First, the excellent Moya from CFC emailed me this painting by Xue Jiye.
Jiye is an incredible Chinese painter whose work wrestles with gender, violence and the body, and examines the cultural pressures that act upon and between human individuals. His artistic statement is very interesting:
"In his latest series of paintings, Xue depicts the human condition – a constant struggle for existence within human society. The figures in the paintings are all nudes, indicating that they are defenceless and vulnerable... These pieces indicate men’s futile struggle against the powerful forces of society, which is surrounding them, as the edges of the paintings are confining the figures. Even if one tries to escape from society, it will eventually constrain and constrict us all."
The nudes are intended to represent:
"the most basic form of man, he is no taller, shorter, lighter or darker than his neighbour. He is the man from the past, the present, the future. He is from the East and from the West, indicating that after breaking it down, societies are essentially all the same."
The men in Jiye's work are not all the same, however. Some of them have tails:
The inclusion of this feature demarcates certain males as unique, as not fully human, and complicates the images in different ways.
The second contribution came via Twitter, where Tama tipped me off to this clever image by deviantART member lessthanhuman.
The artist comments that:
"A tail is a characteristic that I feel clearly represents the majority of the animal kingdom. With few exceptions, nearly all other creatures have a tail in one form or another. Developmentally, all human embryos have tails which, for the vast majority of the population, are gone by birth.
I consider the back and spine to be one of the most aesthetically beautiful parts of the human body. In this piece, I tried to preserve that beauty despite the obvious addition of a tail."
Lessthanhuman uses Photoshop to alter photographs of human bodies, and is especially focused on the liminal stages between one species and another. You can check out more human/nonhuman figures here.
The final contribution came from my youngest sister, who spontaneously decided to draw a picture of me last week.
This is actually a very good likeness...
It is interesting to observe the different scenarios in which tails are placed on human forms. Whether the intentions behind the image are serious or humorous ("and this is a giant pimple exploding on your head!"), tails are simple but effective.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go terrorize a village somewhere.