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Dearest Art Collector by Sharmee Shah

Inspired by Guerrilla Girls

Dearest Art Collector,

I asked your male artist to paint me like I am-

far more than just flesh.

For my character runs deeper than the hollow collar bones he shades

and my thoughts grow bolder than the plump lips he reddens.

I asked your male artist to paint me

outside of the boundaries of beauty his white forefathers set. Boundaries

he adamantly accepts

and yet refers to himself as an ‘artist’. I’ve watched him squeeze tubes of white

to dilute my brown on his palette. He prefers to paint me a tender rose,

pretending that I am his la demoiselle- pink, virginal and ‘prime’ at just 17.

Or perhaps he’s just afraid of angering the “aahing” gentry

that resonates with skin of its own shade.

I asked your male artist to paint me

if he must insist, but with justice. Paint me as I am.

Without the pseudointellectual excuse of art movements that mandate

voluptuous-exaggeration and


For he refuses to acknowledge my loving relationship with my body,

his comprehension of it being only skin-deep,

painting me like a piece of meat

to be devoured through stares and the patriarchy you live off of

allowing you to sell me,

display me and

dispose me

as simply a piece of meat. Artistic.

I asked your male artist to paint me

by first stepping into my shoes to morph his art

from tunnel vision

to experiential.

For if he is to paint my tit then paint my thought too as I lay bare- all of me.

For my moment of empowerment is not your moment to objectify

but to learn.

For the shape of my body is not the shape of my being.

For he, you, and the gentry will unabashedly gaze at my suppleness but never into my soul.

I asked your male artist to paint me

brown, disproportionate and honest

or he’d be failing himself and his art,

for conforming to a definition of beauty

is disservice to Art itself.

And I ask you now dear art collector, with all your power and strength

why you choose to pelt our bodies

over our hearts and minds.

I advise you, dear art collector,

for there is indeed an easier way-

We also paint our bodies,

invoked by our sense of self.

We are the greater artists

of ourselves (and other things).

For we dive far deeper into our art

than the white man’s bland rhetoric.

Trust me, you will be collecting the complete picture.

All my love,

Sharmee Shah - a female of colour

*Male [Artist's] Gaze = The act [art] of depicting women from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer [consumer]. 

Nakedness isn’t problematic. The imbalance of power behind a piece of art that revolves around male primacy is problematic. The depiction of naked women by (primarily white) males to cater to the white male gaze is problematic. Their depiction of a naked women oscillating between the twin poles of a femme fatale or a passive decorative ornament is problematic. And the consumers lauding the creator as a genius and the authority on the depiction of females and their beauty is problematic.  #fury

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