Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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07/28/2004: "Harmless coloful nudes or pornography?"

I got a call from the company hosting my website yesterday. They were concerned about one of the domain names I registered:

They said that it might be against the company's anti-pornography policy and that they would need to know what my intentions were for the site. I left a message for them that I was just going to point it to my artist website and gave them a link to this site but i haven't heard back from them yet on whether or not that will be OK. I couldn't imagine that they would have a problem with it but then...

This man in his 80s (who left this comment in my show's guestbook last year about women godesses and lovers and ended it with: "my head and heart (and other parts) thanks you", and he always comes out to the library and yesterday he stopped me to tell me how much he likes my new work and my themes "exploring female sexuality". I didn't know how to respond, because I don't see my work as exploring that theme at all really. But I know art is personal and everyone has an opinion or sees things from their own standpoint but just out of curiosity, does anyone else see my work as sexual in nature?

Replies: 17 Comments

on Wednesday, July 28th, John said

No, but that's probably because as an artist I've been able to disconnect nudity from sexuality (tho some nudity is still connected to sexuality, porn, erotic art, etc). The masses probably have a different view.

on Wednesday, July 28th, John said

Or to put it another way, it 's not like your work is emphasizing the genital area, or depicts a sexual act.
But this 80-year old sounds a little scary.
"my head and heart (and other parts) thanks you"
sounds a little like a lame attempt at a pick-up line.

on Wednesday, July 28th, Elise said

That's a good observation; artists and people who have studied art have an increased understanding of the formal aspects of nudity in art (form, color, composition) that maybe the general public doesn't see. For some, nudity in itself is so taboo that regarless of the context it becomes sexualized to them.

and if that old guy was trying to use a pick-up line on me (doubtful), boy was he barking up the wrong tree!

on Wednesday, July 28th, Anna L. Conti said

I don't see your paintings as sexual, but it's a sure bet that plenty of people will. Nothing you can, or should, do about it. One of the hazards of getting your art out there is that complete strangers start making wildly inaccurate assumptions about you. Practice the faint-smile-as-you-back-away routine.

on Wednesday, July 28th,">Elise said

That would make a really interesting study
...ask artists the following question/s:

What is the most wildly inaccurate assumption someone has made about you based on your artwork?


What was the most wildly inaccurate interpretation of your work that you've ever received?

Hmmm, I'll have to make that a topic of its own post.

on Wednesday, July 28th, holly said

I have a problem with college freshman squirming when introducing them to Greek nudes for the first time. After a couple exposures (no pun intended) most of them start to see the body as textures and curves and line instead of something "naughty." I swear, some people never get past that point. And no, I don't think your work is overtly sexual. I suppose when you're 80 you try to get it where you can ;-)

on Wednesday, July 28th, Howard said

The funniest inaccrurate interpretation I've had was from this wacked new age nut case of a woman I worked for a number of years ago. She believed the figures I was painting were images of aliens and she was deeply concerned that aliens were controlling my mind.

on Wednesday, July 28th, Dio said

Its kind of funny your ISP were concerned about that. I love the irony. My wifes old webdomain of expired recently and she didn't renew. It was a showcase for her greeting card designs.

Now you visit it and it redirects to a porn site... :crazy:

And I just spotted you bid on my painting! Thanks Elise - it didn't reach reserve in the end.

on Wednesday, July 28th,">Elise said

Holly, I suppose I remember how I felt the first time I had a nude model. She came in the room fully clothed and started stripping down in front of us. I was only 16 and I practically had a heart attack. I suppose we forget these things as we get older...(or as you stated, until we get so old that it gets exciting again)

Howard, that's a hilarious story! I hope I get some more from people; if I do I'll make a permanent page to list them on. (and yes, I'm from the midwest of the US originally where we feel it is perfectly legitimate to end a sentance with a there!)

on Wednesday, July 28th,">Elise said

Dio- How did you discover my secret ebay identity?

I got outbid anyway, sorry it didn't reach the reserve; do you have an online gallery where you'll post it with its sale price? If so let me know. Now's not a very pleasant time for me financially. Just got a third notice on my astronomical oil heating bill and a second notice for my boat's slip fees.

