A Quick Promotion

Apologies for my long absence to those who read my blog. I have been torn for years between keeping a blog or abandoning it altogether simply because it seems difficult to hold people’s attentions more and more these days, as well as not gaining enough of an audience here to be motivated to write my thoughts and musings.

In any event, I have converted my website to another platform so if you are interested in my photography and art, here is the link to my site – www.annmarietornabene.net. In addition, from the 5th through the 13th of March, my series Les Peintures will be on display during the Salon Photo International in Alsace in the town of Riedisheim. If you just happen to live near there, I will be there during the 2 weekends and will also be talking about my photographic history and how the series came to fruition…in French. This will be the first time that I speak in French for longer than a few minutes so this should be interesting!

I hope to post more in the future but you can always subscribe to my newletter for up to date info on me and my work! Stay well!

Movement with Bird (censored version) © AnnMarie Tornabene

Modèle Vivant and the Journey of Self-Acceptance

I have written plenty of times about my experiences as an artists’ model and my quest of self-acceptance in terms of my body but I am writing this with more musings.

For those readers who don’t know me, my name is AnnMarie Tornabene-Boivin and I am a self-portrait photographer/artist and an artists’ model for over 23 years. Both of my careers happened almost simultaneously. I was asked by a painter if I would consider posing for a group of seasoned artists during my last few years at university when I was working on my thesis project which was a series of full-color nude self-portraits. I was and am a large woman and had been abused physically and verbally through my childhood, early adulthood and led to many personal problems. Photographing myself was how I wanted to start the process of self-acceptance and then the thought of posing nude for others would be an additional step in that process. That one class that I posed for led to another and then another and through reputation, the jobs became plentiful and while I worked other, more standard jobs at the time, the modeling took precedence as my method to make a living.

What also happened was that I gained more confidence, not necessarily in what I looked like as a woman in the actual world, but that in the art world. I began to think that I was beautiful. My curvaceous body was and is revered by sculptors, especially but I believe that my curves add something very interesting in all of the mediums and I have often been told this. 

I was never once scared standing on the model stand nude because I knew that I was in the artistic realm. However, over the years, I did experience certain reactions, both positive and negative from artists and art students. I lost and gained weight and I have aged all on stage. People have seen me either as a goddess (their words!), an inspiration, or someone who vastly needing improving. A story regarding the latter – around 2009, I lost a significant amount of weight somewhat quickly and from that and my age, my skin sagged tremendously and created lots of different and strange shapes. I was more uneasy with who I was during this time period than before because of that but whenever I was on that model stand, I shooed those thoughts away. Except…a woman whom I posed for over some years, pulled me aside during a break and told me that she had the phone number of a very good plastic surgeon that could help me. Paraphrasing only slightly, she said “it’s a shame because you have such a beautiful face. You just need to firm that body up”. During that time I heard more under-handed compliments made than ever before. “You are half the woman you were!” “Wow, something must have scared you a lot to lose that much weight!” “Wow, you are beautiful NOW!” Believe it or not, it was that time, so many years into my modeling career that I started to feel the scrutiny of my body. Yes, of course I knew that I was being studied as that has always been the intent but never before did I realize that people thought that they personally knew me to the point to be able to just say whatever was on their minds about what I looked like. On the positive side, I did receive standing ovations from young budding art students after posing and some young women (and men) approach me telling me how brave they thought I was and so inspiring. I continue, this day, to get those comments even as I have gained some of that weight back and continue my career after 50 years old.

So, at 51 years old, I now also have arthritis in my knees, constant back and leg pain and a slowness of going from one pose to another. In addition, now without a car, I need to haul myself onto all forms of public transportation sometimes taking me 3 hours round-trip to get to a model gig. I am tired and hurt on some level during and after every model job. So why do I continue? Because once I begin to pose, my soul takes flight. Especially when I am doing short poses, can I express myself with grace and as much freedom as my body allows. Because even though I am able to do this for the camera in my personal art work, being able to do this to others more directly gives me a hope that I can be a muse just as much to a more classically formed model and with my age and experience, more substance as well as what I like to call and aged beauty. Perhaps vanity was once a defining motivator but it’s hard to be vain in an “imperfect” body that is exposed to the world. I would rather use the word proud than that, and proud that I am still here and still doing this fantastic job that I love. Below, I am including a little slide show of me posing over the years and I have included one where I weighed the most as well as a couple with one of my favorite models, and friend, whom I had the pleasure of posing with for many years.

