The statuesque supermodel Erin O'Connor as a Modigliani beauty. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier/Harpers Bazaar Feb 2002. reblogged from lovelyritablog
Beauty. It is something I have been mulling over ever since I went -twice in fact - to see the Defining Beauty exhibition which I discussed in an earlier post. In the intervening period, I travelled to Germany, celebrated another birthday, came back home and got some exciting news -all in good time. Then this morning the excellent post by Rosalind Jana on body image and my Facebook newsfeed with yet another comment by that tiresome woman that is Katie Hopkins on the Protein World ad, which is causing such a furore, acted as a prompt to write my post.
The controversial Protein World ad
We all know that ads tend to present a stereotypical view of the world and one that has little to do with reality. It is good sometimes to step back and not take them seriously, we are giving far too much importance to them. Ads reify people.
The idealised body of a Neolithic goddess, Malta. Photo by me
When I see a beautiful body I am not insulted by it. I admire it. A beautiful body to me goes beyond a two dimensional representation of it in a photograph, it is a real life body that breathes, is coordinated, and moves with elegance. I admire the body of athletes, both men and women, and I know that they treat their bodies as an instrument and tend to it, to get their maximum performance.
Dancers' bodies, Sleektechnique instructors Victoria Marr and Flik Swann, photo courtesy of Sleektechnique
I admire the body of dancers: tall or short, they are coordinated, sleek and graceful and are able to make beautiful shapes with their bodies. When I look at my own body I am happy with it, it works well, but I always think of ways that can allow me to improve its performance: through the right nutrition, through exercising, through resting. I want my body to be healthy, well coordinated and I want to be able to move in a relaxed and graceful way. In this sense, my body to me is work in progress.
Gallery of the Parthenon, Acropolis Museum, Athens
I am comfortable with this, it resonates with me. So if we take this position, the beautiful bodies we see in ads are soul-less - not the models themselves, but the way they are represented.
And maybe the art of the ancient Greeks still speaks to us - to me anyway - because in the way they represented beauty, they did not just go by symmetry and proportion, which they invented and perfected, but also succeeded in injecting a sense of embodiment in their representation. It is an art with soul.
(The beautiful image of Erin O'Connor is not an ad, it is from an editorial inspired by the paintings of Amedeo Modigliani. I have always admired the intensity of O'Connor's expression and her great elegance)