Apes series: “Anima, Connate”

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“Anima, Connate” is the second painting in the Apes series.  It depicts an alluringly posed human female on a bed, watched over by a female orangutan in a thoughtful pose.  It’s a painting about femininity.  More specifically, it’s about male perceptions of femininity, as it’s the product of my inescapably male sensibility.  Each of these characters is alluring in her own way, and that power to allure is an inevitable and integral part of who and what she is.  “Anima” in Jungian thought is the feminine principal present in all of us.  In a broader cultural sense, anima is used to indicate the life force, or the “soul.”  “Connate” means inborn, or innate.  The human figure chooses here to display her physical allure, while the ape holds herself aloof, and ponders their common femininity.  I, as a male, can only guess (feebly), at what each is thinking, while doing my best to record the event.  Additionally, while I certainly possess my own Jungian anima, or feminine side, I cannot know in any meaningful way what it is… what it feels like… to exist in  female form.  While these two characters are separated by an evolutionary divide, the divide that separates male from female is perhaps as dauntingly unbridgeable, in terms of mutual understanding.

I had photographed this model, a friend, in an extended session which involved a wide variety of poses.  When I was viewing the resulting images, this particular pose kept drawing me back.  It seemed to me to be extraordinarily lovely, but I was reluctant to use it, as I felt it was too provocative.  I expressed this reluctance to a friend, and she said, “Of course you have to use it!”  The Orangutan I had photographed a couple of years earlier, and her attitude of thoughtful remove seemed to be exactly the right contrast to the open sensuality of the other figure.  The staging of the scenario seemed so theatrically contrived, that I drew upon my experience painting stage sets to create a leafy backdrop to frame it.

There is an element of turnabout here: we place fellow creatures in zoos and study their behaviors and, in our better moments, ponder our commonalities as well as our differences.  Here, the orang is the one observing her sister creature.  What she’s pondering, and what conclusions she’s drawing, only she can tell us.

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