The odalisque sits staring off into the now. Completely comfortable in her body, belly, thighs, and all. She has come to terms with it and embraced her physical self.
The artist is in love with color and is not concerned with flattering her, though she is gorgeous. She is just what I need as a muse – a woman at ease in her skin, able to tell her story, and willing to do so to anyone who will listen or to remain silent – according to the whims of her audience.
People talk of their muse as if a magical creature that drops art in their laps fully formed and ready to go. No. The muse is the inspiration for the art – the one who whispers in your ear….the stray thought that ties the piece together.
Matisse’s model for the Odalisque series was Henriette Darricarrère. She too was a painter. She gives the appearance of complete comfort and rest while holding her poses – for ten hours at a time. Art is not necessarily easy.
The blue and white porcelain pot with the plant echoes the blue and white porcelain in the room I am in as I write this.
This room is my place of power and this print dominates the room. It is here that I write, dream, and tell my stories. My walls are the blue of the print and the dark brown is found in the woodwork of the bookcases, door, and furniture. I flatter myself that there is a resemblance to me.
I am a matchy-matchy kind of chick. Matisse would have been appalled. A friend of mine said, “He wasn’t really good at staying in the lines, was he?” and another friend immediately quipped, “Yes, but he sure could color.” That second friend is a painter. I have one of her pieces in my guest room. A triptych of nude women. Yes, Matisse could color.
Some people buy art to “go with” the room or match the sofa. I decorated this room around this print.
I never stopped to wonder if my penchant for displaying nude women in my home makes folks uncomfortable. I find I don’t care. It’s my home. Well, I do care. I want folks to be comfortable, but I’m not giving up the female form as a decorative accent. Those who love me will understand. And perhaps I can help them come to appreciate their body in the here and now, warts and all.
I was taught that a woman’s appearance was the be all and end all of her worth. A not uncommon attitude for the times I was raised in. Coming to terms with my body was a great awakening for me. I am more than a collection of breasts, hips, and thighs. It is Henriette’s gaze that is the focal point of the painting. Not her body. She is lines and curves and discipline and ease. She is a contradiction and an explanation.
She is me.
One thought on “The Odalisque”
in 1968 I was a nude model for the Portland art school..I made more money in an hour than I did for a shift at waitressing..but damn..it was hard work..not moving for an hour then a 15 minute break and then an hour again…dang…