Katarina Janeckova. A Bodybuilder, Bears, and Beautiful Paintings.

The paintings of Slovakian artist Katarina Janeckova are soused in sex. Three lovers romp around in bed; a brunette poses for naked photos in a swimming pool; a woman spanks her partner with a hairbrush. But there is one thing lacking from her provocative tableaus—men. Instead, the women couple up with brown or black bears, rendered in woozy watercolor or acrylic brushstrokes. “For me, the bear is a perfect substitute for a man,” Janeckova explains. “I paint those bears as simple, strange dark figures, because it allows you to fantasize.” It also allows the women to become the central figures in her works, and for Janeckova to present them as strong and sexually empowered. “It’s a stereotype that pretty women are usually submissive, so I like to play around that,” Katarina says. “Sometimes it’s less visible and more in my head, sometimes it’s obvious or exaggerated.” It’s most apparent in some of her recent works, which portray the massive muscles of female bodybuilders. Katarina honors their forms by depicting them on the side of a Grecian urn, or even turning a container of Muscle Milk into a flower vase. “My ideal of female beauty changed,” Katarina discusses in the following interview, along with sex, symbols and her current exhibition, How to Make a Bear Fall in Love, which is currently on view at Studio d’Arte Raffaelli in Trento, Italy.

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