As a woman myself, I have always been acutely aware of the types of female bodies that are typically deemed “beautiful” enough to be shown to the world. All too often these bodies do not reflect the bodies of the majority of women, making inclusion nearly impossible. In her work Guile portrays her own body as well as the bodies of several other women, whose body types differ from the unfortunate standard the art world has set long ago. As I walked through the space and took in each piece, I felt a sense of comradery with the women Guile had chosen to draw.
There was something about each of them that I could identify with, and looking into their charcoal eyes only strengthened this connection. By using a mixture of provocative and modest poses, Guile provides insight into the differing spirits of the women being portrayed, using their bodies to express each woman’s unique experience. Her choice of medium, charcoal, is used on two different types of paper that provide two starkly different styles of execution. Around half of the pieces were created on a typical paper that preserves each mark made by the artist, providing a harsher, more concrete final image. The other pieces were created on an extremely smooth, thick, board-like surface that lends a unique, ghostly quality to the charcoal. These bodies in particular seem incredibly light and airy, almost as if they were fleeting images that might disappear in the blink of an eye.
After the exhibition had closed, I had the opportunity to speak with the artist herself, who shed some light on her past experiences with eating disorders. These pieces were created after Guile’s recovery and, at least in the case of her self portraits, they reflect a body that has been given a new love and sense of care. I had already found these pieces beautiful for multiple reasons, but being able to hear the artist’s own story and meaning behind them only made the pieces more powerful. While the work is unfortunately no longer on display, I hope these photos can give readers some sense of the power they hold.
Text by BAC Summer Intern Extraordiannaire, Amanda Squillante, Art History Major, Goucher College