Dear Facebook

What I sent them today, after finding ” a way”. Once my ban is lifted, this will go public.

Dear Facebook,

Once again, I  must thank you for hindering my art promoting. It thrills me SO much for seeing you and your algorithm/robot giving me countless violations and bans due to accidental or intentional postings of my artwork which shows my breasts. Wait – it is MY NIPPLES that you feel are offensive to the online community, not even my breasts. This is already funny since I am a large woman with sagging breasts so my nipples barely make an appearance.

13 violations, a 7-day ban this time, 30 days the next and a threat that my professional page will be unpublished.

Community Standards:

Your standards talk about violent and harmful things that would upset and offend someone. They talk about bullying, verbal attacks and more. Those standards talk about free expression under certain terms. I understand all of this, yet every time I scroll down my news feed, I have to scroll through one negative post after another. We are all in danger of: COVID, another election that could extend Trump’s term as president, constant news of asking for thoughts and prayers to people that are sick and dying. Any sense of a positive post only seems to come in the form of photos of cute animals – but wait, not without other posts from vegans sharing what is happening to those cute animals. Almost everything I see has a direct psychological effect on me, and not in a positive way. Harmful enough?

Oh but you DO list reasons that women’s breasts can be shown:

– act of protest

– pictures of breastfeeding or after-birth moments.

The latter is something that would truly upset me. What woman would have her breasts out after she gave birth and WHY would she want to share that on social media? Having said that, if she is allowed to, then she has the right.

So here I am – an artist who photographs herself and sometimes nude. The nudity acts as something vulnerable – the literal baring of myself and one that some people deem courageous. There is NOTHING pornographic here and if someone is offended by the work, they ALSO can scroll past, delete my friendship, etc.

I am also a “starving” artist. Social media has given me the opportunity to promote my art as much as possible and if a person, instead of an algorithm or robot actually reviewed these posts more carefully, they could see that there is nothing harmful about my posts.

I have read some artists have tried to protest Facebook’s standards but it seems it has gone nowhere. Yes, I have a choice to walk away from Facebook and Instagram. I would rather not as they have proven to be important enough links to my self-promotion so instead I will fight you.

I urge you to re-evaluate your priorities on what you deem as appropriate or not on social media because if you won’t ban political posts, ones that show violence during protests or the slaughtering of animals as they can be harmful for many, then my self-portraits have NO RIGHT TO BE BANNED.

The image that created this latest ban. Offensive, harmful and damaging to the psyche, huh?:

homagetocaravagecensoredwhy

 

Cry for Dawn

In the late 80s/early 90s, I was a tiny bit comic book geek. Two comics that I collected and read feverishly were ElfQuest and the lesser-known Cry for Dawn.  Dawn – the hot, female liaison between Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil was who I aspired to be – especially who I wanted to look like, in spite of the knowledge that yes, yes, she is a drawn comic character, drawn by a male as an ideal hottie. Still, I gave in to my thoughts of “if only I looked like”…

I don’t remember all of the stories from the comics, except that she was always there when the internal conflict of good and evil came up. And she was there to talk to Lucifer to calm him down, and to be the voice of reason, I suppose. She was also there to show that one cannot exist without the other. I know the author/artist did not create her so simply but it’s what I have taken from it.

BedtimeDAWNs
Artwork © Joseph Michael Linsner

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Artwork © Joseph Michael Linsner

Because of my Catholic upbringing, the concept of good, evil, Heaven and Hell are ingrained in my mind. Although I don’t follow Catholicism, it is there and in so much of my artwork. It makes for good dramatic scenes, and I don’t deny that consequences to our actions don’t exist. It may not take the form of places in the afterlife – it could even mean karma – but the ideas can very much weigh on our minds.

