Idealized nude figures are a longstanding tradition in Western art history and, as viewers, we’re accustomed to seeing the female body exposed. But the bodies we see today — not only in art, but in magazines, films, and music videos — adhere to certain constraints in regards to their size, shape, skin tone, and even age. With her large-scale paintings, Brooklyn-based painter Aleah Chapin shows the beauty of realistic physiques not typically shown in our society’s visual culture.
Chapin’s recent work features women with pregnant bellies, wrinkles, sagging breasts, round tummies, and body hair. While her paintings have made some uncomfortable, many have lauded Chapin for her work’s emotional rawness. She paints her figures in grassy plains under cloudy skies. Women of multiple generations embrace one another tenderly, sometimes focused only on each other and other times gazing confidently at the viewer. Chapin’s use of nudity confronts viewers with the judgments we typically place on female bodies and reminds us that our bodies are more than eye candy.