Art in the nude

There’s a lot of classical and modern art, of course, that involves nudes, but how often does the museum or gallery visitor get to go nude?

Go nude for the naked truth at Vienna museum

Vienna’s Leopold Museum has invited the public to come in the nude on Friday to view an exhibition of erotic works by Austrian masters such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, that was one day only, July 29, 2005 — and you had to be in Vienna (not such a bad thing, actually).

The exhibition, titled The Naked Truth: Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and Other Scandals, showcases nude portraits by Austrian artists that scandalised the country at the turn of the century and have in many cases retained their shock value.

Vienna museum opens to nudes beating the heat

Vienna’s Leopold Museum offered free entry on Friday to anybody who came in swimsuits or naked, in response to a summer heat wave with temperatures in the 30s (90s Fahrenheit).

The museum said about 300 women and men in bikinis or bathing trunks, and 10 in their birthday suits, showed up as of midday to tour the exhibit.

Museum to Let Naked People in Free

Most of those who showed up in little or no attire Friday opted for swimsuits, but a few hardy souls dared to bare more. Among them was Bettina Huth of Stuttgart, Germany, who roamed the exhibition wearing only sandals and a black bikini bottom.

Although she used a program at one point to shield herself from a phalanx of TV cameras, Huth, 52, said she didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“I go into the steam bath every week, so I’m used to being naked,” she said. “I think there’s a double morality, especially in America. We lived in California for two years, and I found it strange that my children had to cover themselves up at the beach when they were only 3 or 4 years old. That’s ridiculous.”

Also: here [link still valid!], here

Of course, we always get ticked off when something or other having to do with nudity is titled the “Naked Truth”, but we can put up with little problems like that in this case.

Originally published August 22, 2005

A day in the life of a teen nudist

Nope. It isn’t the title of an ephebophile’s wet dream. (Shame on you for thinking that.) It’s the title of a feature article by Rebecca Onion in the September 2005 issue of Elle girl magazine.

In case you aren’t familiar with the genre, here are some clues from the Web site. The most prominent feature on the splash page is a “Genius Guide to Hair Removal”. (“We braved waxes, strips, lasers, and needles to bring you the six best ways to get follicle-free.” Scary stuff!) There’s important breaking news from the wider world. (“Eminem checks into rehab.”) And serious, soul-searching conversation in the message boards. (“What color eyeshadow should I use?”)

You get the idea.

However, don’t despair. There is real gold inside. Namely, the article mentioned in the headline. The subtitle is “Rebecca Onion gets naked at a naturist colony and receives moral support from a nude 18-year-old.”

Rebecca is the writer (and photographer) of the article. Did I say photographer? Yes, there are photos. But pedos needn’t bother running out to the newsstand to get something new to wank with. There are these dirty little black bars in all the photos, covering (and drawing attention to) all the body parts you’re not supposed to look at. (Which is sort of fitting, since you can find the magazine at your local supermarket, close to the tabloids that use this sort of device so often… the tabloids that appeal so much to the dregs of humanity, such as alien-abduction cultists, crime-story addicts, and fundamentalist preachers.)

Waitaminit. What’s wrong with looking at the places under the black bars? This is a story about nudism, no? Never mind. Forget I even asked.

But seriously, naturism owes Rebecca a sincere round of applause. According to Carolyn Hawkins of the AANR, Rebecca is “the first writer to come to Cypress Cove and actually get naked in order to report the story”. This is definitely not true. Just a little fishing around in my files turns up a 1992 article (from Self magazine) by Amy Engeler who visits the Cove and strips naked. I feel quite sure it’s not the first, either. Indeed, Cypress Cove has been around since 1964, and the plot line of a young female reporter visiting a nudist “colony” and disrobing to get a story has been a cliché at least since Doris Wishman’s 1961 cult classic Diary of a Nudist. Sorry to burst the bubble, Carolyn and Rebecca, but them’s the facts.

However, what I said about Rebecca still goes. Because whether or not she’s the first, she says, “I’d be lying if I said I’m not proud of that.” And better yet, she admits that even though “I can’t say I’m a convert to nudism,” she also says, “I heartily endorse how good it feels to go skinny-dipping.”

