Juxtapozed Art and the Naked Woman

In February of 2017, I had been dancing/entertaining/stripping/whatever you want to call it, for 2 years. Or was it 1? It’ll be three in March 2019, so, you do the math because I clearly cannot. Anyway, I had been at the club for a while.

Yesterday I sold a painting I began in February 2017. I hung it on my wall surrounded by my current work and was struck by how different it is from what I am doing now. The juxtaposition was jarring. Among bright and colorful current pieces, this piece sat strong, dark, and mysterious.

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I started stripping to support myself as an artist. I recently read somewhere stripping isn’t easy money, it’s fast money. Fast money indeed. Definitely not easy.

Stripping changed my life as an artist. For the first time in my artist career, I could feed myself, not worry about rent, buy fancy supplies, giant canvases, expensive brushes all in the cold hard cash I had worked for by providing observing eyes a chance to see my naked body with a happy smile and a dash of that je ne sais quoi we love about the mystery of strippers.

Most importantly, I could also be stress free to paint what I wanted. I didn’t have to rely on commissions. I’m not a commission artist, if I can help it. I want to paint what I want to paint when I want to paint it. No stress. No pressure. Unless of course it’s a mural commission. Those I love. Anyway.

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As I continued to dance, my art became a way for me to understand the confusing experiences I was having in being a woman, an artist, and a stripper.

For my whole life, I have always been told how beautiful and unique my look is, how I should be a model. I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard, “Have you ever thought of modeling?” God. What a boring pick up line.

As women, we are valued on our looks. Men have money as currency and women rely on their looks as a form of currency. We maintain a standard of beauty, one in which we train women to adhere to. This is fact and has been studied ad nauseam so I’m not here to write a lot about it, just state it. If you disagree, thank u next.

As an attractive woman, I have been taught it’s good to be beautiful, if you’ve got it flaunt it, and it’s super important to maintain because if you don’t people won’t respond to you the same.

Well. Sure. Use it but only in the ways that morally represent what we want to see from a woman. Model. Yes. Become a stripper. No.

Confusing.

Both occupations do about the same thing: they sell a fantasy through sexy ideas and images. Many models wear just about as little clothing as strippers do. They just get paid a lot more to do it for Vogue and are tall without wearing 7-inch heels.

My art became a way for me to dissect what it means to be a woman in our current culture. We want you to be powerful but not erotically powerful. We want you to be lady on the street and a freak in the bed. Keep your sensuality and sexuality q u i e t. But definitely have it. Don’t share it and for god-sake do NOT feel empowered by it.

Photo by Justen Clay, March 2017.

Photo by Justen Clay, March 2017.

I mean, fuck!

In February 2017, what I was trying to explore in my work is why we at once want women to be empowered while creating very narrow forms in which that empowerment can be cultivated. Being a stripper is seen as something so bad, so compromising to our morality as a culture; it threatens people so much because they are so scared of exploring their own sexuality.

I think the only way to make it less stigmatizing, stripping and our sensuality, is to bring it out into the open. There is no other way.

My art from the first two years at the club was a direct extension of this mission. If we are afraid and yet fetishize naked women IRL, let’s put em’ up on a painting instead. Naked women in art go as far back as art itself. Nothing new here but we are still going through the same old conflict within sharing the beauty of naked women.

Using my art, I have come to redefine my own sensuality through my experience stripping.

I used my artistic expression to dive deeper into what it means to be me and that’s what I think is the most important part of being a painter, exploring – searching for meaning and sharing it, visually, with others.

Being a stripper doesn’t make me less of an artist. Being an artist has helped me understand what it means, for me, to be a woman through my experiences stripping.

You can see the growth in my work. How my sense of self has altered and changed. How I am growing into myself as an artist and a woman.

I have my experiences to thank for this. And clients who buy my work and seek out to understand why I paint what I paint.

If you want to get to know an artist, go no further than their work.

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Meagan Jain1 Comment