This is part four of five posts that make up the transcript of my conversation with Ellen Forney about her paintings seen at Secluded Alley Works though much of November, 2003. I’m breaking it up to make it easier to read.

M: It’s interesting that you indicated Mary just now when you were saying that you were really tentative. And of course the very strong use of shaping, linear forms doesn’t really come across as tentative. In terms of talking about your avoiding using paint in a modeled, kinda painterly kinda way, I understand what you mean. But it’s still – well, this has a lot of force behind it. I have to go back and look at that piece in Dirty Stories now, too, to think about that.

Now, maybe we already talked about it here. But talk to me about these images what their relationship is to erotica and sexuality in general. I mean, sexuality, and sort of a frank, kind of a welcoming view of sexuality is a really important part of the work of yours that I’ve seen over the past ten years.

How do these relate to that? I mean, these aren’t education pieces, they’re not like – I mean, they’re not porn, you know?

SAW_forney_perspective_a.JPG EF: Well, they’re kind of education pieces in a way. I mean they’re so many different things that come into play. You know, sometimes I think back to when I just graduated from college, and I was hanging around with a bunch of friends of mine, and one of them said, “man, if we could just take all of the energy that we put into criticizing ourselves and our bodies and put it into like a creative use… Like what we could make!”

I think, as an American woman, I have had the same experience as a lot of other American women, and maybe women all over the world, whatever, of having a really hard time with body image. And so part of what I’m doing here is showing that there are a lot of different kinds of beauty. So it’s really important to me – a lot of people have read the title as um, Sexy Paintings of Big Women , and think that I’m like, doing fat chicks.And I’m not. I mean, that’s part of the umbrella that I’m working on. But I’m about all different body types. So that’s one aspect of it.

So in that way, I feel that role models are really important. They were really important to me. I remember feeing like my own body was too, was too big, too chunky.

And I remember watching a friend of mine, who is Italian, who by American standards would be fat, and she was going out for the evening in a very tight outfit that she looked fabulous in! And I remember just realizing that she knew that she was sexy, she acted and moved as if she was sexy, that’s where so much of sexy comes from, is that confidence, is that knowledge, is that self-possession.

And so that was a big lesson to me. That I didn’t have to come from it didn’t come from outside, it came from believing – and how do you get the belief in yourself? And one of those ways is to have good role models! And so that’s why I was saying, well, in a way they’re kind of educational. Like I want somebody who’s built like Tamara, Like Ariel, like K—-. Who – they don’t have models’ bodies. But, yeah, they’re really sexy and they’re really right out there, to look at and say, you know, “Wow!”

Maybe – “She’s sexy – maybe I’m sexy!”

(end part four)