As an artist, the trepidation of sending your work into the world never escapes you, but, here's the thing: you know your work is potent, when it stirs delight and causes silence. The body is at the center, it seems, this titillating, controversial, sensual, possibly untamable living part that makes us human. From fearing judgement to awkward nothings, controversial cover to #MeToo questions, here's some of the things I've encountered with Embody so far:
Am I a Leach?
A male friend wrote me a note just before my book launch in San Francisco, apologizing for not coming. The thought of sitting in an audience with mostly women looking at intimate photos of women made him suddenly queasy. Not because he doesn’t enjoy women, but because he was afraid of being looked at as a leach.
Curious, I went to breakfast with him a few days later. In the current #MeToo climate he was extra precautious in his interactions with women, he explained. He was afraid if women in the audience knew him, they'd think he'd be on the prowl.
But are you a leech? I asked.
To me he's seemed a classic predator, a man who is clear about what he wants and goes after it, albeit, I should add, respectfully. It is easier to enjoy courtship, or respectfully refuse it, when it's clear what it is.
Could you have showed up with curiosity for the female experience and enjoy the poetry of the body? I asked. In my view, he’d missed out on an intimate discussion about the work, the female liberation, and mens role in it. He could have shown his reverence for women, and perhaps, feel into his own perception around the female body. But alas, he didn't.
From Silence to Awe.
At a local event in Denmark, my former literature teacher was so eager to see the book. I left her to flip through the pages. When she came to say good bye, she said nothing about the book, but commented on how thin I looked. At a dinner party in San Francisco, two men I’ve met asked to see my book, one is a visual artist, the other a French sensualist. After peering in the pages for a good while, they pushed it aside, and acted as if it'd never happened. I took note, but said nothing.
Why this silence?
For women, the photos may trigger wounds around body, beauty, aging, sexuality and freedom of expression. Men on the other hand, may be unsure what they are looking at – is it porn? Art? They may get that the book hasn’t been made for their arousal, and fear being judged as a lurker, a voyeur, and, sadly, a man. Thus, it’s safer to demure and look away.
On the other hand, so many men and women everywhere enjoy the sensual variety of photos, poured over the texts, and generally appreciated the celebration of womanhood in all her complexity. In Denmark, the kids look too. A ten-year-old girl is in awe of the many different body types, a 13-year old cringe, while a 17-year-old devours the texts, and find it all interesting.
The Controversial Body, Always.
No one flinch at the book cover in Denmark or my book poster for that matter. In America, forget the poster, and the press ask for ‘family friendly’ photos. The independent book store that is so supportive of my work, and located in the most liberal part of America, cannot openly display the book on the shop floor. The reason? To protect the kids, or rather, their parents, I guess.
This actually surprised me. I've lived there for so many years, apparently oblivious to the subversive nature of my art and work, and with all the enlightened, experimental people of the area would expect more lax attitude.
But no. The naked body in its most poetic expression is still 'too much.'
Ironic, that same naked body flaunts the billboards, the magazine covers, the movies, the dark internet, the oh-so-tempting flesh forever used to sell us anything and everything, especially the idea of success. Once, this very same body is put in museums, well, then it’s art.
But us mortals, with real bodies, in a book? Hmm...
We can't show our skin, without some sort of judgement, commentary or censorship taking place. From the outside world, as from ourselves.
The culture we live, breathe and co-create every day conspires to keep us stuck in this drama. And make no mistake, someone grins and pockets your money, each time you feel shitty about yourself and your imperfect body.
We often say this to each other, but what do we do about it?
What about #MeToo and Embody?
Journalists ask me in search for sensation, a headline to attract eyeballs and polarize the debate. The trouble is, I cannot give them the sensation, because with Embody I’ve tried to take the ‘sensation’ out of the body and make it normal, natural, at ease, free, to be, a body.
That said, Embody has grown out of the same soil as #MeToo and navigates the intersection between sex, body and power. But where #MeToo implies a predator and a prey, someone using their power to have sexual contact with another, Embody features women who seek to empower themselves, in private, outside of the public preying eye.
Many have their personal stories of abuse, harassment and offence, some have surely played with their powers of seduction, but Embody is not about having power over men; it's about regaining a sense of power over own body and life.
Embody illustrates a woman's shift from seeking validation in the external world to an inner felt-sense of sensuality, strength and freedom - finding worth and dignity within her own body and life.
Am I hypocrite?
Isn't it hypocritical to want men to understand women’s situation and then, show naked bodies? Men have asked in earnest.
Well, is it?
Such are some of the hard questions spurred by Embody.
I look forward to discovering the answers with you along the way.
Get the book:
Embody is indie-published and not on Amazon !! You get it here, I ship worldwide. You can get at all Danish book stores, and in USA through the Book Passage in San Francisco and in New York at The Strand.
Want my personal dedication? Buy it here.
* Header Photo by Coleen Baik. Amazing artist. Find her here, on Insta.