One of the more provocative photographs in Natalie Krick’s show, Apocalypstick, up now at Glass Box Gallery, is of a female figure reclining on her back with her legs high in the air. The rest of the body disappears into the background through a curtain of electric purple, so that the woman becomes only her legs and what lies between. A sunset shines through the separated knees and a large cut-out of lipstick covers her vibrant vulva. This exhibition, curated by the artist, is composed of two different photo series: Natural Deceptions and How She Got Her Body Back. The pair of legs swathed in the electric purple is from the latter. The nudes in How She Got Her Body Back are unified through seductive colors and overt emphasis on sexualized body parts. The way I see it, this body of work is suspended between two potential concepts: the contemporary nude and the re-appropriation of the female body.
The feminist lens is not very kind to depictions of ideal female bodies in prone poses, especially when they are faceless and devoid of personality. The objectification of the female body and feminism rarely play well together. Feminism is usually at best when making the violence of the male gaze upon the body explicit. Often, art that highlights the gaze receives negative criticism for being too vague or lacking a clear concept, therefore allowing it to fall into a "validation of" instead of a "critique of." What is exactly challenged by questioning ideal beauty by showing ideal bodies or challenging the gaze by enticing the gaze, like we see in Kirk’s exhibition?
David Salle’s work, as described in the essay “Appropriated Sexuality” by Mira Schor, comes to mind because Salle, a well-received (albeit problematic) post-modernist, would contort the female body to the point of misuse. Those critical of his portrayal of women view these nudes as cursory and off-hand; arguing that his depictions were too vague to draw any conclusion that was not exploitative or abusive. In the case of How She Got Her Body Back, I would warn that similar exploitation exists here because without a clear indication of how to consume the images, we all become the objectifier.
The show closes on May 12.