Grace Graupe-Pillard standing fiercely on “Winged Victory” in the Louvre is an example of one of the composite photographs from her latest series, “Grace Delving into Art.” “Victory: Nike of Samothrace and Grace,” 2013, Archival Pigment Print, 30 x 20 in.
Last week, Women’s Voices for Change visited Grace Graupe-Pillard in her New York apartment. Grace is an artist whose art practice includes making drawings, paintings, photographs, installations, videos, Internet-based artwork, and large public sculptures. The artist lives and works in New York City and in a converted synagogue in Keyport, New Jersey, with her husband, Stephen. —Ed.
Grace Graupe-Pillard is an artistic dynamo, a powerhouse of energy and ideas. While she doesn’t publicly share her age, Grace is more forward-thinking and inventive than most artists who are a generation or more younger than she is. An avid user of Facebook, she embraces many forms of new media—and whatever she can use to get her artwork made and seen by the world.
In April, artist and entrepreneur Brainard Carey interviewed Grace on his radio program, The Artworld Demystified, for the Yale Broadcasting Company. The artwork that caught Brainard’s attention on Facebook was Grace’s most recent ongoing series of composite photographs, called Grace Delving into Art. In this series, Grace appears to be interacting with well-known artworks, or reacting to them, in galleries and museums all over the world. The artist is naked as she climbs, rides, lies down beside, or weaves herself into specific artworks from throughout the history of art. Her nakedness seems natural, and her interaction with the artwork is usually humorous, sometimes whimsical.
Brainard was eager to speak to Grace, because he believes that she is posting the first ever made-for-Facebook artwork. Grace joined Facebook in 2005 and has been developing her art community and artistic practice on Facebook ever since. At last count, Grace had 3,634 Facebook friends.
What makes these artworks “made-for-Facebook” is the fact that Grace takes into consideration the simple rules about nudity on the Facebook social media site when she is creating and posting her photographs. For example, in order to avoid censorship, she is careful not to show her genitalia. It is permissible to show breasts, no matter what their size, shape, or age, so she does. Buttocks are also fine.
Grace has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to Grace Delving into Art on Facebook. The series has generated lively discussions on topics such as art history, body image, changing ideals of beauty, feminism, aging, age discrimination, the role of the artist in society, and even mortality. Grace is delighted by all the feedback she is getting and has learned a lot from the comments, status ratings, threads, and notes she has received.
But not everyone approves of Grace’s latest artworks. There are also a number of people who are upset by her naked body and consider it unserious, unnecessary, inappropriate, or even provocative. While she is somewhat hurt and disappointed by this negative reaction to her artwork, Grace insists that it is important for her to continue making work using her naked body, as she has done continuously since 1977.
In 2010, Grace started using Adobe Photoshop to combine naked images of herself with photographs of different landscapes or locations. This ongoing series is called I Can Still Dance and is accompanied by a video called I Can Still Dance and Paint, 2010.
In I Can Still Dance, Grace takes her own photographs or appropriates images from other media, like magazines or the Internet, and places herself without clothes on in a variety of humorous situations where she appears to be invisible to any people who happen to be around her. There is naked Grace with sunglasses popping out of a hole in the road in the middle of New York City. There is naked Grace with sunglasses dancing alone in an elevator. There is naked Grace with sunglasses, unnoticed in a camera store. There’s naked Grace standing in Penn Station.
When Grace first started posting these photographs on Facebook, she realized that she would have to self-censure them or they would be taken down. So she covered her genitalia and breasts with black rectangles in order to be able to share the images.
“Some people just don’t want to see me without clothes on. I guess it scares them to see an older body. Maybe they think that my body is disgusting and they are repulsed by it,” Grace mused. “But you know what? I’m not going to stop. Not only am I having too much fun, I am raising serious issues that need to be discussed.”
WVFC will be posting Part 2 of “Still Dancing and Painting: the Art of Grace Graupe-Pillard,” next week. More images of Grace’s work can be seen on her website at http://ggp.neoimages.net