The image that I created as Dawn here in 1998 only shows the thorny rose that she wore around her wrist. Oh the thorns, oh the rose. A very concrete symbol of good and evil and the need to have both.

dawninfrared1998
Dawn © 1998 AnnMarie Tornabene

I believe that this image kick started the idea of using spiritual symbols in my work. It certainly took over images time and again:

afeebleattempt
A Feeble Attempt © 2016 AnnMarie Tornabene

incaelisetterra
In Caelis et Terra © 2014 AnnMarie Tornabene

 

 

 

judgement
Judgement © 2019-2020 AnnMarie Tornabene

homagetocaravage
Homage to Caravage © 2020 AnnMarie Tornabene

saintjerome
Saint Jerome © 2020 AnnMarie Tornabene

And while I may not nor ever look like Dawn, I have to thank the artist/author for attracting me to her enough for me to open the pages and read something of depth.

All images copyrighted by the artist. NOT FOR USE.

 

Large Models ≠ Classical Realism?

 “As the models from which the students worked were already idealized works of art, they helped to inculcate in the students a mannered vision of nature, which encouraged them to draw the live model in a conventional, idealized and non individual way. Although the anatomical idiosyncrasies of the human figure were a shock to the students’ unaccustomed eyes, the tendency to see the form only in abstract line and tonal gradations was already well ingrained. Models were commonly posed in noble stances derived from antique statues, which both aided the transition from cast to live model, and maintained the emphasis on the classical tradition.”  – Jose Parramón author of The Big Book on Oil Painting.

This quote is taken by a very interesting article about the definition of academic art from its roots to modern day and the role it plays. You can read the article HERE.

This topic of what ideal means, in art especially, has been on my mind for many years. As a self-portrait photographer, my life’s work includes the concept of self-acceptance and body image and as an artists’ model, that objective continues. In the 23 years that I have been posing, I have posed for only one or two actual art academies that teach academic, classical realism drawing. And in those academies, only once did I pose nude, full figure. The other times were all portrait sessions.

I know that the academic goal in art as to capture the real – to focus on the conventions of a body – the proportions, the forms, the way the light and dark cast on the body, the movement and to learn about the anatomy. The “goal” in learning academically, as states in the article, is to become a “master” – leaving out impressionism, expressionism, etc.  So sure, they all start learning from plaster casts that do not move and are perfectly sculpted to models that look just like the casts. A non individual way.

“The term “classical” refers to an idealized concept of natural beauty”

figure6

But why….why are the academies still so hung up on only studying what they consider still, after hundreds of years, a thin body, a non-individual body and call it ideal? Why not an individual body, first and in this day and age why not a large body? Does it have to do with the psychological thought that the larger body is not deemed healthy, hence not fit for being a standard for beauty? And what difference is it to draw from a cast that is of a naturally curvy body?

Do artists that want to learn classical realism really desire to only draw the same type of thin or muscular body? Maybe they do but I fail to see why it would not be beneficial for academic art academies to also use more supple, sculptural, fleshy models. I believe that we can be as good a learning tool for the students to master and maybe even more so as there are more challenges and more interesting aspects to look at.

Of course today, there are indeed more models that are larger and more artists that draw/paint/sculpt them/us. However, it’s rare that I see these works done by a classical realistic artist. Here is one example, from a renowned academic artist – Steven Assael yet he seemed to have left her body unfinished:

Nellie+hi+res+tiffassael

On the other hand, I will have to give kudos, I suppose, to a French academic artist Michel Lauricella for publishing a couple of books on the subject of how to draw large models academically, although on his personal website, there are no drawings or paintings as such:

morpho1

morpho4

So this is where we are in the year 2020 in the academic art schools. Perhaps one day, a contemporary master will open an academy, open his/her mind and include more of us in his/her curriculum. I adore the mark-making and the academic look of drawings and would love to be part of those collaborations in addition to the more expressionistic ones I am part of already. If only….

homagetocaravge3

warriorwoman

What a time…

I hope that those who are reading my blog are doing ok as the confinement continues. Here in France, things are evolving and not in the way I agree with. Commerce will be re-opening, as well as day care centers my guess is so parents can go back to work, although…what work?) but restaurants, tourism, cultural aspects remain closed. Masks are not exactly mandatory, except in the transportation, but strongly suggested and the attestation – the piece of paper that we must carry that authorizes our outings, will no longer be needed.

