Modern Artist Jeremy Penn Paints the Portrait of Camille Grammer
Strength is a human trait that is widely regarded as being desirable. Physical strength, visibly demonstrated by musculature, posture and tension, has often been popular in art. This dates as far back as the Renaissance, when Michelangelo represented David, rippling with lithe, energetic brawn and Cellini depicted his Perseus, sword in one muscled arm, and severed head of the Medusa in the other.
But strength, as we all know, goes beyond the physical. Emotional strength, although not as immediately visible as the physical, is every bit as powerful. Time and time again throughout history, we hear about people who have survived horrific circumstances, who have been tried to the very limit of their endurance and who have emerged the other side, through sheer determination and strength of will.
A Move from the Masculine: Rediscovering and Redefining Strength in the Female
Historically, strength (both physical and emotional) was seen as the sole preserve of men. Women, according to the stilted, misogynistic perceptions of people in the past, were the home-makers, the nurturers, the care-givers. Men, by contrast, were the providers, the fighters.
However, as we all now fully realize, these views are outdated and largely inaccurate. It’s undeniable that many women are excellent at providing care and love for those around them, but it’s also equally undeniable that they are every bit as capable of demonstrating remarkable strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
Feminine Strength in Art
I’ve always been drawn to feminine strength, in its many different forms. From the confident, bold allure of a strong female gaze, to the determined, direct stare of a powerful woman, I find myself continually seeking to capture feminine strength on the canvas, seeking to uncover that specific something (most often found in the eyes) that reveals inner strength and grit.
However, every so often, I find myself encountering someone who redefines my preconceived notions, who makes me reassess my own opinions as to what exactly strength is. This certainly happened when I first met Camille Grammer.
Camille, conventionally accepted by the public as a bold, outspoken female, presented an entirely different form of strength to me, one that I hadn’t really encountered before. As I got to know her, I started to become fascinated by this new brand of female strength; this subtle, understated core that ran deep within her, like a steel backbone, rendering her a survivor in every sense of the word. She has a fierce, feisty sex appeal, but also a quiet sense of resilience that few truly appreciate is there.
The Reality of this Reality TV Star
Camille is, of course, famous for her appearances on the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills. In the flesh, she is no less flawless looking, no less eye-catching and no less magnetic, but there is a quality to her gaze that is easily missed when observing her through the television screen.
Looking into her eyes, I swiftly began to appreciate that there was more to this woman than the energetic, exuberant force of nature that I saw before me. In that gaze, I could see the story of her life, of a quiet, dignified survivor, who has battled and is battling considerable adversity with a calm, inner strength. A survivor of endometrial cancer, Camille has, in recent years, battled with ill-health, but still maintained an even, balanced perspective on life, which in itself, takes a remarkable amount of inner resolve and feisty determination.
When painting Camille, above all else, I wanted to redefine strength on the canvas and to capture that quality that marked her brand of strength as particularly unique. I wanted to immortalize her powerful physical beauty and sex appeal, but also to challenge what exactly beauty was, and what renders a person ‘beautiful’.
In the past, when painting beautiful, strong women, I’ve often painted them looking directly out of the painting, boldly challenging the viewer with a forceful, outwardly strong gaze. With Camille, I chose instead to depict her facing to one side, chin down; a position typically associated with the demure, submissive female. However, when painting her eyes, I sought to drive home the point that she was as far removed from submissive as possible.
The eyes, lifted to meet the viewer, are filled with playful, teasing joy, but also with resilience. The darkest aspect of the painting in terms of shade, they reveal the pain and suffering that she has endured, but also the unquenchable strength within her, to show the world a confident, fiercely feminine face, in spite of her recent health problems.
In this case, the beauty doesn’t come from the perfect complexion or the bouncy blonde hair. As with all survivors in this world, the real beauty burns out from deep within, only occasionally showing itself in a flash of the eyes. That’s exactly what I sought to capture here. That momentary glimpse of quiet, yet remarkable strength.