Older women reveal all in Flesh after Fifty

Flesh After Fifty exhibition gives fresh view to old flesh

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Victorian photographer Janina Green

Victorian photographer Janina Green

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Exhibition proves older woman are worthy of celebrating in art.

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Readers might remember this ditty from the 1933 movie Roman Scandals which advised ladies to do their stuff with "a little powder and a puff".

Cringeworthy today? Certainly. But let's face it, 80 plus years have passed and it doesn't seem things have changed a lot.

Society still worships the attractiveness of youth, particularly for women; and media is swamped with images of the young and beautiful often produced with the help of surgery, lenses, makeup and touch-up artistry.

It's a fact, however, that time stops for no one, and a new Victorian exhibition Flesh after Fifty is proving that older woman are worthy of celebrating in art even if they've lived a bit and have the bodies to prove it.

Several of Victoria's leading artists have used the mediums of photography, video, sculpture, painting and prints to challenge perceptions of older female body imagery.

The result is a fascinating exploration of the ageing female body - reflective, passionate, cheeky, inspiring, challenging, thought provoking and amusing.

"Older woman are in need of the opportunity to celebrate their ageing bodies and young women are in desperate need of positive images of older women to alleviate the fear and misgivings about healthy ageing," said project initiator Professor Martha Hickey, director, Women's Gynaecology Research Centre at the Royal Women's Hospital.

"In a society swamped with images, high value is placed on physical appearance and an association between attractiveness and youth, particularly for women.

"Changing attitudes towards women's bodies, particularly older women is at the core of this exhibition," she said.

Learning to love our bodies after the age of 50 is a personal challenge we all face. Realising that it's not the end but the beginning is the surprise. - Jane Scott, lead curator and program manager Flesh after Fifty.

At 76, photographer Janina Green is the oldest artist in the exhibition with her striking, large hand-coloured photographs of curvacious nude older women.

"Everything in our culture revolves around youth and beauty - having to be slim and agile. This exhibition is trying to say that older women are worthy of being thought of as beautiful too." she said.

"When you're young to tend to think that all old people look the same."

Janina who lectures in photography at the Victorian College of Fine Arts believes that nude images of the older woman was a "sort of getting down to basics".

Among the many exhibits is 500 Strong a collection of nude images of Victorian women by Melbourne photographer Ponch Hawkes who spent 12 months setting up studies across the state and inviting older women to participate.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of forums, events and essays by academics, artists and community leaders including a Women's Circus Workshop, a Women's Dinner with Denise Scott, an icing sugar workshop with the Hotham Street Ladies where you can master the art of making your own lady parts, movie evenings with Flicks after Fifty, and a GoGo Dancing class. Some of these events are ticketed.

Flesh after Fifty runs from March 7 to April 11 at the Abbotsford Convent, the Laundry Room, 1, St Hellier Street, Abbotsford and admission is free.

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