Talented Brooklyn-based artist Aleah Chapin created the ‘Aunties Project’ as an artistic vehicle for exploring the bodies of nude, aging, everyday women. ‘Aunties Project’ brought Chapin a first place award in Britain’s prestigious BP Portrait Award in 2012.
Senior Planet, dedicated to ‘Aging with Attitude’ interviewed Chapin via email in December 2013.
How did you, a young woman in her 20s, became interested in depicting older women’s bodies?
I’ve been obsessed with realism since I was a child. But I noticed that the subject has mainly been the idealized young, female nude. Although these paintings are undoubtedly beautiful, I wanted to see something that mirrored the world I saw around me. The Aunties Project is less about age and more about making paintings that fully embrace the real human body, this fascinating vessel that carries us through our experiences.
They seem so natural posing nude. Do they spend other time naked outdoors or was this just for you?
People have often asked me if I grew up in a nudest colony – which of course, I don’t blame them for thinking! But no, these women are not naked together very often. I asked them to pose and amazingly, they said yes. We’ve had several sessions where I get a group of them together outside and we take photos. It’s very much of a collaborative experience. I want to capture their reactions in the moment to me, each other and their surroundings. Life gives us an infinite outpouring of subtle emotions, physical manifestations of thought and experience that range from intense and dark, to hilarious and childlike. I want to make work that digs into all of this and everything in between.
Chapin knows the women who are the subjects in her ‘Aunties Project’ and agrees that they manifest an unusual confidence. Inevitably, her paintings take on the topic of body image and self image in a Photoshop world. The artist weighs in, saying:
Most women have issues and I’m not immune to that. We’re told that our bodies are supposed to be a ‘certain height, certain size, certain weight’. But the pictures we see are completely unrealistic; they’re very Photoshopped. We all know it when we look at them in magazines and yet, we still compare ourselves. That’s why we need images that show all sorts of bodies – so we can accept every size and shape. via