Extreme Curves

    (Amerotica, 2004)
™ and © Phil Henderson

The full–figured female nude has a visual tradition in art that goes back to the Venus of Willendorf. This tradition perhaps found an apotheosis during the Renaissance in the paintings of Dutch master Peter Paul Rubens. Similar attention to detail and reverence for subject characterizes Phil Henderson's work in Extreme Curves. But where canonical nudes might vary in girth, Henderson’s models possess wide hips and large breasts, but very narrow waists. To make that point explicit, each model's measurements are included, with her name, alongside her portrait. Marisol, at 44–28–56, is representative.

These 50–plus full color portraits, and additional charcoal sketches and pencil studies, offer an ethnically–inclusive set of young women in various poses and states of (un)dress on otherwise blank white pages. Sometimes the models have props and/or costumes, like Gabrielle the sexy nurse or Aimey the shy tennis partner. Other times the portraits are tasteful nudes like the radiant, smiling Helen or the seductive Raffina poised in the hot tub. Few of the portraits included here could be considered X–rated.

Henderson succeeds at capturing the dynamic range of human flesh tones and subtle nuances of facial expression. On many pages, the models seem to address themselves directly to the viewer with clear, focused eyes. These women appear to be sexually self–possessed real girls, not idealized models or delirious porn stars.

Contemporary mainstream culture does not eagerly sexualize heavy women. Yet these large, curvy Venuses presenting themselves for lustful appreciation and sexual regard constitute an affirmation. It could be argued the only things missing are words. Personal statements from the models themselves would transform them into subjects rather than objects, and transform Extreme Curves into compelling art instead of niche erotica.

— Leland Burrill
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