The Bodies and Bikes of Grace Roselli

A motorcycle. A machine. A feminine object, no doubt.

Though some backward looking, wannabe Alpha males say it’s nothing but an engine. And they want to make it sound stronger, faster, they call it a missile, a fighter jet. Showing off, speaking acronyms and numbers, trying to force it into a rational and masculine thing, nothing but a tool, 1100GSXR, 1000CBR, 500XT, 1400ZZR… Well, they missed the point

Why this detour, already? Scorning the annoyingly persistent motorcycle machismo… absolutely. But also a way to get rid of the clichés, to highlight the complexity of the relationship between Women and Motorcycles. Its representation, anyway.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

Because, using Pin-up girls as a selling or staging argument to promote an object (by definition, inanimate), to create desire, is nothing new. It is still one of the all-time favorite choice for works of art related to the motorcycle. Time goes by and the Grid-Girls remain.

Even so, no need to condemn systematically, no need to loose ourselves into aesthetic fundamentalism; It’s hard not to appreciate the obvious proximity between the woman body and the plastic and metallic curves of a motorcycle. Perception, finesse should be enough to sort the wheat from the chaff. Everything comes from a purpose, and, really, what matters is the intention of the artist, the subtle way to show us things.

Subtlety defines well the work of Grace Roselli. The Naked Bike Project takes us into the intimacy of these women and their bikes, going beyond the said cliché to grasp the very essence of the bond that unites them to their machines.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli
Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

Motorcycle Boy: Grace, what happened first in your life, art or motorcycles?

Grace Roselli: My first love was and is art. I live/work in Brooklyn, NY with my two amazing daughters and a couple of oversized dogs. I keep a ’06 Kawasaki Ninja 650 for city riding and a ’13 Ducati Hyperstrada for flying!

I graduated with a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in the ’80s and went straight to the city (NYC). I used roller-skates to get around. Within a few years I acquired an apartment in Brooklyn and a boyfriend with a Motoguzzi. I realized that skating over the Brooklyn Bridge wasn’t gonna work and neither was the boyfriend—but that motorcycle sure did! In 1988 I bought a ’78 Honda CX500 and haven’t looked back. Naked Bike is the first time i’m combining both my passion for art and bikes.

For your Naked Bike Project, how would you describe the way body and machine interact?

There’s a rich history of women’s bodies, nude and clothed, portrayed in art. Much of this historical portrayal has ranged from the casually misogynistic to outright sexism. After a still ongoing struggle for awareness and rights, many women are now controlling, owning and celebrating the narrative of their bodies.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

The Naked Bike Project is a performance of that narrative, the language and agency of the body combined with a machine traditionally associated not just with men, but sexuality, rebellion and freedom.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

The motorcycles portrayed cease to be mere moving vehicles but become a symbol and extension of contemporary female sensuality. It’s curves echoing the form of the body, the motorcycle functions as a lover, a prop, a site for the expression of utter physicality. The female bikers who have volunteered for the project share a love of riding and a willingness to be vulnerable for an idea: re-imagining the portrayal of their bodies in combination with their beloved machines. The images of Naked Bike are as diverse as the individuals being portrayed.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli
Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli
Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

Women riders and machine can be one—cyborgs rejecting the boundaries and social mores that separate human from machine. In some pictures the women are covered in gear for the sport, but also can function here as armor, a mysterious shell, a hidden space. In others, that protective layer is gone. Naked, the women project what protects them, or not, as female.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli
Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

My work isn’t about documenting the visibility of the growing number of female riders, but a change in the very culture we’re in. This is not just about/for women, this freedom of thought is for everyone.

My work isn’t about documenting the visibility of the growing number of female riders, but a change in the very culture we’re in. This is not just about/for women, this freedom of thought is for everyone.

Are you planning another bike related project?

Naked Bike is set up to encompass everything bike-related that I’m going to do. At the moment, I’m making the first paintings for the project. I’ll keep it going until it stops saying anything new to me.

Naked Bike Project ©Grace Roselli

Naked Bike is set up to encompass everything bike-related that I’m going to do. At the moment, I’m making the first paintings for the project. I’ll keep it going until it stops saying anything new to me.

What are your favorite references in the motorcycle culture?

You have an amazing collection of references in the galleries on your blog! Honestly, my references never came from the motorcycle world, but science fiction, performance and installation art: William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, all of the Studio Ghibli productions—anything magic, fantasy, robot related! Judy Chicago and Woman House, Carolee Schneeman and ‘More Than Meat Joy’, Mark Pauline and Survival Research Laboratories…

What is your ideal bike?

Not sure it’s been invented yet.

Your favorite road?

The one not taken of course!

Would you rather ride solo or in a group?

I’m by myself in the studio so much, I prefer long rides in a group.

The greatest quality of a biker?

Physically-knowing how to ride. Morally-having your back.

In a world without bike, what would be your vehicle?

Wings, jet-pack or teleportation.

In a world without engines, what would be your inspiration?

Clean air.

Grace Roselli

Thank you so much, Grace Roselli.

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