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Modern Bodies, Naked Eyes

by Claire O'Neill
Jun 17, 2009

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Renee Maurer, coordinating curator for a new art exhibition called Paint Made Flesh at the Philips Collection in Washington (see Susan Stamberg's Morning Edition story, sent us this note about one of the works in the show: Jenny Saville's "Hyphen":

"Hyphen" is a double portrait of Jenny Saville and her sister, but people comment that it looks like a painting of conjoined twins.

I first saw Saville's work in 1999, at the Sensation exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I had never experienced anything like these paintings; their power and scale were overwhelming. They have so much tension in them. Saville confronts the viewer with massive amounts of flesh and skin. She layers oil paint on the canvas as if she is adding layers of flesh and skin to the body.

Saville paints unconventional body types, figures that are obese, injured or disfigured, but in such a way that you can see her compassion; these are intimate works. Saville has always been interested in the human figure. She spent time with a plastic surgeon so she could learn more about people who alter their physical appearance. This influenced how she would physically shape and reform the body in her paintings, which tend to look like fragments grafted together, a patchwork of skin. R.M.

You can get a closer look at "Hyphen," and 12 more paintings from Paint Made Flesh, below.

For full screen, click on the four-cornered arrow icon in the viewer's bottom right.

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