Rebecca, if you ever read this, whether you realize it or not, you’re more than halfway there. Most people, in fact, do find that they like being openly naked (if they’ll just give it a try), even though few want to be burdened with the label “nudist” or “naturist”.

But please, Rebecca, don’t ever use that “colony” word. You know how nudists hate it. It’s as offensive to many nudists as “nigger” is to a person of color. Just don’t do it, OK?

All that being said about Rebecca, let’s have an even greater round of applause for Jessica Harpin, the teen nudist the title refers to. She’s the real heroine here, since for almost any teenager in her position, it takes real fortitude in the you-know-what to go public about admitting to the pleasure of being naked. (Something that rhymes with “crass malls”. I’d say “true grit”, but that sounds uncomfortable in this context.)

Jessica’s part of a naturist family, and has been going to the Cove with her parents since she was about seven. Nudity is normal in the family. “We go naked at home,” she says. And Jessica’s been different from many (most) kids raised as nudists. “A lot of kids end up not wanting to take their clothes off anymore once they hit puberty,” she says. “That never really happened to me.”

Inevitably, the article trots out the usual AANR talking points, such as:

  • “Naturism opens you up,” Jessica says. “It helps you learn to be comfortable with yourself.”
  • Jessica says nudism got her through the awkward years, in some ways. She doesn’t have body issues, she says, because “there are people of all sizes here… you look at [someone’s] mind, and talk to their face.”
  • She adds that nudism is a good equalizer because “nobody has to show how rich they are. I’m more comfortable in the nude than when I’m wearing clothes.”

Articles like this one have been appearing in women’s magazines for many years (since 1992, anyhow). (The AANR pays good PR money to see to that.) A little more recently, attention has been moving to the younger demographic, as magazines catering to that have proliferated. Rumor has it there will be a similar article next month in CosmoGIRL as well. Stay tuned.

Originally published August 21, 2005

Tib Street streaker of Manchester

Sorry, this isn’t exactly new news… I’m still getting caught up.

The mystery streaker of Tib Street
is, as the Manchester (UK) Evening News wrote about her on July 18…

she’s shown everyone a clean pair of heels – and a lot more besides.

A woman wearing nothing but a pair of trainers and a scorpion tattoo has run down Tib Street in Manchester City Centre at the same time for the last three Fridays.

Of course, had this occurred in most U. S. cities, the “mystery streaker” would have provoked howls of protest and galvanized SWAT teams into action from miles around to put down this terrorist menace. (In the states, if you run unclothed through the streets brandishing an assault rifle there will be a great hue and cry: “Stop him — he’s naked!” And you may rest assured that the NRA will quickly spring to your defense.)

But since this happened in the somewhat more civilized society of Britain,

“It’s all very light-hearted with people laughing and joking,” [one onlooker] said.

“People seem pleased to see her, I don’t think anyone is offended. Tib Street must be the place to be. I’d like to see a lot more of it myself!”

Just good, clean fun. The news stories do not report than any children who saw the streaker turned to stone, spontaneously combusted, suffered from PTSD, or caught some nasty STD. (As would surely have happened in the U. S.)

(A shorter account may be found here.)

But of course, as soon as anything good becomes common knowledge, the laws of karma and human nature dictate it cannot continue. Immediately following publication of the story, the streaker herself owned up to the deed.

I never thought it would get this much attention. I felt so helpless after the London bombings and I just wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces.

There has been nothing else in the papers or on TV recently. I’m a mother and I was thinking of all the mothers who might have lost someone and this was my way of expressing my freedom.

is how Andrea Hall, a 29-year-old mother of 3 children explained her outrageous behavior. It turns out Andrea went for her first streak the day after the London bombings of July 7, apparently to provide a bit of good cheer in a difficult time. She repeated the performance on the following Friday (July 15), but that was the end — no third time as the earlier stories claimed. (Reminding us once again how unreliable any press report can be.)

I think I would only do it again if it was sponsored for charity. It has been a laugh and it has cheered people up.

The funniest comment I’ve probably had is when somebody shouted I was running the wrong way as Tib Street is one way only now.

is Andrea’s conclusion.

