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Tag Archives: nudity

(Important update below.)

I just read about 4chan threatening Emma Watson . To me, this just emphasizes why we need to destigmatize nudity in general and female nudity in particular. Why should the possibility of releasing nude photos even be a threat in the first place? It’s hard to imagine comparable photos of men being used as a threat. If Watson really wanted to strike a blow for women’s equality, she should pull a Dirty Harry and say, “Go ahead. Make my day.”

It’s only our indoctrination that we should be ashamed of our bodies that makes this threat even possible.

Oh, yeah, and I’m speaking as someone who has had naked pictures of her posted on the internet without her permission. Let me tell you, I want copies. I looked damn fine in them!

The fact that women are more ashamed of naked pictures than men are, or at least we’re supposed to be, only serves to highlight society’s double standards regarding sexuality.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this because it’s none too subtle.

Update: Damn, I’m feeling like an idiot now. It turns out that the Emma Watson nude photos was a hoax by a company called Rantic Marketing.

Watson’s face and the countdown clock has been replaced with a banner that says, “#shutdown4chan” and an open letter to President Barack Obama that claims celebrity publicists hired the marketing company to popularize a call for Internet censorship and the end of 4chan.

Although I’m not a fan of 4chan by any means, I don’t support censorship. I would like to see the people who stole the photos prosecuted for the appropriate crimes like theft. Being an advocate for free speech occasionally mans supporting speech you don’t like. I would like to see internet harassment taken more seriously, but as harassment, not as an issue of restricting offensive speech.

Sorry everyone.

(Ah… and I was feeling so proud of myself for not falling for the lady with three breasts hoax. Pride goeth before a fall – or something like that.)

An even better explanation from Business Insider.

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About a week ago I started a series about nudity and sexuality in art. I published the first post which dealt primarily with nudity. Then, more recently, I tried to get to the second post, Sexuality in Art, but the WordPress editing software flaked on me and my text disappeared when I tried to save it. That was a real disappointment because, although I’d only written three paragraphs, it had taken quite a bit of time to organize my thoughts in a coherent and pleasantly readable manner. I was somewhat pleased with what I had written because it wasn’t one of the easier bits of writing that I’d done. I’d been hoping that I would remember pieces of it, but they simply have not come back to me. So, I’m just going to try to write what’s on my mind. Hopefully, it won’t be too incoherent.

Growing up, the aesthetic ideas of modernism still held sway in my little provincial world. Somewhere out there, the art world was already turning, or had already turned, to post modernism, but it hadn’t filtered down to my middle brow milieu. Art was mainly discussed in terms of formal or plastic properties, color, form, texture, line, composition and so on. It was received wisdom that only the unsophisticated thought much about the subject of a work of art. Nudes, consequently, were discussed in much the same way as a landscape or an abstraction. My own particular medium being painting, that is my main point of reference. A nude was considered more as a prompt for a formal composition than a subject itself. If nudes had any particular appeal, it was their very neutrality as a subject. No one ever expressed a particular interest in whether or not they painted or drew young models or old models, ugly models or pretty models. I always felt happy when a male model showed up, but that was only because most models in art classes are female and it was always nice to have a change.

In my last attempt to write this piece, I included a picture of a painting I had done thirty years ago. In my post on nudity, I described this painting.

One day, I happened to glance at myself in the bathroom mirror. The window was to one side and I found myself fascinated by the play of light across my torso, especially across my collar-bone. I painted it. It was an important moment for me because it was the beginning of the development of my own style. At the time, I was purely interested in formal aspects of painting, the color, the composition. The subject, my torso, was at the time beside the point. Eventually, however, the subject matter of my work would become more important.

At that time, I was still under the sway of the notion that what was important about a painting was its formal qualities. I left the head off of the torso for no reason other than it did not contain the elements that interested me. There was no particular message intended by that move. Eventually, though, I would rediscover an interest in subject matter.

Of course, throughout most of history, subject was far from irrelevant, although the artist might not always have much choice over what that subject might be.

