About a week ago, I saw Botticelli Reimagined in London. The exhibition reflected on Botticelli’s perfect vision of girls and womanhood, as represented in The Birth of Venus and La Primavera, and tried to show his influence on art from the 15th century through the modern era.
Let’s start with the basics of Botticelli’s Venus. She is white, classicly beautiful, docile, tall, angelic, innocent, physically able, and aligned with a gentle vision of nature. Back in the day, she represented the pinnacle of femininity. Today, I look at her and think — other than the fact that she’s a little curvy — she’s just about everything that most women are not.
So it was cool to walk into the V&A and begin with a contemporary reflection of Botticelli’s legacy. I was able to see artists who flipped Venus on her head and showed how traditional norms of beauty can be restrictive (Yin Xin), hurtful (ORLAN) and sometimes predatory (Rineke Dijkstra).
Experiencing all that art was interesting and whatnot, but then I came home and had two solid days of volunteering with my local chapter of Girls on the Run.
Girls on the Run teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The curriculum is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches and includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large. Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. Important social, psychological, and physical skills and abilities are developed and reinforced throughout the program. At each season’s conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete a 5k running event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The result—making the seemingly impossible, possible, and teaching girls that they can.
I love and appreciate Andy Warhol’s take on Botticelli. I enjoyed seeing a huge tapestry called The Orchard; The Seasons, inspired by La Primavera and designed by William Morris and John Henry Dearle. But I’m glad that I came home and immersed myself in the real world of womanhood and bodies.
Girls on the Run captures beauty and strength better than Botticelli — and it’s more fun to see girls wearing running gear than seeing them walking around in Dolce & Gabbana dresses inspired by Botticelli.