Julia Fullerton-Batten’s models seem naked in their nudity, and this is not just a clever play on words. John Berger, in his book Ways of Seeing, explains the difference: “Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.”
Here, in Fullerton-Batten’s Unadorned series, each model is indeed nude, as Berger suggests, posed on display, manipulated by the photographer to convey an idea, however . . . because he or she wears a certain type of nudity in the vein of old world masters from the 15th – 17th centuries . . . and because they are arranged in contemporary settings by female hands . . . and because their bodies are curvy and soft, as opposed to thin and hard . . . what results is also a fascinating feeling of nakedness: a complex historical/sociological revelation of us as a species in relation to gender, weight, and image.
How does nakedness traverse through the woods from era to era and how does it stand nude on our doorstep? How do we let it into our photographs, our galleries, our houses, and what is our impulse?
To me, nudity is not just about sexuality, but ownership and nakedness is not completely outside of nudity as Berger suggests, it’s an extension, exposing a raw state of humanity. Art, at it’s best, takes a step back and does both, seamlessly, so we can evaluate and understand, or at the very least relate.
Unlike, Yossi Loloi’s Full Beauty project, which deals with his thoughts on beauty and the sexualization of obesity, Fullterton-Batten doesn’t push a personal agenda regarding attraction or fetish. It’s more about identity and how nudes have bodily evolved in weight and ownership.
In her artist statement, Fullteron-Batten suggests, “Throughout most of the last few millennia, the most sought-after female forms were represented by curvaceous bodies and in Ruebens’ case of outright corpulence. It is only in very recent times, since Twiggy and Barbie came to the fore in the 1960s, that our narcissistic society reinforced by the media and advertising now interprets the ideal figure to be ultra-thin, enhanced by eating disorders and plastic surgery.”
Her reaction to the commercialization and shrinking body sizes is not necessarily to embrace the objectification that occurred previously in art history, but to twist everything together so her current models are contemporary simulations of objects built by her male predecessors centuries ago to empower and critique, perhaps even “take back” just who is truly in control of beauty, of nudity, of weight, of art and being.
It’s us. This is where we all meet as image makers, subjects, and consumers. This is how we agree to use one another and use ourselves in the moment of surrender. We collaborate. No one gets lost. We unlock the door, shake hands, and acknowledge the scope of our collective nakedness. We welcome the ghosts. Whether she’s lounging along a collection of mattresses or he’s sprawled on a kitchen table of fruits, no matter how each stage is set, every subject appears in control of his or her own body, caught in a moment of relinquishing a private fantasy into the public, and we are the ones looking, not gazing but questioning, thinking, and considering what came before and what will happen next.