Life 7 – On The Shelf, by Annabel Rainbow

Life 7 – On The Shelf

177cms x 118cms




I shall probably fiddle a bit more but in essence Life 7 is now finished.



The wallpaper stripes say:
Mood swings: chocolate, cats, wine, Black cohosh, divorce
Weight gain: diet, exercise, bigger clothes
Hot Flushes: fan, soya, exercise, light clothes, HRT, diet,
evening primrose oil
Insomnia: Remove clocks, no caffeine
Depression: clonidine, gabapentin, toy boy, acupuncture,
Osteoporosis: tibelene, calcium, jumping 13 times a day
Low self-esteem: testosterone
Irritability: diet, cannabis, citalopram
Loss of libido: HRT, champagne, abstinence, testosterone
Tearfulness: friends, food, sleep
The words on the body are:
Keep young and beautiful
It’s your duty to be beautiful
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved.
Ah sod off.  So what if I’m on the shelf, I’m very happy here.  Last year the man I’d lived with forr over 20 years told me he wanted a divorce because he didn’t love me any more. The truth was that he’d found someone younger to flatter his ego.  He didn’t like the way I’d started to sag and pucker, and grow moles and hair.  He said I was grey and miserable. I was desperate and cried so hard but I couldn’t stop him.  I was so lonely dependent, insecure, ageing, and invisible.
But slowly, slowly, I began to feel better. Each day I got stronger and realized that if you are unwanted, then you are also free. I guess I took stock and evaluated my life.  I ws frightened at first to go out on my own and make friends. When I was younger I used to trade on my appearance and get attention because of the way I looked, but suddenly everyone just stopped looking. A friend told me I needed a make over, with a new hair do, and visits to the gym, maybe get my nose straightened at last, but they were wrong.  Over 17 million cosmetic procedures were done in the world in 2011 but it’s silly to pretend that I can be young forever like those stupid celebrities. 17% of the UK population are women ove the age of 50 but they seem faceless and without a defined role. Shy? Getting old is interesting.  I think I care less about things than I used to but I have more power and serenity.  I may not be an attractive young woman any more, but I don’t need men to make me feel good about myself.  I’ve adjusted, and I think I’m ok.  Do you know, life is good and I like the shelf.
The ImageryI’m basing the still life part on the old dutch paintings such as the Harmen Steenwyck’s Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life.

Skulls are a universal symbol of death and this together with the tablets mark the length and passing of life.

The eggs, are a symbol of birth and fertility.

The books represent human knowledge. My sketchbook is there of course, as is a Germain Greer. The piece is about menopause so I felt “The Change” had earned a place!

The fabric is an expensive commercial piece. That and the teapot and cup and saucer represent life’s luxuries and indulgences.

There is a trug with a rose. Pinky roses mean desire, passion, joy of life, youth, energy- which is perhaps why the bloom is fading and drooping slightly.  Burgundy roses mean unconscious beauty.

The pearls are for femininity. The tablets as well as indicating mortality, show a degree of control over life.

There’s also an electric hand held fan.  I expect you can work out the symbolism of that one yourself!!

Why naked?

Well, why not naked?  Life painting and drawing is an acceptable part of fine art, and museums and art galleries around the world are of full of naked bodies painted by some of the world’s best painters. The Vatican for example is full of the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. From the artists point of view, it’s a difficult exercise to paint the human body with its complex musculature, foreshortenings, proportions, and subtle colourings, and is a fascinating challenge to try and get right.

When we wear clothes we do so not only for protection and modesty, but also as a statement about ourselves. We use clothes to show our ethnicity, our wish to belong to a certain group or tribe, (Goths, Hells Angels, or maybe just in admiration of a pop group, celebrity, or athlete) We have developed a constantly changing fashion, and some of us have a need to be in the latest colour or style. We use clothes to attract the opposite sex, or make ourselves look interesting. Sometimes the opposite applies and we may choose to dress in a conservative way to avoid attraction or indeed repel others. We may wish to say that we have reached a certain standard in life and are beyond frippery and are hard working and sensible.  Reliable. We wear clothes as a uniform of age.

I wish to take away all those assumptions and prejudices and look at the human being underneath in it’s true and natural state.  Each quilt tells a story about the person depicted, and the text is blistered and ingrained into the skin, and then painted over with acrylics. The person and the story become one. The text is intentionally difficult to read, but not impossible.  I do not want the image to exist only to illustrate the text, but to be a subtle extra layer; one you have to look for.  I feel as if I am whispering my story to you and not shouting.