I am a well rounded woman. I’m five feet nine inches and I weigh 205 pounds. This means that I have curves. Curves where my stomach rounds away from my waist and curves where my hips curve away to my legs. I’m more the classic pear shape than the apple shape. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination slim, svelte, or trim. I am soft and rounded everywhere except my elbows, knees, and feet.
Art had an impact on me as a child. Not necessarily the impact you would expect. My grandfather was a hobby artist and he collect work by other people. At my grandparents house the walls were covered in paintings and the tables supported sculptures. The artwork was a mix of classical western styles and modern Mexican work. I was exposed to a wide range of styles and body types in art from modern, squared off people that were more blocks of color to a lush portrait of a woman with curves like the ones I eventually developed.
At my parents home the interest in art continued. There were four different portraits that shared a common style, some modern word art, and one great big painting of dogs gathered around a pot they had tipped off of the fire (though as a child I was always afraid that the dogs would burn up in the fire). We also had various carousel animals, antiques, and tin soldiers, and highland supply goods around the house depending on what my father’s second business was at the time. In addition, to the above mentioned fixtures, my parents kept collecting art as I was growing up. I grew up surrounded by visual art– from the gaudy art of painted carousel animals to the restrained and dark portraits of the mystery people.
It was a little like living in an art gallery– and since we were in the middle of Wyoming (an eight hour drive to Denver or Salt Lake City depending on the weather) what I saw in my parents and grandparents house made up most of my exposure to what I consider fine art.
When I moved to the big city and meet many of the good friends that I have now, I was exposed new and different art– between my college studies and my friends I absorbed everything from ElfQuest to Dante Gabriele Rossetti– with a detour into really abstract art courtesy of a painting teacher. I enjoy portraits the most. I really like pictures that show people as the were, or that show people doing interesting things. Not surprisingly, I share some of my father’s artistic sensibilities. We use the cow standard for judging art. If I look at a piece of artwork and, regardless of the subject matter, am convinced that the artist has the skills to draw a realistic looking cow then I’m willing to give the art my full consideration. If it doesn’t meet the cow standard then I’ll look elsewhere for artwork that I want to hang on my walls.
My artistic sensiblities are also shaped by my exposure to and interest in feminism. I do believe that the way women are portrayed visually affect the way women as a group are perceived by men as a group. I have seen it happen (that also is an whole different essay). One of the things that I look for in good stories and good art is an undefinable something that draws me into the piece. I want complexity and depth and most of what I find is shallow stereotypes and women-as-sex-objects. I find this very frustrating.
So between the cow standard, my own body type, and my interest in feminism I struggle to find art that I find powerful and moving. This is especially true because much of the art that I am exposed to these days is in a sub-genre of science fiction that I hang out in. Furry fandom spends a lot of collective time and energy on what humanized-animals might look like or be like. One advantage I have is that I am not restricted to convention art show to view furry art. The project that I work on exposes me to some wonderful artist who take full advantage of the blend of human and animal traits to devise creatures of all different shapes and sizes in locations from the exotic to the mundane.
About two years ago I ventured out into the larger world of furry fandom and was disappointed (but not terribly surprised) to find that the art show was packed, not with what I consider to be art but with pictures of thin human shaped furs in various states of undress– some of them holding weapons of one sort or another. Xena Warrior Princess aside, (and I was a fan of that show), I know how I would dress if I was planning to go into battle and it frustrates me to see so many female characters posing with weapons– or just plain posing.
When I walk into an art show I want to be interested and engaged by what I see– and I want to find artwork to take home with me. Works that reflect the diversity of the human experience and the dynamic nature of the world around us. Artwork that can hold up to being looked at again and again. Artwork that I can get different impressions off of depending on my mood.
I am selfish that way. I don’t buy art to support an artist. I buy art to support my own interest in art.