My work challenges institutionalized and popularized systems of oppression. I am discouraged by the depiction of the female form that proliferates our society and has warped women’s concepts of self. Possibly more discouraging are attempts to rectify these matters by continuing to measure women solely in superficial terms. The nude suit series addresses projections of the body. These works explore perceptions of the body within the context of the art world, mainstream media, and public life. The ‘nude suits’ are wearable to reanimate and give agency to the truncated female form. They are sewn, soft and voluptuous yet challenge the concept of femininity through their indelicate imposition on the wearer and consumption of the body on which they are placed. The wearer is simultaneously clothed and nude, a nonsensical duality which discomforts the viewer.
Working directly with the body provides an entry-point for all viewers while allowing space for personal and cultural interpretation. The nude suits are both an instrument of fashion and a rejection of the confines as to what is advertised as feminine. The presence of the individual wearer disallows for objectification of the female form. The viewer is encouraged to consider the conditions that have shaped an individual rather than deconstructing an art object.
Elise Putnam is a San Francisco Bay Area artist and educator. She currently runs ArtsBridge, an arts-outreach program, and teaches the corresponding teacher training course through the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley.