Motivation: Artists choose content removed from reality is easily understood as the result of their creative musings. The power of that imagination is made manifest through our engagement and reaction to paintings like Ingres’ “La Grande Odalisque.” When this energy is positive it leads to enjoyment and enrichment. However, when it’s negative – xenophobia, censorship, vilification, stereotyping and fear are appropriated.
Artwork of the Orient (as done by Occidentals) of the last 300 years, which coincide with the period of “Enlightenment,” lack understanding today. By revisiting The Grande Odalisque by Ingres, we can better appreciate what was being imagined. By exploring concepts of cultural superiority and sexism inherent in Ingres painting of “The Other,” as well as understanding the shift away from Neoclassicism in content, we can better understand the fallacies of existent Occidental thought when the painting was produced.
Problem statement: Current culture may not understand the “imaginative” vs. the real circumstances under which these works were created. The result is a misrepresentation of a highly valued artwork. The deeper mysteries still remain shrouded in our current imagination where useless assumptions fill the void. This vacuum stimulates negative imagination about The Near East, stirs inaccuracies about nudity, who this woman really is, what she represents, women’s roles, and the improper Occidental appropriations to words like “Odalisque, “concubine,” “courtesan,” and “harem.” As well, it generates a false understanding of the culture it depicts. In fact, I would argue the painting itself is wholly imagined and does not depict anything of realistic import… including the physical implausibility of her body. The Odalisque is one of the world’s most revered paintings but also one of the most deceitful.
When we understand the real meanings and signifiers of cultural imagination at work i.e., the meaning of an “odalisque” for the Occident in context to an unenlightened period of human history, we can mitigate projecting/transferring cultural bias and negative imagination. We can only then truly appreciate and have a glimpse of the verisimilitude of human condition to be found in Orientalist Art.
A native Angeleno, Lori Escalera centered her artistic life in Southern California. In the 1990s, Escalera shifted away from corporate work to Fine Art. Her artistic interests are figurative. Escalera questions the artist’s place in the continuum of Art History. She is a cross-medium artist, who works in oil paint & pastel. In 1994, she began chalking and is recognized as a global Pavement Artist in Madonnari style work. She collaborated on two World Record attempts for largest 3D Pavement Art in FL (2014/15).
In 1981, Escalera opened a Graphic Design studio. In 1995, she founded “The Culver City A.R.T. Group,” a civic art group in an L.A. suburb and co-founded an environmental nonprofit, BCR. Escalera has instructed hundreds of children and adults drawing, painting, and cultural arts, in classes, camps, workshops, and private lessons. She also created community murals working with underserved sectors.
Escalera writes and speaks on DNA and Art. Her paper on gender Art ideology and Neuro-aesthetics is included in the Proceedings of The Representational Art Conference 2015. Her paper on Pavement Art as Fine Art Canon will be in the TRAC 2018’s proceedings.
Escalera has a B.A. Cum Laude from SDSU; & AA’s in Art at WLA College & L.A. Trade Tech.