Quinn Rockliff’s project to free the female form

Union Gallery

Rockliff's nude paintings.  
Credit: 
Supplied by Quinn Rockliff

Toronto-based artist Quinn Rockliff began drawing when she was coping with the anxiety as a result of a sexual assault. 

“I started drawing in order to untangle the mess I found myself in — I was trying to understand how I saw my sexuality after it had been violated,” Rockliff said. 

Then, when an ex-boyfriend threatened to leak her private photos, Rockliff took to painting to empower and encourage women to freely love and accept their bodies without any shame. 

In a day and age where the female body is constantly scrutinized in the media, Rockliff’s art has created a space for women to be celebrated in every shape and size. 

Her work consists of loosely-drawn silhouettes of the female body — shared on social media platforms — meant to emphasize the acceptance of nudity and sexuality in a public way. 

Rather than portraying an altered, idealized imagery of the naked body, Rockliff’s paintings and drawings are meant to acknowledge the various aspects of a woman’s body that aren’t necessarily celebrated in the mainstream culture. 

“I took to painting nudes as a means to negotiate what it means to shamelessly love your naked body in a time where women are increasingly struggling with how to present themselves online,” Rockliff explained. 

The continuous flow of her work — Rockliff is constantly producing new drawings — allows for little alteration to be made to the final product, creating a genuine representation of the female anatomy.

The temporary aspect of her drawings gives a sense of ease to her works, welcoming the viewer to study the naked body in an appreciative way, rather than in a voyeuristic one.  

Looking at her work doesn’t feel invasive to the women who are being represented, but instead acknowledges, accepts and admires the unedited female form. 

By representing the body on a social platform, her work reinstates the female presence in a positive way. 

Platforms such as Instagram have created a complicated space when it comes to the female body. On one hand, the explore page is filled with images of desirable ‘Instagram models,’ scantily-clad in bikinis or lingerie, reflecting the idea that this is what women should look like. 

On the other hand, Instagram also has the continuously -challenged policy that won’t allow consenting women to post photos of their bare breasts. 

This dichotomous relationship sends the message that women must maintain the image of being sexually desirable, but only to a certain limit. 

“I want to use the very platform that caused so much of my anxiety to confront the effects it has. We need imagery of women of colour, trans women, indigenous women, LGBTQ women, body positive women, all women, in order to shift what we understand to be the female body,” Rockliff said. 

The importance of the work that Rockliff and other feminist artists like her are creating is how it alters the representation of the female body, which still often is controlled and dictated through the desires of the male gaze. 

Through her artistic vision, she has created a safe space for women and their bodies to be empowered, commended and approved in a way that doesn’t succumb to the pressures of our standards of beauty.  

To Rockliff, her work has inspired her to continue to change the way society views the female body and it has furthered her interest in feminist art and what it can do. 

“The chasm of feminist art and technology is something I am very interested in. With the use of emerging technologies such as virtual reality I believe my art will surpass the medium and reach new levels of influence.”

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