beautiful? She would probably fit right in with the magnificent Benin Bronzes from Nigeria, those sumptuously fleshy women with rings of fat around their necks, signifying to the world how wealthy their husbands were. She'd be right at home with Peter Paul Reubens' women, whose flesh yearns to be caressed.

But we're not in Italy, or Nigeria, and we have an ambivalent attitude toward fleshy women. We worship the Barbies, the anorexic women on TV, the emaciated models of Victoria's Secret. They are the ones we adorn with jewels and show off to the world.

I'm having her built in a glossy porcelainized finish. If I could, I would have her made of a Japanese food called Mochi, a soft gelatinous gummy yummy treat. A sculpture of a woman made to be eaten? Now that would shock our sensibilities, wouldn't it? It might even make the New York Times: "artist exhibits edible woman".

Her eye is made of pyrite, a mineral from the end of the Jurassic period roughly 120 million years ago. And that's roughly how long human beings have struggled with the question of beauty, particularly female beauty. Today we just don't know what to do with all that flesh. In an era where many men fear women and their increasing power, BBW is scary to them. If she were adopted as our female icon, Jenny Craig might go out of business. Southwest Airlines would charge her for two seats. The bandaid bra would disappear.

Let's face it: she is pendulous. Her curves are like luscious mountain valleys. One could lose oneself in those rhythmic undulations. Barbie-type women are controlled and controllable. We know how to manage them, constrict and restrict them, make them almost disappear into themselves. Almost invisible - that's how men prefer their women. Written out of history, erased particularly from Art history, unseen and unheard-of - for centuries that has been the male power structure's method for dealing with their fear of the female.

BBW won't disappear: she is too much there, in our faces, demanding to be seen and appreciated. She admires herself, as she is, in her abundance.

Big Beautiful Woman only hints at the demands made on females by males, from the bedroom to the boardroom. Think about the National Women's Health Network conference on "Vulvagraphics", celebrating the "Beauty and Diversity of Vulvas". Think about Facebook's refusal to allow Courbet's "Origin of the World" image to be shown on its pages. Think of Courbet's title: what power to women! What fear to men.

I have women friends who won't wear short sleeves because their underarms sag. Others won't wear shorts because their legs are too generous. We dash off to Botox, cosmetic surgery, make-up sessions, all flavors of diets. We don mental burkhas to hide ourselves. Wrinkles? Off they must go, as signs of disrepair, failure to allure, evidence of decay. Because women, as defined by men, are supposed to attract men. Did you know, for example, that some doctors are pushing "designer vaginas" which are claimed to increase a woman's sexual pleasure, although no credible evidence exists to support this claim? Is it possible that men want all women to feel like virgins, even though surgery, pain, and even danger are involved?

BBW won't hide, pretend, cover up or explain herself. She won't apologize. She is our visual truffle - rare, luscious, desirable. She has just been on exhibit in Paris, and now is being shown at the Paul Mahder Gallery in San Francisco. She is admired worldwide, you see.

How about you? Do you see your valleys as delicious truffles? Does your lover/spouse/partner? Does she or he relish your fleshy generosity? If not, it's their problem, not yours. But first you must relish yourself. Why not start now?

c. Corinne Whitaker 2011