Recently I went through a personal Renaissance. I left my life in New York. I moved – at the time alone – to Provence, in a country whose language I did not speak, to a town I had never been to, into an apartment I hadn’t seen. I had never lived alone. A lot has changed since that September day. In the silence of the French countryside I met myself. I met all of my selves. I learned that I can take out the trash, pay the bills, survive through scary noises in the night, take myself to dinner and the movies and do all the things I have always had a man around to do for me. In a sense, I discovered my own masculine side. I became empowered for the first time as a woman.
As a photographer, personal experience is realized through what one creates. Having this time alone to explore myself led me to create my Last Supper, which touches on the facets of myself: my feminism, my masculinity, the past, present, and future. Considering I am not a religious person, when I look at Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which portrays the moment where Jesus announces to his 12 disciples that one of them will betray him, I find the study of each of the characters a fascinating glimpse into the flaws of man. I took this concept and put biographies of myself into the painting. My interpretation both defines the complexities of a single human experience and explores the struggle of feeling betrayed by your own mind. The part of me that drinks too much, works too much, wants more money, wants perfection, wants to be desired. I do worry that one version of me could destroy another, a true betrayal of self. It is also a counter argument that we as women are defined by one thing: being a woman. I might be a woman but I also have a masculine side (the woman depicted on the far left) that is independent and smart and completely covered from my curves. On the other end of the spectrum (the woman on the far right) is the exact opposite. The most feminine, most natural version of myself. This is why she is portrayed nude, soft, and leaning on the undressed naked wood of the table top. I can be both; just as a man can be both strong and incredibly sensitive.
Now of course, I am a woman in a man’s painting of men. To be honest, sometimes I wish I were born a man. There are days when I just want to wear my comfortable men’s linen suit I bought on a recent trip to Aix em Provence with no makeup and just do my job. The importance of Leonardo da Vinci’s work to me is this: he painted women as masculine and it is that characteristic of his muses that is what makes them attractive. Most importantly, he gave them thoughtful eyes which to this day we still ponder. Of his few remaining female portraits, we can see a man who viewed women as intellectual equals, not merely beautiful objects. That is why in the centre all-knowing version of myself I am actually thinking – not about the photograph I am taking, but about what I know about who I am. I wanted her to show the same piercing clarity Jesus was portrayed to have had, to speak directly to the viewer about all of these women surrounding her, to be the grounding pure core of myself amongst the chaos. I wear red because it is the heart of the photograph and is the heart of who I am. It is also Dior, because I am in France after all.
Click image above to see in high resolution.
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My Last Supper photograph and essay “WOMAN” was first published in Men in this Town
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