Now, the subject of sexuality has always interested me. I’m almost tempted, with a wink and a jab to the rib, to ask who isn’t interested by it, but it seems to me that some of us have a broader and more general interest in it. Part of my interest, however, stems from the fact that most portrayals of female sexuality that I’ve seen have little to no resonance with me. Yet I don’t think I am inherently that odd. Sometimes, I suspect that it is due to a fortunate combination of circumstances. First of all, my parents were both atheists. My mother had been raised as a Catholic and she believe that the Catholic Church had taught her to be ashamed of her sexuality and her body. She consciously, because she has told us, did not want to pass those negative feelings onto me and my sister. At the same time, I came of age at the height of the sexual revolution. Somehow, all those received notions about how women were supposed to behave never filtered into my mind. I was never given an easy prescription about what was right or wrong. At the same time, I was a highly ethical person, even a bit of a prig, so I did spend a fair amount of time reflecting on what I believed to be right and wrong.

So, a great amount of what I see and read on the subject of female sexuality strikes me as simply wrong and I feel compelled to get my point of view out there. I know many people will think that I am wrong, which is why so often I write from a first person point of view.

Once it is accepted that the subject of art is important, then any aspect of human experience becomes a legitimate subject, and this includes sexuality.

One place where I can't show my work is right here on my own blog. WordPress does not allow images of genitalia. The left third of this painting has been cropped.

One place where I can’t show my work is right here on my own blog. WordPress does not allow images of genitalia. The left third of this painting has been cropped.

For me, if I have a coherent argument, I would rather write about something. I’m not personally fond of visual art which is too didactic. I tend to turn towards painting when words fail me. So, while I say that many of my paintings deal with sexuality, if you were to ask me specifically what a painting meant, I might not be able to tell you.

Sexuality has always been one of the many topics addressed by art. The beauty of the human body is another and that is not always sexual. There are many times that naked bodies appear in art. Sometimes they are sexual and sometimes they are not. It is not always easy to tell. However, historically, most artists have been men, as well as most art patrons, and a male perspective on sexuality has most certainly dominated. I think it is important to get my views out there. Yet, if my nudes in general are often barred from being displayed due to nudity alone, then my more sexual nudes are certainly unwelcome in many places. Quite of few of the exhibitions I have been in have been specifically exhibitions of erotic artwork.

During my preteen and early teenage years I was constantly in search of art classes that had some rigor, ones that were more serious than simply “expressing one’s self.”  Starting from the age of eight, I took painting classes with a wonderful woman who had us painting one still life after another broken up by the occasional landscape in the good weather. I learned good basic habits. She allowed us a limited palette, so we would learn how to mix colors. Eventually, however, I felt that her influence in my style had to be balanced out by other instructors. One year, I signed up for drawing classes at an art center in a town about a half an hour away. Fortunately, I had an indulgent father who was willing to drive me there. One thing that was very exciting for me was the promise of several life drawing sessions with a real, live, nude model. I didn’t wonder if the model would be male or female, young or old, handsome or ugly. I just wanted to be able to draw a figure from life. There was a catch, however. We had to have signed permission from out parents. If any child’s parents objected, there would be no nude model. The parents of one child refused to give permission and, consequently, none of us could draw from a nude model. We drew portraits and still-lifes and clothed figures, but for me it was a great disappointment. Whatever I do, I tend to do in a very serious fashion. I had been painting in oils for several years because that was what I believed serious artists used. I was trying to get, in a piecemeal way, what I imagined a traditional art education might be. Life drawing was an essential item that I still had not had a chance to try.

Around this same time, I enrolled in a summer session at Parson’s School of Design in New York City. There we would have nude models. One of my suitemates  was slightly older, perhaps sixteen. While I was enrolled in their Foundation class, she was taking some photography classes. She asked me to pose for her. I did. That was the first, but far from the last time I posed nude. I would eventually go on to pose for several photographer friends as well as for art classes.

Eventually, I would get my life drawing classes. Not only that, but a great deal of my work has revolved around the human figure. Once day, I happened to glance at myself in the bathroom mirror. The window was to one side and I found myself fascinated by the play of light across my torso, especially across my collar-bone. I painted it. It was an important moment for me because it was the beginning of the development of my own style. At the time, I was purely interested in formal aspects of painting, the color, the composition. The subject, my torso, was at the time beside the point. Eventually, however, the subject matter of my work would become more important. Beyond simply rendering the human figure, I began to explore questions of human experience with a particular interest in sexuality.

