“Stride” – the taking of steps

We are all so still right now. Wandering my home, pacing the small comfortable beautiful stable space I feel the boundaries of my physical existence fully. I long for air that does not smell like home, for experiences and adventures that await in the hills of Kentucky or the deserts of Arizona or even the upside down wilds of Kangaroo Island … and I pace.

In time, I stopped pacing and started taking more determined steps. Not physical ones (mostly) but mental ones. Finding adventures in the enormous world that is my mind and my social media and my community from around the globe. I made new friends in Mississippi and Australia and Colorado – and I braved new experiences in courage I hadn’t anticipated. One of these was posing nude … that’s right.

Naked Heather.

See, this new friend in Mississippi sent me the info for World Naked Artists Day (https://www.instagram.com/worldnakedartistday/) … I think he sent it as a joke … I believe he was intimidated at the notion… I certainly was.

And yet …

What would people think and MY GOD what would they say? I have coworkers who follow my art pages, family who have never seen all those parts of me!! Young women who might look on and be inspired! Men who might look on and comment on my weight or my shape or my ass. It could be empowering – it could be demeaning – and OMG how do I balance a realistic representation of my middle aged body and still look sexy and appealing?! Any why in the damn fuck am I still worried about looking sexy and appealing?! I was conflicted and terrified and so very very angry that this was such an issue. I felt (and feel) a resolve to present myself authentically, conventional sexiness be damned. My post-pregnancy body be celebrated. My heart and my head be still and confident in the notion that truth and authenticity and bravery are to be lauded, even if it is not visually appealing to the nebulous masses.

Fuck it.

A few days before the official day I took a break from work in the mid-morning, when I knew the light in my studio would be streaming in through my east facing window. Warning my daughter that I was gonna be all the shades of naked I closed the studio door, set up a tripod and camera, stripped to nothing, and we began.

Here’s what I learned:

  • The world is a powerful and wonderful place. The comments I received after posting these pictures were filled with support and empowerment and gratitude (so much gratitude).
  • It is very very cold painting in the nude, I recommend a space heater.
  • I received more likes and comments showing my ass than I do showing my art – this is not entirely surprising but is mildly disheartening. Then again, the vulnerability it takes to share you art is not as universally felt as the vulnerability at sharing your ass. I like to think the likes received had more to do with an appreciation for the guts this takes than the quality of said ass.
  • My coworkers did and do not care.
  • My family cares because I care … but otherwise, they do not care.

Perhaps the most valuable and important lesson I learned was from the photos themselves. They are, unequivocally, my most favorite photos of me I’ve ever seen. This is me, all of me, doing what I love … I’m working in these photos. I’m creating and I’m living and breathing and overweight and beautiful and powerful and it’s all perfect.

I hear often how ugly the internet is. I hear how people treat each other like garbage and forget that there are full and whole human beings on the other side of the keyboard. I hear about abuse and violence. I’ve seen small bits of that and I believe all of those stories and I listen and I nod and I know it to be true.

And then this happens. I put myself out into the interwebs in the most vulnerable way I know how and am met with love and support and acknowledgement. I am seen and I am held safe. I don’t know by what means I have found such a wonderful place in the world – but I do know how very lucky I am to be here.

“Stride” is the painting I began that day and forever will remind me of the confident steps I took toward vulnerability and honest self representation. There is a strength in that peace that I don’t always feel but am pleased to have captured.

I feel like this story could be told more eloquently, like I should brush this blog post up and make poetry – but there is also something raw and honest and authentic of just pushing publish on a draft and letting it sit as it is – naked.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jude Flegle says:

    You are truly a beautiful person inside your mind and outside. And why wouldn’t you be considering your Mother. She will always be my best and closest friend. I’m very proud and blessed to know her, and I think she wanted me to know you.

    1. Oh thank you my friend. I initially misread your comment and my response made no sense based on my misreading – so I deleted it and am replying anew. It’s so lovely to see you here and to read your lovely words. Thank you!

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