We have only been in confinement for less than 2 months. No vaccine or definite treatments have been made and while things are “leveling off” a little, it is certainly not enough to let the “animals out of their cages” more. Not when many of them are still too idiotic to respect the rules in place plus our country does not have masks to supply us so we have to look elsewhere for them, or make our own. But this is not what I really want to post about.

Because I have been out of work since the beginning of March and will continue to be until the Fall, I have begun creating online, weekly model sessions for artists who obviously do not have access to classes right now. Last week was the first one and it really is amazing that we have the technology to be able to do this. 22 artists participated and I didn’t have to leave my house! I put up a backdrop and with window light, created a nice chiaroscuro.

Having said that, the chiaroscuro was not as strong as I had hoped because the built-in laptop camera compensates for low light, constantly making things too light. In addition, as everyone is on the internet more than usual and especially using video conferencing platforms, like me, there is a loss of image quality. It is what it is.

Today is the second session and I am looking forward to it. While I have a lot of time to create my artwork, posing for others has always been part of that art-making. My posing for others has inspired my art and vice versa. It makes perfect sense, since I began the 2 endeavors simultaneously.

And as for my art, I am doing. I am thinking. I am repeating themes/symbols over and over to see if I get the images right.

connection
Connection ©2020 AnnMarie Tornabene

Natural Elements

I always brought nature into my indoor shooting scenes. In fact, at this moment, I think my studio is beginning to look a little like The Blair Witch Project with branches and ropes hanging from the walls.

Joking aside, for me, the symbols of nature are profound – they represent strength (resilience), even in death – wood, natural fibers and bone. Unless fire is introduced, none will truly decompose. You can break them into a million pieces, change the composition but they are still, at the core, there true strong selves.

So I include them in many of my scenes as reminders that I am strong and resilient. I have been through many very difficult times in my life – I have been broken in mind and spirit and the outcome has led to anxiety and panic disorders. I also continue to have some difficult personal circumstances but I think I have survived a lot and there is inner strength. However, I do need these reminders so I bring the elements back into view.

Here, I want to share some images past and 2 from yesterday including some of these reminders.

specimen
Specimen

becoming
Becoming

naturemorte
Nature Morte

seercensored
The Seer (censored)

website update

I updated my website. You can now click on an image to take you to each series via my homepage, however, click on Portfolio for more series as well. I also encourage you to sign up for my newsletter if you have not already done so. Thank you so much for looking and PLEASE SHARE!

J’ai mis à jour mon site. Désormais, vous pouvez cliquer sur chaque image via mon page accueil, cependant, cliquez sur le lien PORTFOLIO pour regarder aussi plus œuvres. Je vous encourage également à vous inscrire à ma newsletter si vous ne l’avez pas déjà fait. Merci beaucoup de regarder et partagez, s’il vous plait!

Screenshot 2020-04-09 at 16.12.20

During this Pandemic

I wanted to create a post today in order to preserve a sense of normalcy in what are difficult times. As the pandemic continues, I think it is necessary to keep doing as we do within the confines of our homes. Here, I continue to create. It is always a necessity for me and why would that stop now? I have also taken time to organize my studio space and print up some tests of my newer work to reflect upon (on the right of some old work). Here are some photos of my workspace from a converted bedroom. It works. Obviously, I use other spaces in which I shoot. (And no, the Gibson is not mine. ;))

studioview1computersetupcamerasandprintboard

Not on the boards are some other images that I could not print yet. I would like to share here a couple more. The Message is unfortunately censored a little for the social media morons.

“From Hebe”

fromhebe“The Message”themessagecensored

I also want to take this moment to say to my readers that we will get through this. Yes, it’s scary and makes many of us full of anxiety but, it might sound strange but maybe in a way, this was a sign for us to stop for awhile – stop moving in other places, think, create, be and also to allow nature and wildlife to renew..renew as Spring does. My love to you all.