A drawing of a woman's torso.

Self-portrait that I did for this post.

Over the years, I got used to the fact that there are many places where I can’t show my work. I often find myself warning people who ask to see it that my work contains graphic imagery, including genitalia. Many people brush off my warnings, seeming slightly offended, saying that they know that nudity isn’t always sexual. Of course, some of the nudity in my paintings is sexual, and then again some is not. Yet plenty of art shows have a straightforward no nudity rule. Needless to say, I think that’s ridiculous.

There was an even that prompted this post, but I’m getting tired and perhaps I’ll address it in the future.

So I just woke up after having one of those vivid dreams I’ve been having for the past couple of weeks. It’s probably because I was writing about Luscious, and the East Village in the eighties always makes me think about rock-and-roll and comics.

I met this petite, dark-haired woman who brought up the subject of comics. She talked about comics and I was eager to get to know her. She was quite a bit younger and I’d been out of the loop regarding comics for sometime. She told me about a women’s comics collective to which she belonged. We went back to her place and she showed me her work. We were in a big, cavernous, vaguely industrial space with a concrete floor, like an empty warehouse. She had a large, long wooden table and she opened a large portfolio upon it. Sheets of paper spilled out all over the table. One slipped towards me. Picking it up, I saw that it was a full color print of a comics page. There was a fully shaded and colored drawing of a classical building and characters walking in it. I glanced over at some of the other pages on the table. Some of the others were in black and white, much simpler in style.

She talked about how she was torn between doing more lushly illustrated work and actually getting stuff out on a daily basis and  telling a story. The collective she was working with published regularly and that pushed her to work quickly. On the other hand, she missed being able to do detailed work like the one I was holding in my hand.

I nodded, my frustration with comics has always been how time-consuming it is.

While we were talking, one of her neighbors dropped in for a minute. He was an unkempt middle-aged fellow with messy dirty blond hair and a pot belly. He wore a yellow t-shirt, a pair of loose shorts and some flip-flops. He left after telling her something I don’t recall.

She suggested I come back later that evening when some of the women from the women’s comics collective were stopping by so I could meet them.

I was very eager to meet them, but I felt that I shouldn’t turn up empty-handed, so I picked up a six-pack and some food from Empire Szechuan. I used to live in the neighborhood and remembered that place. Her place was not an apartment, but a studio space in a building belonging to an art school. It was located in Chelsea and it should have been either Parson’s or SVA, both places where I’ve studied, but it was called The Guggenheim School and it resembled Breuer’s Whitney building if it had been reinterpreted by Rem Koolhaas. I’d give the address I knew in the dream, but it’s not a real building, so it doesn’t really matter. I ascended in a large elevator which resembled a stylish freight elevator. There were several people in there with me. The elevator was made of metal materials with an industrial feel. Cut out reveals allowed one to view the floors as they passed by.

The young woman’s space was not far off from the elevator itself. I was aware of white hallway off to the side, but I turned right, into the woman’s space. The group was much larger than I expected, and about a dozen women sat around the long table on which was laid out a large amount of Chinese take out. The  women seemed much trendier than I had expected, or rather I should say that I hadn’t given it much thought before arriving. I suddenly felt old and dumpy. I was wearing the same thing I was wearing earlier that day, which was worse than my usual low standards. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I looked down at my chest vaguely hoping it was the Hernandez Brothers t-shirt Luscious had given me. No, it was a black t-shirt emblazoned with the name of a rock and roll band I didn’t even know in white and red letters. I was suddenly unsure how I had acquired the t-shirt and hoped no one would ask about it. At least, I thought, the Chinese take-out was the right choice. Suddenly, as if she could read my thoughts, one of the other women said, “We used to order from Empire Szechuan all the time, but we don’t anymore because they’re not as good as they used to be.” I put the container of food on the table and the women ate it anyway. Someone pulled out a magazine sized sheet of glossy paper and passed it around. On it there was a drawing of what looked like a Roman bath with nude and scantily clad people in the water and lolling about on the perimeter. During the conversation, it became evident that one of the group had been commissioned to do a drawing of a night club that had a large bath in the center. I had never heard of such a nightclub, but everyone else apparently had. I was aware of being very out-of-it and kept to myself during the conversation so as not to reveal what a dork I really was.

