Interview by Terry Doe
Fahren Feingold is a contemporary American illustrator and watercolor artist whose paintings signify fluidity, eroticism, and sensuality while making a statement in opposition to censorship of the female form.
Feingold is steadily gaining international acclaim within the art world as a formidable advocate for freedom of expression. Her artistic works are part of an effort to undo centuries of oppression, shaming, and patriarchal politics that cloud the pure and natural beauty of the naked body.
Glassbook sat down with the artist, who recently opened a solo exhibition entitled “Le Peep Show” in collaboration with The Untitled Space and Fleur du Mal.
TD: Over the years, your work has come to be regarded as fluid, yet maintaining a sense of power and potency. Would you say these qualities are a continuous theme throughout all your work, and why are these juxtapositions so important and essential?
FF: For me, the role of opposing elements has always been an important one, creating sub-narratives and diversity. Juxtaposing subject with the medium is a way of enhancing my message, by offering a subtle delivery while still achieving a direct impact.
TD: As with anything that is physical when studied, one always draws an emotional response. What emotional response do you get upon looking at your own work after you have completed it and then revisited it?
FF: Each painting is different, and it ultimately depends on where I was at, emotionally and mentally, when I was painting. When I look at each painting, they take me back to the moments and feelings during creation. After some time and distance from the painting, I can appreciate them more or look at my work with less of an emotional attachment.
TD: And what overarching emotional response do you hope a viewer gets on looking at your work?
FF: I want people to look at my art and feel something personal. I can’t decide for them what emotion or memory that might evoke, as art is intensely personal. But if they can relate to the women, I paint on an emotional level, and then I feel as though I reached them.
TD: Do you ever show representations within your artworks of the male gaze, or ever provide your perspective of the male form?
FF: Not yet, but soon.
TD: In what ways would you say that differs from what you reveal emotionally in your depictions of the female form if any at all?
FF: Being a woman, I have personal insight into the inner workings of women and the emotional gestures of the female form. I haven’t spent nearly as much time studying the male form.
TD: Let’s talk a bit about censorship within your work? Do you find that you are limited in what you can expressively portray within your work, for it to be received either by the art world and the general public?
FF: Censorship is just as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. It’s amazing how we believe that we’ve made progress, and yet we are still censoring nipples like a Roman statue. I am often censored on social media by Facebook and Instagram for ‘showing too much skin’ regardless of my posts being a painting. Today, it is nudity in and of itself that is becoming sweepingly blocked regardless of the message, while porn reigns free. Meanwhile, many Americans are still apprehensive to purchase nude art for their homes, for fear of being judged that the art might represent their private sex life.
TD: Are there any limitations you place within yourself?
FF: If I’m not comfortable with something, then I don’t paint it.
TD: What setbacks do you find women have today, and how do you try to break down those walls within your work?
FF: I think that women should stand together more -we are much more powerful when united. So much of my art is about what connects us all as women, regardless of country, race, age, and wealth.
TD: Have you ever received any unwanted or negative feedback/backlash regarding the rather, what some would say, sensitive, all too physically and emotionally revealing nature of your work?
FF: I have been very fortunate, so far, I have not received anything I feel to be negative feedback.
TD: In your view what are the pressing issue’s in society as it relates to the rights of women, self-expression, and a woman’s ability for the control and ownership of the body, image, and likeness?
FF: We live in a world where the media hyper-sexualizes women’s bodies, while at the same time raises puritanical standards censoring the right to show our own bodies. It’s difficult not to get upset when you see the impact it makes on young girls and women’s self-image and self-worth. I think that women should reclaim their sexuality and the right to their bodies. Determine what we want to show, how we should be treated, what we want to do in a relationship or not in a relationship –instead of letting others tell us what is ‘normal’ or ‘legal’ or ‘age appropriate.’ When we take ownership and determine our value, others will follow.
TD: 20th-century French Erotica greatly inspires your work. How would you say the French have been able to, over time, embrace eroticism within the female form that differs from the US?
FF: The French, and many other countries are not ashamed of the human form. Here in America, so many children are raised to be embarrassed by nudity and don’t understand the naked body. Children are taught to cover up and feel shameful of showing too much skin, which only gets worse as they become adults. So, when people see nude paintings, it feels inherently taboo.
TD: Can you please tell us about your current exhibition “The Peep Show” and your collaboration with Fleur du Mal?
FF: Many of my subjects are referenced from early 1900s French nude photos as well as vintage 70s erotic imagery. Fleur du Mal’s aesthetic is very much based on 70’s Parisienne romanticism but still has an edge to it.
My aesthetic has always centered on juxtaposing objectives. Watery and dreamlike colors used for subject matter that feels forthright and exposed. Using beauty to seduce the viewer into listening to my message, or at least taking a moment to look at the painting.
The gallery space is intimate and creates a unique environment for the viewer. Le Peep Show is like a secret room, and you get to steal a private moment, away from the busy everyday hustle – share a cocktail and a secret with a painting.
“The Peep Show” runs until July 8th, 2018 at the Fleur du Mal Pop-Up at 175 Mott Street in New York.