“To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself.”
~ John Berger, Ways of Seeing
“The nude does not simply represent the body, but relates it, by analogy, to all structures that have become part of our imaginative experience.”
~ Sir Kenneth Clark
hen we think about our parents and those close to us aging, what typically saddens us the most is one day losing those we love. But when it comes to thoughts of our own bodies getting older, what is it we most often fear?
For men and women the answer may be vastly different.
A decrease in independence usually tops the list of what men most resist losing, but as women grow older the loss is much more insidious: the threat of gradually becoming invisible.
INTERVIEW WITH FRANCIEN KRIEG
Puiflijk, Netherlands ~
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you recall your very first mature model and what that painting session was like?
Francien Krieg: My very first older lady model I remember well, yes. She was very down-to-earth and did not have any problem showing her body. [quote]She took of her clothes and every move she made was for me pure poetry…she was like a living painting to me. Her body language said that she was in complete acceptance of her decaying body and with facing the end of her life. That touched me a lot, especially because it came so close to my own fears of aging and death. [/quote]
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: You are only forty years old ~ nowhere close to the age of the women whom you depict; what led you to want to focus on painting older women’s bodies?
Francien Krieg: [quote]My fascination with the human body started in art academy were I was working with meat and skins. I was in such complete astonishment about my own body: how it is both something that feels so familiar and yet at the same time is really such a bizarre object. I felt distanced from my own body. [/quote]
After a couple of years of painting myself and later using a variety of different types of models, I came in contact with my very first muse. Later, I noticed that painting an older lady in the nude seemed to be a taboo for many people. And the subject became even more interesting with the discussions that arose around our interpretations of beauty.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Have you observed any changes coming over your models and the way they may perceive themselves over the course of your painting them?
Francien Krieg: In the beginning, these older ladies are very surprised when I propose the idea of painting them. I see great shows of disbelief as their minds are very much conditioned to thinking that their bodies should stay hidden. Our society is surrounded by images of young, beautiful people who have had plastic surgery to fool themselves into thinking they will never get older. Society is in such a big denial of death. I don’t see as much a change in the models and how they perceive themselves so much as the change I’ve witnessed in the viewer. In the beginning, people may experience my work as ugly, but after being exposed to these images, they start to slowly change their minds about how they feel about these bodies I’m painting.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What details about your models’ psyche and soul show up on the mature women’s bodies that might more often remain elusive and hidden in a younger model?
Francien Krieg: They reveal much in their way of posing and of how much they are in acceptance of their deterioration.Besides that, the skin itself shows the most beautiful colors, spots and veins which a younger skin doesn’t have. [quote]Each body has its own story to tell, some beautiful and some not so beautiful. The lines in their bodies and faces unveil so much of their personalities, without masks they show themselves to me and to the world. I see both fragility and strength.[/quote]
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you think we would all be served by spending more time in appreciation and exploration of our physical bodies, especially as we age? It seems many of us as we grow older develop a love-hate relationship with our physical selves.
Francien Krieg: I am just as much a product of today’s society as anyone: I, too, hate it when i see a new wrinkle in my face or notice how much my body has changed after giving birth to my son. It is confronting that as time passes I feel the same inside but on the outside I am changing.This is why older ladies are so interesting: it is our destiny! And instead of looking away or fooling ourselves into thinking that aging is not a reality, I have chosen to use my art to confront people. Giving counterbalance to all those unrealistic expectations we carry with us from all the media brainwashing, trying to convince us that death can be avoided.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Is age ~ women’s in particular ~ just as much of an issue in The Netherlands as it is in the United States? What have been some of the reactions your work has received in your country versus elsewhere? Any differences?
Francien Krieg: The reactions are mostly in the extremes: from loving the work to hating it, no big differences between countries as far as I have noticed. What I ave observed is that [quote]the more someone is in conflict with their own aging process, the more angry my work makes them.[/quote]
In some cultures there is a lot of respect for the elderly because of their wisdom and life experience. I meet ladies in their late seventies who are still starting new educations, traveling to see other cultures, flirting and falling in love. These ladies are role models to me; they are not afraid of life or death.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Your definition of “Beauty”?
Francien Krieg: Things or people who are honest. Not afraid to show their flaws.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What do you feel is missing in the art world’s celebration of The Nude? Have you noticed any changes in thinking as a result of your work? In your dream of dreams, how would you like to see the conversation broaden?
Francien Krieg: In the art world, I think the young female nudes still dominate. But when a painting is only just to please the eye, it is not very interesting to me. I like it when a piece of art confuses me, makes me feel, or confronts me with my own prejudices. I think that is what art is for. I think it is always a positive developement when I notice my work starts up a discussion, that is allways a step towards any change.
I will keep expanding on ways to approach this subject. I want to reach a broader audience in many different countries, I’m curious to learn how different cultures will react. I think the interaction with the people is a big part of the developement of my paintings. So thank you for that.
|Francien Krieg’s work is represented in several prominent private art collections, including the Scheringa Collection, the ING collection, the collection of the Museum of Van Lien, and the Howard Tullman collection.
To view more of Krieg’s work or contact the artist, please visit her website.