The Outer Game

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(FS) The Eternal Body
Posted by Molly E. Holzschlag on January 23, 1997 03:00:00:

TITLE: The Eternal Body

DEFINITION: Collected Photography

CREATOR: Ruth Bernhard


ALTERNATIVE CATEGORIES: Change, consciousness, health, love, media, science, sensuality

RELATIONSHIP TO THE CORE WAVE: Are we inside or outside of our bodies?

MAIN QUOTE: "In my life, as in my work, I am motivated by a great yearning for balance and harmony beyond the realm of human experience, reaching for the essence of oneness with the Universe." -- Ruth Bernhard

HIGHLIGHT QUOTES: “My enjoyment of life began with my eyes. Even as a small child, curiosity possessed me. The visible and invisible were my world, my fairy tale.."
"Light is my inspiration, my paint and my brush. It is as vital as the model herself. Profoundly significant, it caresses the essential superlative curves and lines. Light I acknowledge as the energy upon which all life on this planet depends."
"The ground we walk on, the plants and creatures, the clouds above constantly dissolving into new formations--each gift of nature possessing its own radiant energy, bound together by cosmic harmony."
-- Ruth Bernhard,
The Eternal Body

HIGHLIGHT RECOMMENDATION: Bernhard's women are idyllic--bodies slender and perfect in shape and proportion. While drawn to Bernhard's scientific study of how natural light touches the female body, I also feel envy at the perfection of the universe's artistry in these faceless forms. That envy touches off issues of dissatisfaction with my own body--something I believe is very widespread for both women and men. "The Eternal Body" challenges me to look at physical ideals, examine where my own beliefs about beauty begin, and where they end. I am moved to experience a deeper sense of beauty and sensuality.

DEEPER: Body and image, self-discovery, emergence, beauty, sense, and sexuality. Now in my 30's I have a bit more of a secure sense that beauty is only partially expressed in our flesh--and what makes someone beautiful can indeed be on the surface as well as below. Skin deep, soul deep.

I gained weight after a series of surgeries and hormonal chemotherapies that saved my life but altered my metabolism significantly. While never skinny, I was well into my twenties before I experienced ever being overweight. And, while even by North American standards I am not fat, I am certainly not what is considered the ideal female form.

Does this make me unbeautiful? I struggle with this, even though intellectually and spiritually I know the answer is that indeed I am beautiful. "So what if my hips are round?" I have written. "They are soft for the touching. So what if my belly is heavy?" I have sung. "It is filled with nourishment."

Sometimes I think that my mind is so angular that my body's softness is the expression of my heart and spirit in physical manifestation. I love myself, and I admire my body, which has endured and survived what might have easily killed others.

Why then does this image make me so angry? I think it is because this woman looks the way I did, once, and the way I will probably never look again. So I look at this image longer, to see what happens if I can get past the pain and loss of what it was I had and no longer have.

What occurs next is arousal. It is not the nudity of this woman, per se. It is the memory of another aspect of my being--the part of me that loves women as an expression of universal/god/goddess expression. Am I aroused because I am turned on by a memory of myself? Or because I'm supposed to be aroused by nudity? Or are the reasons more elusive?

I am reminded that there was once a nude drawing of me by a lover, done when we were both 19. A boyfriend stole the drawing years ago. I wonder where it is today. I wonder where those people are today. They are lost in time, just like aspects of my body--moments of perfection before a lifetime of scars and illness changed it, and me, forever.

What do you think of your body? Is it a disappointment? A friend? A microcosmic part of a bigger, mystical macrocosm. Or is a body sometimes just a body?

CONNECTIONS: No others yet.

IMAGES AND CLIPS: A few examples from the book will suffice.

ACCESS AND DISTRIBUTION: The Eternal Body [A Collection of Fifty Nudes] by Ruth Bernhard was published in 1986 by Chronicle Books 275 Fifth Street, San Francisco, CA. 94103. ISBN 0-8118-0801-7 (pbk). The book may be a collector's item for some. Some copies are available for purchase from E&S Creations ( for $30.00.


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