Neon Madonna: a new gallery
This series confronts the stereotyped representations of women as either saintly or debased.
The Madonna-whore complex (also known as the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy ('MWD') is a condition identified by Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939), the founder of psychoanalysis. MWD is, he said, a psychological complex that develops in men who see women in a polarised, mutually exclusive manner as either chaste -- the Madonna -- or as a predatory and promiscuous -- the Whore. Freud wrote:
"Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love."
A much-cited 2018 Israeli study  supported Freud's assertion. It found that men scoring highly for MWD had poor romantic relationship satisfaction. Further, holding such views was associated with patriarchal mindset; in other words, such men regarded women as inferior.
The mutually-exclusive stereotypes dominate patriarchal representations of women in art, as the Israeli study noted.
"Polarized representations of women in general as either good (chaste and pure) Madonnas or bad (promiscuous and seductive) whores can be traced from the ancient Greeks (Pomeroy 1975) through later Western literature (Delany 2007; Gottschall et al. 2006), art (Haxell 2000), as well as contemporary films (Erb 1993; Paul 2013) and television series (Tropp 2006). Still prevalent in the West (Faludi 2009; Macdonald 1995; Munford 2007), this dichotomy also occurs in non-Western cultures—in Latin and South America (Stevens 1973) and in the Middle East and East Asia (Sev'er and Yurdakul 2001; Wright 2010)—where female chastity is integral to family honour. "
In Olivuccio di Camerino’s (c. 1400) painting, The Madonna of Humility with the Temptation of Eve, the Virgin Mary, representing maternal chastity and purity, holds the infant Jesus. Below them Eve lies naked with a serpent and fur around her hips and legs, representing sexual lust and temptation.
Titian's Sacred and Profane Love (1514) presents a more complicated and disputed pair of women, one clothed and the other nude. Art historians remain unclear about the painting's meaning and the iconography of the two central figures. The nude woman seems at first sight to be an allegory of profane love, although 20th-century assessments note the incense on her hand and the church beyond her, which may signify nuditas criminalis, the shameful nakedness of the vain, lustful sinner. Even the title is unreliable; it was recorded in 1693, and may not be original.
In the works in this series the tattoos, the piercings, the uncorrected eyebrow, the hair out of place and the deliberate lack of beauty retouching all signify that in these images, our subjects defy attempts to stereotype them by shoehorning them into fashionable clichés. They are more than the labels art applies; they are perhaps even (gasp) a little untidy and imperfect -- in portraits that say simply, well, actually we're all just people.
"A woman can wear makeup and still be authentic. A woman can be provocative and still aspire to become a lawyer (go Kim!). A woman can have casual sex and still be a fantastic role model. A woman can think herself gorgeous and still be compassionate. A mother is still desirable. The Madonna and the whore are not exclusive."
The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy: Men Who Perceive Women's Nurturance and Sexuality as Mutually Exclusive Endorse Patriarchy and Show Lower Relationship Satisfaction, Orly Bareket & Rotem Kahalon & Nurit Shnabel & Peter Glick