How Women Actually Appear to a Female Artist

Victoria Selbach is the painter here brought to my attention for an ART LOOK. Sondra sent me this link from Huffington Post. The article by Priscilla Frank states, “Though it sounds simple, capturing women as they actually appear in the world, removed from the projections so often cast upon them, is rarely done and very rarely done well.”


Frank sings the praises of Selbach. She is quoted by the journalist from the Huffington Post as saying,  “The light rolling in and over incredible form. The amazing women in my life. Those moments when you stumble on a radiance that takes your breath away. An instance when light meets the human form and just completely floors you with the line and beauty. The way the human form fills space and creates contrasts of light and darkness. The desire to capture presence while honoring all the mystery held in the shadows.”


“Radiance that takes your breath away.” Does she capture it? I think she comes close. Others who have tried it are mostly men artists…. I think of Georges de la Tour…. although the female nude was not his genre…. the importance of luminosity was:

Georges_de_La_Tour_007 urlThe woman above is pondering a skull while looking into the light. It is a rather staged affair, but doesn’t this totally tell of our obsession with the life and death matters in every age? LIGHT and DARK could just as easily be the metaphors for LIFE and DEATH. The carpenter and his son are also stopped in a radiance that would take your breath away if you really LOOK. LIGHT allows us to be productive in our actions. The dark is the rest of it. In George de la Tour’s work, the RADIANCE THAT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY is very present, perhaps even beyond the pondering of the female nude body. He takes us into the radiance of a light beyond the body…. and into a spiritual relevance of the deep pondering nature of our mind.

The other issue with female nudes painted by men is that male artists have seen the female form in their own motives, in their own filters of desires, both sexual and for the sake of a drama of their own making. The Renaissance artists, the Italian painter Titian and Spanish painter Velazquez, provide these renditions of the female form, quite radiant in their own right, but probably not in the spirit of modern day realism of the feminist versions:

o-URBINO-900 original

You could say these reclining female figures are luminous, sensitively depicted in a very real, but idealized way. They are radiant, but according to an idealized version of the female body as the muse that male artists like to invoke to keep their creative juices flowing…. and to be the object of their sexual desires.

Do they take your breath away? In the purely formal sense, probably. Do they fulfill the more modern version of the liberated woman in a society in which she plays equally her role in the public domain of Goddess, woman of the world, woman of creative and social equality….probably not.

Getting back to the first artist’s work, with the female painter Victoria Selbach, are we willing to see things differently? Something else that may take your breath away is her subject that is not so often painted by artists of either gender….which is the obese human form, especially an obese female form. Selbach does not shy away from the beautiful reality of this work:

slide_360444_4033162_freeRather than being repulsed from folds of flesh, Selbach renders them transcendental. And the light is truly impeccable. She shows us not so much the realism of a different vision of beauty through a very fleshy subject, but more importantly, the  demonstrable effects of a radiance that takes your breath away through her honest rendering of what is actually happening with the slice of LIFE before her.



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  • vic selbach

    Thank you Markus! Lovely and insightful.

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