In October I'll be getting my dividend check from the Alaska Permanent Fund so I'll potentially have some extra doughage around then. (The state of Alaska pays each of its residents a dividend from oil revenues each October, last year's check was down from previous years but it was still $1,107.56).

on Wednesday, July 28th, Anna L. Conti said

The craziest misinterpretation of a painting was the time I did a portrait of my sister-in-law with symbolic elements around the border to represent significant things in her life (Norway, New Mexico, hops, celtic music, etc.) A woman saw it at an open studios and proceeded to give me a lengthy and elaborate explanation of the "sacred meanings" behind my "goddess painting." I just thanked her and excused myself to get some more wine.

on Wednesday, July 28th,">Jackie said

E: I think the 80-year old sounds a little odd. At the least, his comments were innapropriate. Sometimes, a stroke or senility can cause the part of the brain that controls our sense of decency/morality to stop functioning.
People do tend to make assumptions about artists when viewing their art. Some of my pieces have generated comments by people who think it represents demons/death/S&M/torture/insanity. Hmmm...I'm the least likely person to be associated with those topics, tho I do have a touch of macabre humor. People have had such shocked expressions when I identify myself as the artist...I guess they're expecting some Goth chick/Wiccan or something.
I don't think of your paintings as sexual in nature. They merely show the form of the human body, in technicolor. It is a wierd sensation to take your first life drawing class with a nude model - especially in America. We are such prudes!

on Wednesday, July 28th,">Elise said

Some people automatically assume a painting of a woman, by a woman, makes it a goddess painting. I always find it interesting when other people tell me what my art is about, not a "this is my interpretation" or "is this what you meant?" but, as in your case Anna, someone just presumes to know what I meant, and feels very smug about it to boot.

I laughed out loud when I read your "faint-smile-as-you-back-away" remark...I have done that so many times.

And Jackie, I don't think he's had a stroke or is senile...he rides his bike around all over town and is very active in demonstrations etc. and sharp as a tack for his age. Maybe the older you get you just don't care as much what people think of you?

also Jackie, I haven't seen any of your paintings yet but after your description I must admit I'm curious!

One thing that people assume routinely about me is that I'm a lesbian. This has been going on since high school when when one of my mom's best friends who was a "reformed" gay man entering the semenary, told my mom that he could tell from looking at my art that I was "being attacked by the spirit of homosexuality". They went so far as to annoint my room (and several of my canvases) with holy oil.

Maybe I should do a series of "holy oil paintings".

Ironically, I took one of those Belief-o-matic personality quizzes that are supposed to tell you what religion or philosophy you're most closely aligned with according to your answers about deities etc.

They rank you according to around 40 different belief systems and according to the quiz I scored a perfect 100% for secular humanisim (my parents worst nightmare) and scored the lowest (a 13%) for catholicism (I was raised catholic and went to a catholic grade and high school).


on Thursday, July 29th,">Jackie said

E: Well, my work is mostly 3-D - I haven't done many paintings or drawings since college/H.S. I don't have my webpage up & running yet...but I do have a digi-cam, and have been meaning to take some digital photos of my work. So I'll try to get some pics up on the Web. Many of my pieces have been sold, including a few recent ones that I didn't get photos of before I showed/sold them :( At least I have the names & addresses of the people who bought them...including several Wiccans (!)

on Thursday, July 29th,">Elise said

Well, I look forward to seeing them. I've sold a lot of pieces (or given them away from when I was in school) that I have no clue where they are anymore or who has them. I try to be more careful about that now.

Is your 3-d work with clay?

on Friday, July 30th,">Jackie said

E: No clay - mostly wood and mixed media. I used to beachcomb freely in Kodiak, and all my materials came from the sea. I also became fascinated with incorporating nails/tacks/copper wire, and other found objects into my pieces. Most of my pieces include one or more figures (made from roots/with carved heads). Perhaps it was the juxtoposition of pointy nails with human figures that gives people the mistaken impression about my message. I don't know. I started off in 1989 making original masks, and replicas of Yupik masks (in miniature). A comment one of my friend's moms made in our guest register at a show put on by a sculpture class I took at Kodiak Community College was: "Jackie should have stuck to the Eskimo masks. This stuff doesn't really show her talent, and they aren't nice to look at." :rolleyes:

on Friday, July 30th,">Elise said

That comment is *too* funny! I used to do realism when I was younger and I know it was quite a shock to my early fans (i.e. family and friends) when I started painting stylized purple nudes. But, we have to do what feels right to grow as artists.

I have always been interested in incorporating found objects into art (I have always been drawn to things like rusty nails and copper wire too) and the idea of integrating them into two dimentional work. I started out as a sculpting major and I did a lot of found object art because of my mentor, Ken Grey.

I saw an excellent exhibit at the Alaska state museum last year called "Found and Made in Alaska" that was a sort of "best of" show featuring found object sculpture somewhat like you've described your work. i wanted to buy the book that corresponded with it but it had a small run and was sold out.

Anyway, I think I'd really like your mixed media stuff, I'd love to see it when you have the chance.