Essay by Shaw Hendry
Essay by Sera Waters
fully clothed, but never ashamed, the slightly larger than life
coquettes happily invite the viewer to look and to love. Apparently
unaware, or at least unperturbed, by their conjoined fatalities
and strange botanical growths, the girls pout and pose for imaginary
admirers. Their deformities might make them vulnerable in real
life, but in art life, they are invulnerable, joyous and beyond
depression. Want to party?
Youth’s transient gifts; nicely shaped bottoms, curvaceous
hips, pert breasts that laugh at gravity, and smooth supple thighs;
are accentuated by peachy blemish-free skin and cutesy costumes
with quaint tie bows. The girls’ pretty faces betray no
hint of the desperation of real life, and no doubt that destiny
is totally within their control. It’s as if the world beyond
the canvas couldn't be anything but enchanted by their loveliness.
Their confidence seems perfect. And yet this perfection is expressed
more in symmetries and colour balance than in reflections of physical
normality. Our complicated prejudices about ‘beauty’
and ‘the grotesque’ defy logical discussion. Our gaze
finds both sides of the normative spectrum equally compelling.
Why mess with nature?
The politics of body image differs widely depending on era, cultural
perspective, and personal background. Western ideals of feminine
beauty are a minefield: Tanning goes in and out of fashion. Dieting
is perennial. Pierced eyebrows, lips, tongues, nipples, bellies,
and so on will make you a freak one year, and hot the next. Surgical
body modification is probably a small price for a more appealing
sexual identity: What teenager wouldn’t change themselves,
and even the world, if only to be accepted - and desired?
But-Husaim’s painting avoids simplistic resolutions to these
issues by purposely and expertly combining contemporary cues for
sexual allure - long lashes, killer high heels, and the soft contours
of fleshy sensuality - with a lyrical approach to physical deformity.
Based, in part, on girly cards of the Fifties, the artist says
her subjects are reclaiming their sexuality, and by extension,
themselves. The resulting young women, self-contained, and smiling
through cherry red lips, captivate the viewer with a push and
pull that delights and shocks.
Adelaide, January 2006,
Shaw Hendry is a visual artist, editor of Vitamin magazine, and
Shaw Hendry has kindly given permission for this text to be reproduced on this website.