Societal norms inform everyone’s expectations of behavior, grooming, and modesty. These expectations then establish where eroticism and sexualization of a subject begins. Why is there so much discomfort with the naked body, especially the female body? Why do we accept these social conventions and the inequitable way they are enforced? Growing up surrounded by these traditional gendered attitudes, I have spent my adult life questioning, challenging, and when possible, shattering these biased standards. My series of watercolor paintings of nipples, Hers, His, Theirs, are a visual representation of an intimate form on our bodies that I find particularly beautiful. These paintings are a defiant challenge to society and the belief that this subject matter is inappropriate or taboo. Each painting is modeled after a real person, chosen from images that are contributed and those that I find on the internet. These paintings illustrate the myriad shapes, colors, and textures present in the human nipple. I remove the remainder of the figure to eliminate any obvious evidence of gender and with it, the eroticism that drives these social taboos. Additionally, I place the image on the page, alluding to the form that has been omitted, allowing the viewer to imagine the body surrounding the nipple.
Watercolor serves as an ideal rendering method for the soft imagery of a nipple. The translucence available in the medium mimics the effects of skin with a delicacy I find essential to highlighting the beauty of the subject. I use the natural color shifts and blooms that watercolor is known for to determine which details I show and which I leave out. I layer colors, allowing for depth of hue, variance in tone, and interesting pooling to create texture and volume.
Included in parallel to the watercolors are a collection of feminist themed embroidered textiles. I allow myself to show the full form to examine similar issue through thread.
Feminism lives at the heart of my work. It is my intent that seeing and painting the unique beauty of nipples in a de-eroticized way will make the viewer question the societal conventions that I am challenging.
Jessica Badousek was born in Milton, Pennsylvania. My grandfather was a steel mill worker, and the rest of my family was generations of coal miners, mechanics, factory workers, and laborers. No one in my family had gone on to pursue a college education. They foisted their dreams on me hoping that I would not only go to college but would maybe go further and study law. To their dismay I instead moved to Nebraska at the age of 17, married at 20 and began a family. Nearly twenty years later, I developed an interest in attending the university. My family was shocked when again their aspirations for me were overlooked. Instead of law or business, I was resolved to study art. Now at age 40 I am finishing my [BFA] painting at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am excited to be making works that embrace my ideas of feminism through various media.