I don't have a pre-made writing sample ready that isn't a work of fiction or a school essay, so I quickly penned one at their request. Sitting at my desk, I looked up and saw a page I had ripped out of an art book tacked up on my wall & the rest came pretty easy. It took me about 7 minutes to put this together, and I didn't put too much thought into it, as I was in the middle of an online application for this editing gig. The arguments are simple, reductive and not argued well or to conclusion, but I just wanted to put something down that shows I can write. I was a bit nervous sending out something that I had written in one take and didn't really have any time to digest or edit, but I think it turned out ok. Let me know what you guys think:
Here is a brief discussion on Manet's Olympia. In it, a reclining nude (presumably a prostitute by context) is attended to by a young black woman. The servant is bearing flowers sent from an admirer. At the foot of the bed stands a black cat with its hair raised. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the painting is the cocksure gaze that the nude gives, seemingly directly to the viewer. Heightening this sense of unease, is the alarmed cat, whose warning gaze also seems directed beyond the painting. Although the reclining woman is without clothing, it is the viewer who is made to feel uncomfortable, since the nude is so relaxed and confident with her nudity and on a larger level, with who she is. Although this complacency would suggest contentment, a closer look might cause the viewer to realize that she is not comfortable because she exists in an environment that she has chosen, but rather that, for her, there can be no other way. The comfort of being a well-loved slave does not break the shackles of servitude.
What excites me about this painting, beyond the stunning visual contrast, is the way in which important issues of social significance are dealt with. The nude's likely job as a prostitute and her unapologetic indolence is meant to draw attention to the plight of women without money or family in society. The presence of servile black woman in contrast to the nude is meant to raise issues of gender, race, poverty and labor.
Although the nude appears indolent, it is clear how she earns her living. While her form of labor may be less physically strenuous and with fewer hours per week than that of the servant girl, it would be hard to argue that her job is any less taxing on mind or body. This job is obviously one that a man in her situation would not be eligible for. Were she a man, she might be able to find a variety of other employment opportunities, but as a woman in nineteenth century France, her options are much more limited. As limited as her options may be, even fewer options existed for the servant girl, due to her race. Although there existed no racial laws in France as there did in the U.S., the insidious influence of racial prejudice was widespread. With no protective legislation in place to prevent racial exploitation, the job market was far narrower for a racial minority.
This type of social conscience is pretty revolutionary, considering the time it was painted (c.1862). Also, the fact that this painting was done in a realistic manner at the height of the Impressionist era emphasizes the degree to which the painting is a social criticism, rather than the allegory or other thematic flights of fancy which were popular at the time.
Looking back at it now, the sentence that begins, "Although this complacency would suggest contentment..." is a poorly formed run-on. If I could re-write it, it would read: Although this complacency would suggest contentment, a closer look might reveal something else. This comfort does not come because she exists in an environment that she has freely chosen, but rather because, for her there can be no other way.
Ok, back to work on this editing assignment. Like an audition, it is. Write like Yoda, now I do. Do like this, keep - job I will get not. Fuck it, back to work.