Tom Wesselmann's GreatAmerican Nude vs Piet Mondrian's Composition in White, Black, and Red I found that out of all the nudes pictured in the text, Tom Wesselmann's GreatAmerican Nude conveyed men's societal views of women the best. The supposed vanity of women, as symbolized by the self-portrait placed on the table beside the perfume bottle. The telephone placed right under her breast, perhaps a symbol of availability. Her arm flung behind her head, another indication of welcoming, availability? The blooming, open, red rose, the very symbol of love. For men, women are sexual beings to be dominated, to be loved, and to give love, for many, unconditionally. Domination is humanities most lamentable liability..
Color is a strong element in GreatAmerican Nude. Red and green dominate this painting. The color red represents strength, vibrancy, life. This woman is certainly vibrant looking, confident, happy; descriptions applicable to the color red.
She is surrounded by red, by strength. The green, evidenced in the perfume bottle in front of the nude and the cushion behind her conflict with the male view of this woman. The perfume bottle, a man's desire for her to be sweet-smelling and alluring also represents her pride. The cushion is man's desire for a woman to be soft and compliant, but it also supports her and gives her strength.
A woman's role in society, in my opinion, is based on a man's view of her. Tom Wesselmann's painting GreatAmerican Nude typifies how men see women. Faceless, vain, perfumed, sweet smelling concubines, waiting patiently and, naturally, naked and breathless for their man to arrive home and complete their day. What a silly notion. Wesselmann's treatment of the woman's face, or non-treatment of her face, symbolizes how man needs to see a woman. As a non-identity. It's much easier to use and abuse someone if you have no face attached. It's easier on your own conscience, no identity, no harm done.
It's the same in time of war. If a soldier looks upon a country's people as a large group, it's much easier to kill the faceless individual. But once seen, eye to eye, face to face, I believe, it would be more difficult for that same soldier to take a life. At least I hope so.
Piet Mondrian painted Composition in White, Black, and Red, in response to a horrific time in Holland's history. The starkness of this painting echoes the hopelessness of a whole people, a whole country, fighting to survive, fighting for a country they loved. The color black, typifying and accentuating the hopeless reality the people of Holland must have faced. The lone rectangle in the top left quarter of the painting balances the painting. It keeps the vertical line it touches from visually toppling over and out of the painting.
The bold horizontal black lines seem to float above the background of white. They are unencumbered and unconstrained, they are infinite. They could move freely off the canvas at top and bottom, but at either side, they seem stopped, abruptly by the two vertical black lines near the margins. But on the other side of those two vertical black lines are the "continuation" of the horizontal lines. They emphasize the movement prevalent in this piece.
The color red in Mondrian's Composition in White, Black and Red as in Tom Wesselmann's GreatAmerican Nude is representative of power. It is vibrant in the Mondrian. It is small but substantive. It forces you to look at it. What, then, does it represent? Is it the resolve Holland had in its desire to survival? Is it hate, the detestation of being dominated? Does it represent evil forces trying to encroach upon others? I like Piet Mondrian's Composition in White, Black and Red because of its simplicity in color, only three, and because of it's strength. It has tension. Solid, unbroken lines holding each other visually in place. Like a house of cards, remove one and they all may collapse. The history behinds this piece is significant if only to know what a difficult decision Holland faced, then made, then carried out. Holland had strength of character. Holland showed strength of character.
In GreatAmerican Nude , Tom Wesselmann paints the subject of a nude woman realistically, but as a man would see her. A woman sees herself differently. From a woman's perspective the framed image of herself indicates she is self-aware, a trait society finds unappealing. A woman who is commanding or authoritative is labeled headstrong, or worse, unfeminine.
Femininity is viewed by society as an essential aspect of womanhood. Note the perfume bottle in the painting GreatAmerican Nude, a symbol of woman's lure to man. Perfume is sold as a means of obtaining sex, even of obtaining love. Watch a perfume commercial and take notice of the women in it. Dressed in flowing, gossamer dresses, they typify a common male fantasy, a women in need of men. The women are seen reaching for a man or dreaming of a man or surrendering to a man.
Not often is a businesswoman or a woman in a powerful position featured in a perfume advertisement. The perfume bottle, without doubt, represents the view of women by male society, a feminine, desirous being. One who needs protection, one who could not survive without a man.
The commonality between the two paintings Tom Wesselman's GreatAmerican Nude and Piet Mondrian's painting, Composition in White, Black, and Red is the color red. And in both paintings it is a color of strength, endurance, vitality, tenacity and stoutheartedness.
So, how do these two paintings relate to me and my values and how do they relate to values of today's society? To some extent, the values symbolized by Tom Wesselman in his painting of GreatAmerican Nude are still existent. Fortunately, woman, these days, don't necessarily need the financial support of a man. They have high-powered positions, ones with authority. Nowadays it is commonplace to have a woman as Governor or Mayor, and one day, a woman may reside in the White House as President. Possibilities are endless for women. They no longer need to be the "serving wenches" of yesteryear, happy to be subservient to their "man".
Gone are the days of Donna Reed in her crisp white apron and pearl necklace serving up breakfast and dinner and needing the advice of her husband for every decision she needs to make. And thank goodness. I do not like the implications of TomWesselman's GreatAmerican Nude . In it, this woman uses her breast, which is bathed in a cold yellow light, as an entrapment, here it is for a price. She is reduced to a common harlot in this painting. Once again relying on a man for her survival.
Woman, these days lay themselves out like a banquet, but unlike Tom Wesselmann's, GreatAmerican Nude , today's woman chooses when she serves herself up to be feasted upon. Our children feast on our patience and guidance, our husband's feast on our love and fidelity and our friends feast on our accessibility and compassion. We offer these things, they are not taken from us unwillingly. But Piet Mondrian's Composition in White, Black, and Red , is again relevant, completely. We, Americans, are fighting against an evil perpetrated on us on September 11, 2001. Americans now, as Holland once did, must struggle with our conscience on what is an appropriate reaction to terror, in order for us to survive. An overwhelming feeling of sorrow enveloped our country and shrouds it still, just as it once encased Holland.
Survival. Nature's defense. Insects have, animals have it, even plants have it. We , all God's creatures, share this one strong instinct. Humanity, however, must use its conscience. While a soldier will still defend his country with his life or the life of his enemy, let us hope he will be discerning and not destroy the innocent. While a woman will still have to fight the constraints of a male dominated society, let us hope she can do so while keeping her self-worth intact.
We humans are forced every day to reassess our values based on whatever adversities arise in order to survive. Let's do it with compassion and kindness and mostly integrity. After all, survival is one of humanities greatest assets