The Block Stripped Bare

Did your mother know? - Reduction woodcut

Did your mother know? – Reduction woodcut

Taking part in an international print exchange through the Baren Forum I was challenged with a first for me, the theme being ‘Nudes’.  Yes, I have taken part in life drawing sessions, but never produced a work for public consumption of someone naked. I’ve always been fascinated by the women from the past who posed in various stages of undress for ‘girlie’ postcards and photos. What were their reasons for choosing the path of ‘blue’ photography? Was the decision financially based, a matter of ensuring survival?  Were they rebelling against the mores of society at the time?  Was it a lark, or maybe a means of scaling the heights to celebrity status, which some of them did. Did the parents, families and friends of these women, some mere girls, know about the photographic sessions?  Or was it a closely guarded secret? And, if so, were these women ostracised for unseemly behaviour, when their secret was discovered?

These days, nudity doesn’t have the shock-appeal it did a century or more ago.  Though, of course there is still a lot of hoo-ha when one of our revered female movie stars or celebrities is caught unawares by an ‘indiscretion’ of her past, getting her gear off in perhaps an effort to get ahead, or snapped by some moron in a private moment.

I remember being embarrassed as a child and young teenager at seeing my father ogling the well-endowed and all-but-naked girls in the Australasian Post – purchased ostensibly for its articles and jokes, and not the ‘tits and bums’. Even then, I wondered what went through those women’s minds as they posed provocatively for the camera.

It wasn’t difficult finding images for reference for the proposed print.  Actually doing the print was a whole other thing.

I wanted an old-world look and chose wood for the block.  Unfortunately, the piece of Masonite had been sitting in the shed for some time.  On first inspection it appeared fine, but as I progressed through the carving and printing process, I struggled to get even ink coverage.  Despite continual coats of Shellac, the block was warping.  Working to a deadline and denied the luxury of starting again, I had no choice but to persist.

It’s not the best print I’ve done, nor are the prints in the edition of 33 all the same, as they should be (just managed to salvage the required number for the exchange).  However, I quite like the ‘worn’ look in what turned out to be a ‘variable edition’ of naked ladies.

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