For The Breast Portrait Project, the artist Clarity Haynes draws inspiration for the feminist art traditions of the 1970s, from works that spliced and dissected the female body in ways that disrupted and challenged the male gaze. Cataloging the naked breasts and midsections of women who do not conform to traditional ideals of feminine allure—older women, women who have undergone childbirth, transgender women in the process of transitioning—the the painter hopes to assert the validity and beauty of all human bodies, including those that exist outside of narrowly defined physical standards. For Haynes, the act of seeing and of painting the body inherently necessitates that it be viewed with respect.
The theorist John Berger once posited that female subjects in art, imagined mostly by male painters, betray knowledge of the male gaze; staring out and the viewer (presumed to be male) for approval, their identities are split in two parts, namely the true self and the self that is watched and judged by men. In cutting out the female face, eyes, and mouth, Haynes cleverly subverts this tradition, and her women display their bodies matter-of-factly, without a trace of self-consciousness.
These female bodies, removed from a face that might otherwise reveal vulnerabilities and invite scrutiny, disallow the viewer to judge based on physical appearance. In lieu of typical signs of identity like eyes, expressive brows, or seductive lips, these private sections of the body become testaments to the individual self who chooses to stand out from the conformity of conventional female beauty standards; like a text that covers the nude body, stretch marks and scars become signifies of a vast and nuanced female experience. (via iGNANT)