Two experiences this past week conspired to inspire me. The first experience occurred on Thursday morning, and if you make it to the end of this article, you will have surmised what happened then. Friday afternoon I spent at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is a fine place to while away a hot summer afternoon. The museum is a magnificent edifice, steeped in history, and dripping with art of cultural significance, both historical and modern.
In the four hours at my disposal, I did not make a dent in the available galleries and exhibitions. In those I did visit, most of the art was hanging on the walls. But occasionally, one of these galleries was graced with a free-standing sculpture, usually of a young woman. There was a 14-year-old ballerina, a lost Pleiad, and a once-controversial sculpture of a modest young woman, in evident discomfiture at posing nude for the first time. This last sculpture, combined with my experience of the previous day, got me thinking.
If I were a sculptor, I would make a statue of a woman of indeterminate age. I would use bronze, because I like bronze, and because all serious sculptors must use either bronze or marble. The woman would be dressed in jeans, naked above the waist, save for a ridiculously inadequate thin cloth draped over her right shoulder, barely covering a small portion of her right breast, hanging down in the back. She would be posed thus:
Standing, hips facing forward, both feet on the ground, weight shifted to her left foot, the heel of that foot raised an inch or so off the floor. She would be leaning ever so slightly forward, back arched, chest and belly out. The overall effect would be that if she didn’t have something to brace herself on, she would fall forward.
Her left arm would be stretched out in front of her, from the shoulder, hand at shoulder height, elbow bent and dropped just a little, as if resting uncomfortably on a hard surface. Her left shoulder would be unnaturally elevated, as if something were under her armpit, pushing up; her exposed left breast would be similarly lifted and oddly flattened. She would be holding her right shoulder back, right hand on her right breast, pulling it backward, as if trying to make it disappear from sight. The flimsy useless garment would be trapped between breast and hand.
Her face would be turned to look over her left shoulder, at an awkward angle, dipped down slightly, showing the tendons in her neck in sharp relief. Her face would bear a resigned yet patient look. Her mouth would be held in a small grimace, upper lip lifting in a caricature of a smile, as if to politely acknowledge chirpy banter from an unseen source.
I would call this composition: “Mammogram in progress.”
Gail Hunn ©2013