“Unbodied - Suné Alana Woods”
When you first walk up to Suné Alana Woods’ yet untitled 2009 photograph, you’re first overcome by the choreographed colors of the composition. Set in a wooded area, the first recognizable imagery is that of the many greens of the woods that take up most of the photograph. This song of olives, jades, limes across the verdurous landscape is soon stammered and silenced by the slash of a brilliant matt emerald cloth. This is at first because of its size, position on the composition, and relative peculiarity in a forested scenery. A moment later, it decisively becomes the focus of your scrutiny because of what it covers… and leaves bare.
Due to the draping of the cloth, you cannot see what it covers. At the very edge of the cloth, protrude the awkwardly sprawled and motionless legs of a woman. Although it is a photograph, you know she is motionless by the morbidly placid manner in which her muscles lay behind her serene skin. You know ‘she’ is, by the gleam of pouting labium crowned by dark curls. Unable to see her face or even head, you are left to wonder about her based entirely off of your own psyche. Highly erotic, the image is also very repulsive and unnerving.
Looking at the untitled her, you, as the viewer, are immediately and uninvitingly empowered by her unmitigated vulnerability to you. She is not only sprawled on the ground before you, she is also being looked at from behind. Her face is invisible and she is nameless. Her stillness eases your anxiety of having to confront her about this visual intrusion on her body. Noticing her bare and dirty feet, it also dawns on you that this serenity might have been brought on by force; and this not only terrifies you; it leads to an acute awareness of your own vulnerability as living flesh and bones.
The female body in art is one that is ripe with history, conflict, and controversy. When this body is brown, the debate takes on the form of a minefield. Her skin is brown. It has a heavy history and turbulent present. So prevalent is this dialogue, that it has come up with every single one of the few people Suné Alana Woods has shown the image to. To this she asks: “Why couldn’t she just be resting after a stroll?” The answer seems obvious: Her skin doesn’t allow for it. Simply, she is not one of the Renoir ladies.