This being a dream, at some point I lost my clothes, which no one noticed.

I had to find the restroom, and I wandered off down the long, white hallway. The hallway was not straight. The walls were angled. Some were only a partial height, while others didn’t come all the way to the floor. So rather than the hallway being formed by two, solid parallel walls, it was suggested by a series of angled panels. The hallway was bright, but the source of the light was not visible. Instead, the light seemed all over and diffuse. It was disorienting, but not in an unpleasant way.

Momentarily, I was aware of being naked, but then I figured it was an art school and maybe people would just assume I was a model. The hallway was long, but since it wasn’t straight, I couldn’t see to the end. It seemed to go on and on. I walked by a series of studios, reminding me of when I went to go visit an acquaintance doing an MFA at Hunter. Either side of the hallway was lined with studios. There were no doorways and glimpses of the interiors of the studios could be seen as I walked by. Beyond the white screens I saw more nude people. At first I assumed they were models, but after a while it occurred to me that most of the artists were nude as well.

Finally, I came to the end of the hall. A bearded man with an odd accent asked, “Can I help you?” with the rising note at the end that indicates it’s really a polite way of asking “What are you doing here?”

I explained that I was looking for the restroom. He sniffed. “It’s back near the lift.”

So I walked back down the long white hallway. There were two young women sitting on chairs in the hallway who weren’t there before. In front of them they had laid out on the floor a large number of glossy 3 by 5 photos arranged in a grid. They were talking and pointing and it was obvious that they were comparing and discussing them. It appeared that the one woman was working on a project of which some of the photos would be a part and the second woman was giving her opinion. As I approached, I was unsure how I would get past. The photos extended from the feet of the women to the wall on the other side and they were collectively far too wide to jump over. “Oh, go ahead. Just walk by,” the one woman said, waving me past. I hesitated. “Really, it’s okay.”

I tip-toed over the pictures and they stuck to my feet a little. Somehow, I made it across with minimal disturbance to the photos.

“We just use the bathroom that’s up through there,” the other young woman said helpfully, pointing at a space I hadn’t noticed before. It was narrow and dark like a hallway or an emergency stairwell, but there weren’t stairs. Instead there was an angled piece of wood painted yellow. I walked up the piece of wood worrying that I might get stuck. I emerged onto the roof of the building which was covered with a large field extending to the horizon. The pot-bellied neighbor I met earlier was sunning himself on the roof along with his wife. They were both sitting in those low slung tubular aluminum beach chairs set side by side. I walked up to him and asked where the bathroom was. He answered that it was indeed nearby, but if I hadn’t been there before it would just be easier if I took the other staircase back and used the restroom near the elevator. His wife gave a friendly wave as I walked across the field to the other staircase.

The steps of this staircase were marble and I emerged on the first floor of a neoclassical townhouse. The formal office furniture gave me to understand that I was now in the administrative building of the school. An imperious woman at a desk gave me a look that made me realize that I was no longer in a part of the building where it was okay to be naked.

“You are looking for the studio building, I suppose,” she said.

I nodded and she pointed to a doorway. The doorway lead to a hallway with a wooden floor and the elaborate woodwork of a nineteenth century building. First I passed a door that lead to some classrooms, then I passed a wide staircase that led up to the dormitory. Finally, I came to another small, undistinguished door. I went through there and I was back in the Breuer/Koolhaas building, near the elevator.

End of dream.

He’s a funny little thing from Amanda Palmer. Be sure to play the video; it’s quite cute. Amusingly, I tried to find it on YouTube and it wouldn’t let me access it without an account because it had been flagged as “mature” by users. Really, what is so mature about this. It’s just a naked women. I really wish people would just get over it. Some neurotic person somewhere has a problem with the human body that affects the rest of us. I want to start flagging as offensive all those beer ads, car ads, makeup ads, and a million and one things that give a far more damaging message to children than this cute, funny video.

A second link on a totally different subject: Last night I went to go see the movie Hanna Arendt with my mother. As it happens, I cam across this article from the New York Review of Books about a month ago, “On Violence.”

