Column: Grow up, nudity is fine
Artwork that contains nudity is not and should not be considered pornographic under any circumstances. When working, artists carefully craft a mise-en-scène in which everything is purposeful and with meaning. Of course, nudity is included. If a work of art containing nudity questions its integrity as an artwork, that’s possibly what the artist intended. Pornography is not art, and no artist would want to claim their art as such.
Let’s make the distinction between the words “nude” and “naked” very clear. Nude is a term used to describe the ideal body. Naked is a term used to describe the body as uninhibited and shamefully exposed.
Looking at art historically, it is obvious that the nude motif has been executed throughout the Roman and Greek eras and from the Renaissance in Italy up until today. Nudity was never an issue in those times because the figures that were depicted nude were understood to contain the purity and beauty of the religious figure, Virgin Mary. Void of any sexualization, these works of art were very commonly commissioned by the pope, displayed in religious sanctions and never given a second thought to their nude content.
Only recently in contemporary history and with the invention of photography has nudity become this big taboo thing where people act like they’re offended and like they’ve never seen someone without clothes before. In private, it’s no big deal, but all of a sudden, it’s in a public space and it becomes an obscene gesture.
As an artist myself, my undergraduate career roots itself in this very debacle. Furthering it, my work explores the male nude and the androgyny of the male body. Seriously, think about it, there are an unimaginable number of female nude artworks out there by men, but have you seen any artworks of nude males by women? It is not fair that women get exploited so often in art and men don’t. I’m tired of seeing boobs and vaginas so much that I’m numb to them.
In order to rid the stigma of nudity, we need to even out the playing field in terms of exploitation. There needs to be more male nudity introduced in the art world. For example, I’ve taken two photographs of a man and a woman’s body both nude in the same pose and I bet you couldn’t tell the difference between the two genders. Imagine the horror and disgust of people when they find out that these nudes they’re looking at actually belong to men.
Since the introduction of photography, nudity has automatically been equated with pornography and that needs to stop here and now. What people need to start thinking about when encountering nudity in art is the artist’s intent. If we’re shown a nude body, there’s obviously a well thought out explanation as to why. If that explanation is to make us consider the body in terms of gender or sexualization, then the work is art. If the explanation is to arouse us and lead us to acting out on those desires, then the work is pornography.
It’s the 21st century and nudity in our regular lives is rarely a problem, so if that is then translated into art, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Nudity is just a stepping stone into the greater problems and criticisms of today’s society; those tribulations should not be overlooked because an immature audience cannot get past the fact that they’re looking at breasts, a vagina, or a penis. We’re adults now, and it’s time we start acting like it.
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