Monday, November 14, 2011

Artistic Nudes - Good or Bad?

I have been on DeviantArt ( for 7 years. I spend a lot of time surfing the images. I'll admit it... I'm addicted to art and beauty.

Sometimes I am amazed by the things that are posted. I can't say that I am not judgmental - I am. I have noticed that this is something that comes as you get older - so it's not really my fault. There are a lot of beautiful images and a great deal of beauty to be had. Yet, there is a lot of them that I just don't get. There is also is a lot that I think has absolutely NO artistic value.

It all started with a couple photos of men's and women's genitalia. It's not that I don't think that there is any artistic merit to images of this type.. I have seen several awesome photos of that... area... that were beautiful and erotic and ARTISTIC. However, these images were just disgusting – honestly.

Let me quantify that statement. I am all for porn. I love porn. I REALLY love porn. But this is a site for art. Seriously. I find it disgusting that some people will post what qualifies as pornography under the guise of art.

Now, I am not against genitalia. I am terribly fond of my own. There are a lot of people whose genitalia I would like to get to know better - much better, in fact.

It's not that photos of isolated genitalia aren't artistic. Georgia O'Keefe's flower paintings are a sterling example of this – artistically depicted genitals. Judy Chicago's “The Dinner Party” is another example.

Why? Because man is a sexual creature. The lines and curves of the human form are the basis for everything mankind has ever considered beautiful. It can be seen in every form of art. It's mostly in visual arts, but it can be seen elsewhere, as well - architecture, aviation, automobiles and even literature. Given the primal temperament of the human mind and our visual nature – it is shocking that the artistic nude is not a more prevalent art form in our modern world. After all, isn't the purpose of art to bring some small measure of joy and pleasure into our lives?

When is it art? When is it not? This is the penultimate question. No other artistic statement is more charged with more political, personal and emotional baggage than the nude.

Collin's English Dictionary defines pornography as “writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement.”

So, intent is a determining factor. Is the piece intended to share beauty? Is it to titillate? Is it supposed to evoke? Is it supposed to provoke? Is it a piece of erotica intended to be enjoyed for the beauty of its mysterious desire and sensuality? Is this just a piece of trash intended  to indulge our baser nature? Does the nudity even have anything to do with the ultimate message and intent of the piece? The problem is that we will never really know what the artist intended. Even if they explain themselves, we really only have our own interpretation of what we are seeing. We view the piece through the lens of our own experience.

It's entirely subjective. One person's artistic nude is another person's horrifying display of pornographic material. There is no objective way to define it. Fortunately, most of the world has made a conscious choice to be against censorship.

My vexation comes from the fact that, because we fight this censorship in our world, we are subjected to the less than artistic depictions of nudity. We are shown pornography, smut or just photos of someone's junk in lieu of art.

It needs to stop; but there's really no way to control it. I have spoken to quite a few of the people that have posted that kind of thing. I have asked them, "Was your intent to be pornographic?" There have been a few that have answered in the affirmative, but most have said that they were trying to share beauty.

The internet strikes again. I already covered this one, so I won't go back into that. However, I do feel that the access to inexpensive digital imaging technology and a lack of peer review and artistic education has made the genre of artistic nudes suffer. (HINT: don't use an on-board flash. I know your camera has one, but it only makes your images look cheap and unprofessional. Light it separately and disable that flash.)

How do we fix it? I don't think we can. Every one thinks their photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. is exceptional - so we can't rely on self regulation. We know better than to hire and appoint individuals to judge what is art and what is not - the government messes everything else up, so why not this? We can't leave it to the general public - most of them encourage mediocrity and a large percentage of the remainder is just trollish. So, I guess we can't fix the problem.

The only comforting thought I have is that those of us photographing, painting, drawing and sculpting nudes aren't going anywhere.

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