Captivating by her glance, the traditional image of the female nude, the Odalisque, welcoming the observer, has set the aesthetic standard. The challenge frequently voiced about this artistic representation is that while women may be seen as the center of aesthetic attention, they are in fact merely being reduced to objects to be viewed and assessed.

The premise I build on is that in this traditional representation where the man in effect gives the woman a visible if questionable pride of place, conversely the woman represents the finer aspirations of the man. In contrast to man's traditional role as a provider and protector, she suggests through his awareness of her physical beauty, that he is also the connoisseur of the beautiful, the sensual, the tempting, the seductive and the spiritual. Thus the female represents male projections and by watching her he imagines how others regard him. Thereby he is aware that his worth is being gauged; that he too can be a commodity.

While much of my work in the Tender Series dwells on male and female roles, my particular muses for this series are my parents: I often portray the visual cues of moments that describe aspects of their relationship as it unfolded.

The idealistic premise that I put forward is the implicit understanding that exists between male and female. This may be born of a shared and personal appreciation concerning individual worth, despite the predicament of the perceived value of gender. There is the knowledge that both are unavoidably part of the functioning of a hugely commercial society where romance and beauty are advocated as ideals and where these ideals and aspirations are then relentlessly marketed as powerful commodities - as fare for tender.

The actual inception of this series came as an offspring of my studying and lecturing in life drawing. Here I have taken life drawing out of the studio and into the imagination; away from the live model to a stylized form through anthropomorphizing colors and shapes of the painted surface. The size of the work is nimble: when an image is observed there can develop a similarity to a hand held mirror reflecting our communal and intimate roles.

Elizabeth Ranelagh