Day Seven: 10 Paintings in 10 Days
Painting number 7 is a big step away from what I had envisioned originally for this series. I have gotten away from the pure portraits of the ladies, which were taken from their health registration photo IDs, and I now want to show them in context of their life. The more I study this subject, the more fascinated I am by the daily life and social position of these women.
When I began painting them, I felt sorry for the shady ladies of San Miguel’s past. However, a book I’ve been listening to (audiobook style while I paint, a big time addiction for me) documents the lives of 1860s-1930s harlots from Colorado, and it has introduced me to a new concept of these women’s life. The book, Brothels, Bordellos, and Bad Girls, talks about how many of the ladies of the night were not victims, but wild child types who did not want to live the formulaic, oppressive life of pious mothers with a hoard of children to support. They wanted to get drunk and dance and sleep around, be independent and make their own money. In many ways, the average female U.S. college student has a lifestyle more similar to the bordello girl’s than to the proper social lady’s life a century back.
Anywho, here I used a reference photo from the infamous prostitute shots from Storyville, a 1912 New Orlean’s brothel where photographer E.J. Bellocq got intimate with the madame and was able to peek inside the lives of his muses when they were working, playing, and relaxing.
I’m having so much fun putting the ladies in context–although the scene is from 1912 New Orleans I will be using a face from the San Miguel girls, and with Mexico being a little bit behind the fashion the states I think it is still very fitting. More importantly, these girls shared the connection of their profession, their status, and in this photo in particular, one might imagined that there were times that they enjoyed their job.
Painting this gave me a much bigger appreciation for the composition. Although I loved the photo at first glance, only after I took the time to look deeply as an artist did I notice just how MANY patterns and designs liven up this image. The stockings are the focal point, of course. Love it!