The “Level Playing Field” painting series takes a humorous look at the myths we perpetuate in society through the use of passive and active body language. The pieces juxtapose classical museum female painted nudes, and contemporary sports figures from news photography.
This series was created while I was in the town of Aberystwyth, undertaking a Masters degree at the University of Wales School of Art, as a Canadian student. In the UK for the first time, I was quite impressed by the many racks of tabloids and magazines that crowded the doorways and check-out aisles of newsstands and corner shops – more so, it seemed, than in Canada.
I skimmed through countless numbers of these publications, wanting to catch some of the local flavour. I began to notice that the majority of sports coverage featured articles and interviews with men, and photographs of men playing team sports. Much of this type of photography was excellent, depicting high-impact and kinetic moments that are part of rugby and football. There was the occasional picture of sportswomen, at an average ratio of one-to-nine. However, photos of the female athletes very rarely showed women in action. These were mostly close-up portraits, or static poses of female athletes with trophies. There were no pictures of women slamming gleefully into each other, body checking, or running.
Paradoxically, I was studying classical art while encountering the UK tabloid media. For the most part, women in the Sports sections were more frequently depicted in advertising, adopting poses more passive than active, more “classic” than “modern.” At best, I realized, these contemporary commercial depictions were not so different from the poses in many classical, painted, female portraits.
I began to wonder, what is the measure of the myth of equality these days? Is there equality in depicting gender in the same fashion, when it rarely seems “fashionable” to do so? Can equality ever exist in the popular media, which tends to feed the basic desires of the majority?
These thoughts inspired me to paint the “Level Playing Field” series. The paintings illustrate a curiosity regarding what is beautiful. They also explore the way in which humanity creates imagery that reflects what we desire and therefore what we find beautiful.
I enjoy juxtaposing these two aesthetic extremes: the passive “immortalized” classical female form set next to the hyper-kinetic contemporary men of sports news photography. I’d like to one day hang a gallery exhibit that thematically further combines many of the aesthetics of the “indispensable” classic paintings of feminine beauties who linger in museums with the imagery of “disposable” masculine sports news photos that usually end up in the recycling bin.