University of Tasmania
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A matrixial gaze : portrayals of the male nude by female artists

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posted on 2023-05-27, 09:07 authored by Geard, AR
Traditionally although there are any number of nude men and women produced by male artists and many female nudes created by women there have been relatively few women artists working in the field of male nude. Those that have ventured into the genre face the problem of working with the male body in ways that do not perpetuate the objectification and sexualization of the body that male artists have often been accused of when they deal with the female body. This awareness of issues around subjectivity and agency in the visual arts has meant that there has been a gradual growth and readjustment of the concept of a gaze in whatever guise it comes and a need to create a means to work with the body in ways that transcend this polarizing and subjectivizing trope. This thesis explores a relatively neglected aspect of female artistic practice, the male nude, through the lens of a matrixial gaze. This framework has previously primarily been applied to the works of its creator Bracha Ettinger and not in the context of the nude male. The concept of the matrixial gaze was used to analyse of the works of several women artists who have worked in this field. Each chapter aligns with themes gleaned from the matrixial gaze and the works of the artists have been selected insofar as they demonstrate such attributes in their work. The research evaluated how, in the ongoing process of attempting to find means to work with the body in a way that neither denigrates it nor sets up binary and oppositional viewpoints, the matrixial gaze provides a practical methodology to work in this field. The female artists surveyed demonstrated key elements of the matrixial gaze and metramorphic borderlinking, including; fascinance, co-poieisis, wit(h)nessing and compassionate hospitality in their works. This was demonstrated in the paintings of Sylvia Sleigh who exemplifies matrixial attributes associated with fascinance and duration through her sustained interest and involvement with the male body as well as her especially close involvement with a few particular favourite models who take on the role of muse. The co-poietic framework, where individuals work together to share partial subjectivity, is clearly in evidence through the erotic pairings depicted in Chapter 3. The images of couples sharing subjectivity and creating new beings reveal the way in which the subject/object paradigm can be subverted by exchanges- co-po‚àövòesis brings on and sets up the conditions for metramorphosis. Wit(h)nessing occurs in Polly Borland's Babies series where she works to transform the trauma and pain of the marginalised subculture of men who dress as babies. This also occurs when Barbara de Genevieve works with the dispossessed, impoverished Afro-American men in the Panhandler Project where she crosses racial and class barriers to heal their wounds and vulnerabilities. This shows that each artist worked to create encounters between herself, subject and viewers which set up conditions for co-operative making and sharing as well as establishing partial or shared subjectivity between all participants involved. Furthermore the matrix of encounters and interconnected networks between artist, subject and viewer provided opportunities for transformation and creation of new ideas from a trope, the male nude that has been largely associated with a particular Western Classical tradition.


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