By KAITLYN NAPLES
Bare Bones has put many artists’ works on display, and has exposed the talent of many creative beings in the city, and the area. For the first time, Bare Bones will be hosting a one-man-show that will be featuring artwork “out of the norm.”
Starting next weekend, Bristol Observer Editions Editor Mike Chaiken will have his photographs covering the walls of Bare Bones which will be displaying the human body of women in their natural form. While some may call this artwork provocative, Chaiken’s intent of the show is to spark discussion on just that topic.
The series, which is titled “God Doesn’t Want You To See This, “essentially is a visual opinion piece. I’m hoping people see how benign the human body, essentially, the female form is,” Chaiken said in an email interview. “And I hope viewers see how unfair it is that women must hide their beauty, and sensuality, simply because a man might get the wrong idea and be tempted into sin.”
Chaiken, who has been a photographer for 25 years, frequently attends fashion shows, locally and in big cities like New York and Miami, he constantly has brands sending him supplies to be photographed for publicity in the Bristol Observer, which typically requires a model to showcase the product. He has a network of area models, who have been able to use these published photographs for future jobs and add them to their portfolios.
There have been times when Chaiken receives both positive and negative feedback for photographs he publishes in the newspaper.
“Most of my work, I thought, was fairly benign, nothing worse than you would see in a department store flyer in a Sunday newspaper. But apparently not. It was criticized as inappropriate, a tad sinful, and sent out the wrong message to young women,” he said, which motivated him to do a little research on modesty for women and fashion, and also what religious bloggers had to say about these topics.
What Chaiken discovered was many bloggers posting that women who dress “inappropriately” or show some skin causes men to “misbehave” or “sin.”
“One columnist, a man, complained about women who wore provocative clothing to church because it distracted him from the word of God. Essentially, women were being blamed for the sins of men,” Chaiken said. “I was taken aback that in the year 2013 that this viewpoint was still held by some people.”
The intent of this show is a counterpoint this message, that women must dress more modestly so men won’t “sin.”
“I present the subjects in the most immodest way possible, but in a tasteful manner, to illustrate that the naked body by itself doesn’t generate sin,” Chaiken said, adding that he has the models holding computer tablets with words written on them that reflect what he has heard on the topic of fashion, either personally or from blogs. “As a side note, there is a criticism here of some practitioners and messengers of organized religion… but I have the greatest respect for organized religion as a whole.”
Chaiken wanted readers to be prepared that this art show will have nudity, however it is not vulgar. He said he worked with the models who are photographed only in ways where they were comfortable, and they pose in stances they chose and “where they felt beautiful.” He also worked with Bare Bones staff to make sure this is what they were looking for.
“But nudity is nudity, and this is America, and sometimes a nude body causes a reaction. But then that’s one of the messages of the entire series… that we should be past the days where the sight of female flesh—nude or just a flash of a navel— should cause a gasp and a cry of outrage.”
Chaiken’s hopes for the art show are two-fold in that he hopes to spark discussions on the topic of modestly and women’s fashion among viewers and how women are viewed in society, and he also wants Bare Bones to shine through after an art show of this topic since it has never hosted anything like it.
Michelle St. Pierre, art director of Bare Bones, said she feels very strongly about women’s rights, and finds it “alarming that there are still people out there in this world that think women are less than men,” or are at fault for abuse because of showing too much skin. “I appreciated how Mike addressed those falsities.”
St. Pierre said art isn’t always pretty pictures and paintings, but a means of expressing feelings and emotions and values. She said using art as a tool to help spark conversation and thought about relevant issues is important, as well as showcasing exhibits and different kinds of art to the Bristol community, which has never been done before.
“All I hope for our visitors is that they see this exhibit and think about how the world works and how women fit into it,” she said, adding that she wants guests of the exhibit to see the message that Chaiken is putting out there, “and come to their own conclusions on how women should be viewed.”
The nude form, Chaiken said, has been used for art for centuries, “so I’m not really exploring anything new here. But it says a lot about our society that the image of the nude form, especially the sight of the female form, automatically makes some people squirm and think, ‘pornography’.” The message may be provocative, he said, but the canvas, using nude models, is nothing new.
The show runs from May 10 to June 7. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, May 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. Advance tickets can be bought for $7 from http://www.meetup.com/barebones and at the door they are $10. Regular gallery hours are Sundays 12 to 3 p.m. and Monday and Wednesdays 3 to 6 p.m.