Our conclusion? It all goes to show how people around the world are different. The UK isn’t perfect either. While a naked streaker in the U. S. will predictably bring out the minions of morality, in the UK your life is at grave risk if you happen to wear a heavy coat in public in the heat of the summer.

Originally published August 21, 2005

World Naked Gardening Day – September 10, 2005

Get ready for the inaugural World Naked Gardening Day (WNGD)! People across the globe are encouraged, on September 10, 2005, to tend their portion of the world’s garden clothed as nature intended.

Gardening has a timeless quality, and anyone can do it: young and old, singles or groups, the fit and infirm, urban and rural. An elderly lady in a Manhattan apartment can plant new annuals in her window box. Families can rake leaves in their backyard. Freehikers can pull invasive weeds along their favorite stretch of trail. More daring groups can make rapid clothes-free sorties into public parks to do community-friendly stealth cleanups.

Why garden naked? First of all, it’s fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us–even if only for those few sunkissed minutes–that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.

Sounds like a really great idea, no? Read more about it here.

Better yet — get involved! There’s a Yahoo! Group where you can discuss plans with others.

Originally published August 17, 2005

The TreeSpirit Project

A few photographers have undertaken sizable projects that either concentrate on or at least include nude human figures, and that convey a naturist message.

The TreeSpirit Project by Jack Gescheidt is one of the most recent examples.

Most of the photos are black-and-white, but a few are in color. All feature magnificent trees, each worthy of photographic studies in their own right. But the photographer has also included in each image several (as many as ten or more) nudes, both male and female.

Better yet, the project is still underway, and volunteer tree spirits are still being sought to participate.

There is another shoot scheduled for San Francisco on Sunday, August 28, 2005.

According to an invitation recently sent by Gescheidt:

Two stunning Giant Sequoias watch over a small park @ 25th & Harrison, in the outer Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, just a few blocks in from Cesar Chavez/Army St.

Look at the [photos on the web site] to see if these youngsters call to you and your friends. All ages and sizes of human are welcome to be photographed connecting with these creatures. The only requirements are playfulness, adventurousness and your open heart.

Save the date on your calendars and I’ll have more detailed information the week of August 22nd before the shoot.

This event will consist of 20 or more men & women, so there is a place for both the mild-mannered ground-dwellers at the bases of the sequoias and courageous tree climbers (up to about 120 feet). Feel free to pass this email invitation to your friends.

As always, each participant will be given a print from the shoot and asked to sign a photo release so the final image can be used in The TreeSpiritProject, incl. fine art prints and website.

Anyone interested should be able to contact the photographer for more information from the contact details on his website.

Originally published August 16, 2005

Literary nudity

For folks interested in the theory of literature or literary criticism, there’s an interesting book review in the latest eSkeptic — Reading Homo sapiens. It didn’t deal with nudity at all, but was otherwise so interesting that I wrote a long article about it on another blog.

That article of mine didn’t touch on nudity either, but I think it’s worth raising the issue here.

In a nutshell, what I’m talking about is a theory of literature which considers it to be simply an outgrowth of something humans do naturally all the time: creating what-if stories about people (usually including themselves, possibly in disguise) that place them in interesting situations and attempt to figure out what will happen.

There have recently been a few naturist-themed stories that some people have self-published on the net or through vanity presses. But other than that, almost nothing I can think of in recent times. Decades ago, when naturism/nudism was still somewhat of a new idea, there were a few more mainstream pieces of fiction that featured it, such as The Cool Cottontail (1966), a mystery by John Ball and even earlier (1932) The Bishop’s Jaegers by Thorne Smith. Then there are various novels by Robert Rimmer (mostly 1960s-70s). More recently there was Ready, Okay (2000), which had a sympathetic teenage naturist character but otherwise had little to recommend it. And there was a really badly written novel The Metaphysics of Nudity (1996) by Eric Miller, which was essentially someone’s daydream about a cross-country trip of a guy and two young women, who all eventually get into a little skinny-dipping. And nudity has sometimes appeared in science fiction (especially Heinlein’s). But on the whole, there’s been very little (nonsexual) “literary nudity”. Especially not much with actual quality.

Why? If we could do something about this, it might help spread naturist ideas a little better.

Originally published August 7, 2005