Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are we Victorian?

When morals campaigner Hetty Johnston hauled Bill Henson before the courts for taking non-sexual photographs of a topless adolescent, we had some enthusiastic debates on the subject at our house. A few weeks later, when we went to see an exhibition of Degas' work, there were no public objections to his depiction of a naked 14-year-old ballerina who looked much the same as the subject of Henson's photograph. The latest controversial artwork to draw the ire of the super-moral is a sculpture of a one-year-old boy, installed for this year's Sculpture By the Sea. A further article in today's newspaper said that "some women" whom the writer spoke to agreed that the figure should be covered up. I hope these women never have to change a baby's nappy.

I believe there is nothing necessarily sexual about nudity, no matter what the age of the person who is naked. Nudes of all ages in art imply many meanings; sometimes sexuality and pleasure, but often (as in the case of the Lost Boy sculpture) innocence and vulnerability. I think our culture is losing sight of the beauty of the human body in all of its conditions and limiting our appreciation of nudity to its sexual form. In contemporary popular media, this appreciation is more and more constrained by the tendency to fetishise nudity; with implications of bondage in restrictive lingerie and impossibly high stiletto heels; expectations of a slim body with plump breasts (mostly only attainable by synthetic means); as well as my pet hate, the banishment of pubic hair.

Yes, there are some people who look at a one-year-old and have a sexual experience. Unfortunately, this will probably happen whether the child/sculpture is wearing Speedos or not. As I argued at the time of the Bill Henson case, demanding that artists stop depicting nude children (which raises problematic issues of drawing the boundaries: What constitutes "nudity"? How old is a "child"?) is tantamount to saying that women should not be allowed to dress in certain clothes because a miniskirt is an implicit invitation to rape the wearer. The viewed is not responsible for the actions and reactions of the viewer.

I recently visited a friend of my sister, who has two gorgeous little girls. We were sitting on the front porch, when the children ran out of the house at the sound of the ice-cream van: the three-year-old was completely naked, having removed all of her clothes while playing. None of the adults or other children who were playing in the street batted an eyelid as she sucked on a rapidly melting iceblock, rivulets of red liquid cascading down her body. Later, her mother said to me, "I don't bother to argue with her. I don't see the point." Neither do I -- and it made the post-iceblock clean-up easier, for a start. It was just a perfect summer afternoon, everyone enjoying themselves, nobody passing judgement on anyone else's choices. If we have to go back to the Victorian era when even the furniture had to wear skirts in case someone accidentally got a hard-on from a glimpse of a shapely table leg, I think we will all be sorry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's raining men...

Actually, it's just a baby shower! My friend is expecting a little boy, and I wanted to make a gift, rather than buy one. So I dug up last year's bib pattern.
I also made a bottle bag and, if I have time, I will make a slipcover for a portable sachet of baby wipes. The bottle bag just needs a little drawstring of chocolate grosgrain ribbon, and the bib needs a bit of Velcro.
I'm pretty pleased with the result: I think the chocolate brown theme makes a nice change from pastels.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Greenery for the Nelly Bag, part 7

I spent some time doodling with a needle and thread on the weekend, trying out different stitches for the greenery between my daisies. I will be happy to accept feedback and votes: which stitch do you like, or do you have some other suggestions for filling the space? I am also considering an all-over background of seed stitch.
The stitches are, left to right: feather stitch, fly stitch, stem stitch with lazy daisy leaves, outline stitch, stem stitch (with optional fly stitch at the end), padded satin stitch, chain stitch.
And here, thanks to Photoshop, are the test stitches approximately in situ:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

World's most delicious cookies

Pine nut and almond paste cookies, baked yesterday afternoon. There are none left, because no-one can eat just one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daisies: Nelly Zhang bag, part 6

Here's the daisies, with all the satin stitch done. (Compare the colour of the silk thread with the previous image -- that's the difference between artificial and natural light!) I'm thinking about reworking the purple centres, and next I will sketch out some greenery in the gaps between the flowers. I thought I would work some fern stitch leaves, or perhaps some feather stitch, or even some swirls of chain stitch. I think some experimentation is called for. Fortunately I have plenty of green silk!

I had bought two skeins of the golden variegated silk for the petals, and as I worked my way across the bag I began to be concerned that I had underestimated the amount required. But you can see from the picture below how much thread I had left over after I placed the last satin stitch: showing that I should never underestimate my skills at estimating!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Tea for two

Last night His Highness broke my Royal Crown Derby tea mug, the only china piece I was allowed to keep out of storage in preparation for our forthcoming move. Like the spoilt child I am, I insisted that I could not possibly drink tea out of a pottery mug, and made HRH drive me all over Sydney in a search for a suitable replacement from which to sip my steaming beverage. Here's what I brought home:

They are not by a recognised manufacturer, the glaze is starting to wear off, and they don't even match. But, crumbs, they're gorgeous! Look at that gold paint! The iridescent glaze! The little legs on the front cup and the lacy cut-outs on the saucers! I haven't seen anything so kitsch in ages...
I'll be Mother and pour out the lavender Earl Grey, shall I?