These are recent explorations of the nude. During my formal training in art school environments, life drawing, anatomy studies, art history, and feminist discourse were daily fare. Whether it be Michaelangelo’s David, or Manet’s brazen, and stark naked Olympia, we studied and wrote about it at length from a critical and academic point of view.
The human form has held fascination for artists for millennia, but the rupture (or disconnect) for me occurred the first time that family saw my life drawings. The best way to describe it would be nervous giggles and incomprehension at my apparent obsession with “naked people” – naked women in particular. This inadvertently led to speculation about my sexual orientation, which still lingers to this day. Nevertheless, it became clear that although the nude is standard study in the art world, the average citizen (more cognizant of Playboy and pornography than of art history) has been impacted by the overt sexualization [objectification] of women and girls in popular culture, media, and advertising. You could say that the nude is carrying around a lot of baggage. The territory is fraught with fear, loathing, embarrassment, misunderstanding, and sometimes censorship.
Still, I am drawn to the human form as subject, and despite my own acute awareness and sensitivity to the difficulties some viewers have with the nude in art, I proceed – delicately and attentively. In order to gain a broader perspective, it’s helpful to draw comparisons, for example the idea of poetry vs. smut. A poem can evoke imagery that draws out emotion, sometimes even on a spiritual level, while smut is designed and intended to titillate the baser senses. To view a work of fine art as a visual poem, complete with meaningful narrative and symbolism, whatever that may be, can be an intensely personal and soulful experience if one is open to it.
In viewing the body (whatever body) at its barest and most honest, we are given a mirror with which to contemplate our own vulnerabilities, and ultimately the impermanence and mortality that we all share. My approach to the nude is considered and modest. It does not push the boundaries, nor does it demand to be “in your face.” It is quiet and meditative. It transcends the carnal and hints at other things.
For more on my foray into nude photography, read the project description and rationale on my blog.