“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
I am overflowing, she whispers. I am a river in spate, elusive.
They are seen as hysterical girls – remember Marthe Bonnard -, as some narcissistic mad women. Now some ghosts – drowned Ophelias -, now some fertile rain goddesses giving life to the arid land. The world has taken them over to express its pains and mysteries, but who listens to them? Who really looks at them, other than as a voyeuristic fantasy, a Diana spied on during her bath? Bringing a distinct look at this hyperexploited feminine, Tatiana Defraine’s little nymphs embody the quiet urge to reclaim a self for far too long defined by the male gaze.
Eyes closed as if to cut themselves off from the world, water is their only mirror. How friendly water is – the only one able to reflect their fluid nature. Symbol of metamorphosis and change, water offers them the much-wanted idleness in the most intimate of places, to escape the observers. The eyes of others are our prisons, Virginia Woolf wrote.
The bodies that melt in the bath water evoke the removed contours of the self. The bathtubs featured in each painting are all tiny rooms of one’s own, secret gardens, and protective shells where the games of representation are absent. Hot water dissolves the cages of the feminine image; this is probably what Sylvia Plath was talking about. With their amused and peaceful smile, the bathers seem to think: I am a body of water, you can never seize me.
Vico Santa Maria A Cappella Vecchia 8, 80121 Naples Naples, Italy