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November 5, 2014

It was the Sound of their Feet. {Adult: Nude Portrait}

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What happens to you when you see a body naked?

Do you feel nervous? Do you blush? Do you feel ashamed? Do you get excited? Do you become judgmental? Are your thoughts pure?

Do you break your Sila? Does it make you smile?

The naked body is mostly seen as a sensual stimulus—still, like the breath. A body in the nude can bring us an immediate reflection about our present state of awareness, and challenge the mastery of our equanimity.

Regardless of how we feel when we see somebody naked, a nude is nothing else but in its natural condition. The rest of its experience is all in your mind.

Artist Aleah Chapin paints women in the nude.

This is a phrase that by itself attracts our attention right away. Here is where her art becomes transcendent. These women are not only naked, they are real. The observer gets to appreciate all feminine details of the body, at all ages. What some critique as repellent and grotesque won Aleah Chapin the prestigious BP Portrait Award in 2012, in London—a painting of a “woman in her sixties, smiling with her fulsome breasts resting on her stomach.”

This is not what most people idealise as a female naked body nowadays, which gives her present exhibit at the Flowers Gallery: “Maiden, Mother, Child and Crone” the touch of a controversial success.

We all, at some point of our lives, realise how the years affect our bodies and minds. We can choose to find comfort in behaving as we’re supposed to according to our age, and we dress the body to metamorphose into the persona we want to project. Disguising reality as it is, with an outfit, we believe we create the illusion of sex appeal to provoke admiration.

This, seen from a meditation practice perspective, can be worse than being naked—the body better serves our Sila when it does not distract us, or others, from our practice of meditation. Those who practice meditation choose to dress the body to avoid provoking any negativity (such as lust, envy, jealousy), since this defilement of the mind arises as sensations and they create only craving or aversion, causing us to suffer.

Nakedness, as well as reality, can be an enlightening experience, if you can see it as it is, and not only as you would like it to be.

“The female body is an incredible thing to paint,” says Artist Aleah Chapin, and she uses her art to transform the way we look at others, so we can transform the way we see ourselves.

She recognises herself in all the women she paints, observing that most women have issues with their bodies and experience insecurities. She points out that we let others tell us how our bodies are supposed to be, how we’re to live, and that we’re comparing ourselves with the social media fashioned image.

Through Aleah’s paintings, we see all types of bodies. Her intention is to help us accept every size and shape, and to remind us that we are not alone. Yes, we generally care too much what we look like, but it is still a good start to be willing to look at ourselves. Therefore, Aleah Chapin’s experience of the naked body is her way of finding beauty in every imperfection.

For the rest of us, it seems to be about how we feel when we see a naked body, as well as how we feel we’re supposed to behave at a certain age.

Aleah Chapin’s art asks us: Who am I naturally nude? How do I feel? Am I able to observe my respiration and bodily sensations, without craving or aversion? Can I remain aware, with a peaceful and balanced mind, generating only love and compassion? Is mine an experience of real harmony and happiness? 

Here, is where this meditation happens…or not.

Naked or not naked, how we experience nudity is all in our mind.

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Author: Yesica Pineda

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Used with permission from Aleah Chapin

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