Well here I am again, all my pretenses at intellectualism being blown away. I have about half a dozen, not quite related but yet not unrelated, subjects stirring around in my head. I have so much to say that I can’t decide where to begin and then I wind up not writing at all.

A few days ago, makagutu wrote a thought provoking post about nudity and art, or at least it provoked thoughts in me. The vast majority of my paintings are of nudes and, although I don’t have a problem with nudity, I’m aware that other people do. Once, I was asked to be in an exhibition. The people organizing the exhibition had no restrictions on what could, or couldn’t, be shown. However, the space they were using was located in a state park and the state park service did not permit depictions of nudity. Somehow, I’m always finding that I’m dancing around the fact that there are naked people in my paintings. On the one hand, I feel that I should paint what I want and that other people’s notions of propriety shouldn’t have any bearing. On the other hand, nothing I do is motivated by the desire to “frapper la bourgeosie.”

In the situation makagutu was discussing, it was a priest who was decrying nakedness in art.  The priest then goes on to say that “Nakedness is sinful in itself….” I’m tempted to suggest that this is absurd, but, as I was reading a comment below the post in which someone also mentioned sin, I became aware that I really do not understand the concept. It’s a word I’ve heard all my life, yet it is, if not entirely meaningless, strangely vague and hollow.

So, how much consideration should I give to the feelings of people with whom I most certainly do not agree? I dance around that question even on this blog, although I set this blog up as a space for myself.

How can nakedness be sinful “in itself”? As makagutu mentioned, we are all naked in the shower, and at other moments that are far from sinful. It is only within a social context that we can even start discussing it. The commenter who mentioned sin mentioned it in the context of temptation and lust. Narcissism aside, we generally don’t lust after ourselves. I don’t know about other people, but I’m quite capable of having sexual desires with or without exposure to depictions of nudity.

On the other hand, I hate defending nudity by saying, “Oh, well it’s not sexual,” because that would seem to concede that sexuality is a problem, when I do not believe that it is.

I actually put the tag line that I chose at the top of my blog, not because I talk about sex so much, but because if I do I want to be able to say whatever is on my mind with out anyone complaining that they’ve been “frappé.”

As anyone who saw yesterday’s post may have gathered, I’m trying to teach myself to use 3D modeling software. To that end, I attempted to sign up for an internet forum on the subject. The forum has rules, as these things do. One of the rules was no weird names. Okay. Keep your stuff family friendly. Okay, again. No nudity. Okay. Sort of. I mean, I wouldn’t sign up for a forum and post things against the rules because I’m not that kind of antagonistic person, but I do have my own philosophical feelings on the subject and nudity is a-ok by me. In fact, I thought about it a bit and 3D modeling… hmm… that’s, like, artistic stuff, isn’t it? And artists draw naked people. It’s an integral part of your traditional artistic eduction. Conflating nudity with sexuality is something that irks me more than a bit. You can have something sexual where people are fully clothed and you can have nudity that’s not sexual. Or you can have both.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, Daz over at The Dixie Flatline put up a post about how to talk to an atheist which was inspired by the fact that according to his stats (If you don’t have a site on WordPress, they have a page that tells you your “stats.”) and found there that many people arrive at his site after searching for “how to talk to an atheist.” This inspired me to look at my own stats. Um… no, I’m not going to make a porn video. I posed for nude photos when I was young and still passably attractive. For better or worse, I didn’t indulge in the moving images. Since I’m now going on fifty, I think my time to shine as a porn star has passed. Beyond that, I need to put up more pictures of naked people in general and women in particular. Somehow, I’m not surprised.

Back to the 3D modeling forum, and in the explanation of their rules, they mention that they have users from all over the world. So, I started thinking about how there are different standards around the world about how much clothing you need to wear to be “decent.”

Somewhere, I thought of the line that some atheists use to explain to theists that their lack of belief is not really different from a theist’s lack of belief in one of the many competing religions in the world, “I just believe in one less god than you.”

Throw that all into my brain, add Manet’s Olympia for good measure, and this popped into my mind:

An image made with 3D modeling software that looks like a cardboard cutout of a naked woman lying on a bed. A word balloon says: "I'm not naked. I'm just wearing one item of clothing less than you."

If anyone experienced with 3D modeling software can tell me why the cast shadows are clipped off in a funny way, I’d appreciate it.