ReadingWoman.org / Essays / 2004 / No.4: Why only reading women?

Friederun Hardt-FriederichsEssay No.4May, 25 2004

Why only reading women?

Sigi Oberlaender, in Florida living artist and translater of the first essay asks in an interview with Friederun Hardt-Friederichs why the project www.ReadingWoman.org includes only reading women and not men.

FHF
Mister Oberlaender, you as translater saw the beginning of the project www. ReadingWoman.org as one of the first ones. What was your first spontanous impression?

SO
The first impression I got, was, here is a group of women, maybe even suffragettes, who just want to show to the world "we are not just a bunch of dumb blondes, we are educated! The proof is shown in the painting, right here!"

Winter in Florida
Figure 1:
Winter in Florida,
Sigi Oberländer (USA)
Oil on canvas; 71 x 56 cm

With friendly permission of the artist.

FHF
First of all, there is no "bunch of suffragettes", at least not nowadays. But there is a growing number of educated and secure women, that know the devolopment of female emanzipation, or would like to know more about it, especially the historical development. At the same time they are very well aware that it will take a long time to have complete equality between men and women in the world. If such a project, like the www.ReadingWoman.org, contributes to elucidate the position of women historically in their role in society will this be of interest to both, men and women. Everyone, who is interested in womens problems and works in this field, will gain from this project. Independent of the results, they will get insight into the situation of both sexes during the time period in question. Women that work in research about women and culture sciences with the same theme as background, will be interested in the careful observation of the outcome.

SO
The question I have is: why restrict this to women, since I have seen an art exhibition of reading people that included all kinds of people, men, women, girls, boys, rich, poor, etc.... Maybe this is the result of a bunch of women (insecure with themselves?) discussing their case in a "Frauen-Cafe", that traditionally does not allow males to visit (maybe on certain occasions only).

FHF
My personal answer to the question with regard to the limitation to Reading Women is simple: first, the theme about Reading Women facinates me and not about reading men. Why? Second, such a parallel investigation would be absolutely desirable, but it would not be done by me - at least not at this time. The subject seems to become endless, not only with regard to the list of works.

SO
I could feel like being left out. But I don't care. So, I am not going to start something similar for men only and I am not going to cry foul.

FHF
That is regrettable. I salute you: Take the initiative, start with a collection of Reading Men! How do you see the situation of women all over the world with regard to schooling, education and equality to men?

SO
Yes, I am aware that there was and unfortunately still is a lot of injustice towards women in this world, especially with respect of education and equal treatment to men. For currently very popular examples look to Afghanistan or parts of Africa. If this movement "The Reading Woman" will help the situation of these women in the world, I am all for it!

FHF
What do you think as painter when you see a picture that shows a reading woman?

SO
However, I tend to agree with Renoir, the book in the hands of the model helps her to sit still and relax. The same applies to male models, of course.

FHF
Have you ever painted reading women and what was the reason? Can you give examples to explain your thoughts and imaginations to this subject?

SO
When I painted "Winter in Florida" (figure 1), showing my wife sitting outside in our back yard with a blanket over her knees, I gave her the book that she read at that time. Everybody who has painted a figure or posed as a model knows how boring this can be. Especially for someone who has other interests than just daydreaming. Since My wife and I like to read, it was, therefore, the most natural thing to do: to give her her book! The relaxing part of this is important, the model then just does not look "posed".

Ligia
Figure 2:
Ligia,
Sigi Oberländer (USA)
Watercolor on paper; 43 x 56 cm

With friendly permission of the artist.

The same holds true with my water-color "Ligia" (figure 2), a computer engineer from Medellin, Columbia. She is beautiful and highly educated and wanted to be painted. To make use of the boring sitting she had asked if she could read the book she had started to read.

FHF
Do you believe that your opinion to help a model to maintain its position by using a book, is beeing or has been used by other artists? Can you imagine other intentions?

SO
For the portrait of a person that has to do with law, education and other studied people, it is natural to use appropriate books as props for the painting. Appropriate is the word. Not just any book could do. For example, it would not be right to show a clerical person with a pornographic book; it would be right though for Larry Flint, the publisher of Hustler magazine.

FHF
Could the depiction of a Reading Woman be an attraction to a collector?

Sigi Oberländer
Sigi Oberländer
SO
To attract a collector of art to buy an artists work by including a book in the painting? I don't know. Maybe if the woman is beautiful, nude and not shown in a vulgar position holding a book, that might work.

I promise, I will only pursue to paint it, if a client would like to have this exclusively requested.

FHF
Mister Oberlaender, thank you very much for your opinion.

Personal:

Sigi Oberlaender dedicates his time since 1999 as painter and art teacher after a successful international career as chemical process engineer.





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