Women Warriors: I Want to Paint Your Story

MURIEL TAKES A SICK DAY, June 2016 • This painting was inspired by a woman I met at a private pool club. With her dark skin, her striking gray hair, and fantastic white, skirted bikini, I couldn’t help but to notice her. As we chatted, Muriel confessed she woke up that morning and realized she hadn’t taken a day off in 15 years. “I called in sick,” she said.  “I’ve worked hard to support my family,” she said. A single mother to one son, Muriel had scars on her abdomen from several surgeries, including a botched hysterectomy. “I used to be self-conscious about them, she said, shrugging, “Now I think of them as war wounds. I’m a freaking warrior,” she said, smiling.

We women are so hard on ourselves. We worry our breasts are too big or too small, our thighs are too thick, our wrinkles are too deep.

We all have insecurities, and we wear them like scars, trying to hide behind them, covering them up with makeup and high collars. We wish they would go away, assuming that if we didn’t have them, then we’d be happy.

This year, I’ve gotten really into nude figure drawing. And you know what I’ve discovered?

No body is perfect, but each body is stunning in its own way.

I’ve been inspired by the courage and confidence the models possess.

How is it that these women are so comfortable in their skin? I wondered.

“I’m actually not comfortable with the way I look in regular photographs,” one of the models confessed. But it’s different when I see myself depicted in a panting. I can’t believe that I inspire these great pieces of art. It makes me powerful,” she said, “like Leda or Venus or one of Cezanne’s ‘Seven Bathers.’”

In that moment, I hatched an idea.

The State of Undress Project was born when I realized that everyone has insecurities but it is possible to own them and reframe them as strengths.

When I was going thru the throes of benzodiazepine withdrawal, in addition to my physical and emotional pain, I was terribly ashamed. Our culture stigmatizes people who suffer from anxiety and depression, and rather than talk about what’s bothering us, we are encouraged to take pills to medicate our feelings of sadness and fear.

While I was healing, I decided to sharing My Benzo Story with anyone who would listen, mostly because I wanted to raise consciousness and try to help make sure that no one else went thru what I was going thru. Once I started to share about the specifics of my personal journey, women started to seek me out to share their stories. Not just women who had been damaged by benzodiazepines, but women who have other invisible issues: eating disorders depression, anxiety, rare autoimmune diseases; women who have endured grief and loss and pain.

For the last year, I’ve been painting colorful portraits & figure studies of women who identified themselves as living with invisible obstacles.

These women had to be willing to write up a short piece in which they clearly explain the invisible challenge they face — and they had to be willing to pose in some state of undress — so that I could paint their likeness resulting in an impressionistic piece of art.

Posing semi-clothed requires immense vulnerability, bravery, and trust. I feel fortunate that these woman trusted me with their stories and allowed me into their lives in this most intimate way.

I believe that every woman is beautiful, and I’ve collected the stories of women who understand that our flaws are part of who we are, women who are excited by the idea that they are helping me to create a collection of images depicting many kinds of female strength

It is my hope that during the process, each woman feels sexy and strong and empowered.

And that maybe, just maybe, they will come to believe that they are worthy of being the subject of a work of art.

Because each of us is a work of art.

Intrigued? Interested in participating? Contact me and we’ll get started.

tweet me @rasjacobson

8 thoughts on “Women Warriors: I Want to Paint Your Story

  1. First, I love your beautiful work- you knew that. This project, is incredible. It has stirred so much inside of me. Thank you for doing all you are doing- Keep being amazing you, Renee!

    1. Susan! Thank you soooooo much for your kind words and your support. I definitely love what I do, and if it weren’t for the connections I make with individuals like those who have agreed to participate in this project, I would find myself feeling pretty alone. Since i live by myself most of the time, I really am so grateful to everyone for sharing their innermost feelings with me. I’ve always hung around very successful people who didn’t seem to have any insecurities. It has taken me 50 years to realize those are facades and that people actually perceive me as “having it all together,” if you can believe THAT craziness.

  2. I feel a bit like a hypocrite on the subject of women. Anyone who has read my novel Ruth or my Fancy series knows I like and appreciate and honor strong women. I can appreciate a woman’s personality or character or intelligence regardless of her physical looks. However, I have to admit I’m as quick as the next man to appreciate a slender figure in a bikini. Maybe I’ll grow up one of these days.

  3. I hope several/many women sign-up for this with you Renee! You and all women should be VERY proud of themselves, their unique gifts and beauty… and let it shine freely! And in through your paintings! 😉 <3

  4. What a fabulous project, Renee! There are SO many things I want to say about this and the myth that a woman should look eternally 21, but I will say only that I’m grateful to have someone who adores me for all of me (even the stretch marks). I love what Muriel said. “I’m a freaking warrior…” Aren’t we all.

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