the artist and his muse
When exploring the relationship between the Artist and his Muse, many art models have been lured by the promise of a portfolio, enamored by the reputation of a star, and seduced by the immortality of a portrait. In this context, the role of the Artist equates to that of an Employer, holding power over the Employee (the Muse and the Model). The power dynamic is clear and unequal when characterized in these terms. That contract should be treated with the professionalism like any other work for hire arrangement. Sadly, it is a dynamic which has created a fertile ground for abuse when a female body becomes nude.
My perspectives have been shaped by similar personal experiences. While serving on the board of directors for an arts organization, a male artist engaged me in conversation alone on the street immediately following a board meeting. He was much older than me and a painter of some renown in the local community. We were discussing specifics of the meeting when suddenly he pivoted - he asked me to pose nude for a series of his paintings, showering me with flattering words about my appearance and my body. I was shocked since our current discussion was one of a professional nature, unrelated to any mention of modeling, much less nudity. I politely replied that I would think about it. I was completely unprepared on how to respond to this man, an artist, and a person with a respectful position and reputation. Uncomfortable, I quickly made excuses to leave when he reached over, grabbed my arm, and pulled me in to kiss me on the mouth. Shock was replaced by horror and I exited away from the street and away from him as quickly as humanly possible. I felt ashamed and powerless as a consequence of his actions - just one of the many #MeToo moments that millions of women experience on a daily basis.
I applaud the National Gallery of Art, but let's not stop with half measures. Let's not lose the #MeToo Movement to a moment of what’s trending.
Let's not have to protest this shit again in 20, 40 or 60 years.
We can contextualize inappropriate behavior and sexual inequality as a sign of their historical time, but when a living artist is accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault, we should be keen to demand the truth and rightful accountability. A hard line needs to be drawn, not just in the sand, but in the mother fucking bedrock!
If indeed, the allegations against Chuck Close prove to be true, he should not only be denied from exhibiting, his work should be shunned, banned and removed. Artists that use their position to victimize others are shameful. Their perspectives are flawed and wrong. And yes, if Picasso was an abuser of women, perhaps he too should be scrutinized under the same lens. Perhaps his work and his contributions become less exceptional and visionary when confronted with the truth of his humanity.
If the artist's message and vision supersedes their personal conduct and we allow them a seat at the table of history, how do we answer to the abused and the victimized? As a democracy and defender of inalienable rights, how can we defend a position that elevates abuse of power?