Reminiscences of an art model

I like this essay for its humor and its relatively casual attitude towards nudity, even if Emily isn’t altogether sold on the idea…

Naked and the Dread – I pose nude for students. Will the art world ever be the same? By Emily Yoffe [Link still valid!]

Here is the distinction between naked and nude. Naked is when you step out of the shower before you’ve put on your bathrobe. Nude is when you drop your bathrobe in front of a roomful of art students. As I undid the sash to my bathrobe, I had the fleeting thought that I could say, “I don’t know what I was thinking,” then grab my clothes and run. But I opened the sash, took off my robe, and stepped up on the platform.

I stood there, suppressing a strong desire to giggle (fortunately, the students suppressed their giggles, too) as I tried to think of appropriate poses—something neither sultry nor stiff. I began doing yogalike twists, but with my being undressed and all, I was afraid it had the feeling of yoga porn.

Originally published December 20, 2005

Staff writer looking for a clued mood

Yet another comment on art and art appreciation. We seem to be having quite a run of these right now.

Austin American-Statesman staff writer Chris Garcia seems to have struggled mightily to grok the scene at a fairly ordinary (for participants) viewing of photographic art at an Austin, TX gallery recently. The attempt is almost successful.

All the images on exhibit, by photographer George Krause, are of nudes, and (almost) all the spectators are nude too, members of the local Hill Country Nudists club. So what’s the big deal?

Art exhibit’s visitors in a nude mood

The naked man looked at the clothed man, and then he looked at the naked people, and then back at the clothed man, all the time wearing a scrunched look that said, “What is this weirdo doing here?”

The weirdo, fully dressed, was there to talk to naked people. He told the naked man this, and the naked man relaxed. But the clothed man did not relax, for he was one of only a few clothed people in an art gallery filled with naked men and women. Twenty-one of the naked people were there in the literal, quivering flesh, and about as many were hanging on two long walls, the subjects of life-size photographs by Austin artist George Krause.

Somehow, Garcia’s prose comes across in shades of purple:

Naked people admired the photos’ indiscriminate honesty, and the boxy, concrete gallery echoed with the slappy patter of bare feet. Sipping cheap cabernet in plastic cups, nudists mixed casually in the shocking altogether, proud in their mammalian resplendence. They embodied all sizes and shapes, from pears to bears, though the age scale tipped to ear hair and backaches.

But here’s the part that gets me going:

There was chatter about “liberation,” “society” and the nudist “agenda,” yet a curious dearth about sexuality and the whole naked thing. One wondered how these people abstain from . . . looking.

“With some practice, it’s completely possible to maintain eye contact with a topless woman,” Morgan said. “You don’t stare, but you don’t avoid looking in a particular direction either.” Gotcha.

What the writer is struggling to understand is that looking is simply not a problem. It’s not a problem, because people who really get naturism don’t mind if anyone looks, or at what parts. To be naked means that certain body parts, which the prevailing culture considers to be taboo and “private”, are uncovered. But since these parts aren’t taboo for naturists, there’s no problem with their being seen, or even something one may pay attention to.

That’s subject to reasonableness, of course. A person who stares without interruption at anyone or any part of someone certainly will be regarded as weird, uncouth, oafish, or gauche. But even then, many, if not most, naturists will not be so much “annoyed” or “offended” as simply pitying toward such behavior. Naturists are quite used to seeing nudity. They enjoy seeing it, but aren’t mesmerized by it. Anyone who is clearly hasn’t got the idea yet.

In traditional Japanese culture there are communal bathing facilities known as onsen and sento. In connection with these, the saying is that “nudity is often seen, but seldom noticed.” However, such bathing facilities usually have separate areas for men and women, so there remains a definite nudity taboo.

Naturism is different. It has a culture of its own where even noticing nudity is not a problem. That is because the nudity — one’s own as well as that of others — is something to be enjoyed. Just so long as one doesn’t take it to excess.

There’s another newspaper story on the same event, by Houston Chronicle writer Louis Parks, who doesn’t seem quite so overwhelmed by it all — and thanks to Mark for this:

A great night for art buffs [Link still valid!]

The gallery served wine, the guests stood around and chatted and discussed the photos. What could be more, well, natural?

No big deal.

To a fully dressed observer, the most striking aspect of this gathering — aside from the vastness of skin, the profusion of body hair and the usually hidden wrinkles — was how similar it seemed to a clothed gathering.

And yet not quite the same.

“It’s refreshing,” said Kathy, whose father, a photographer, taught her ‘the difference between nudity and pornography.’ “It’s nice to meet people where you feel comfortable. One thing about people who are truly nudist, you are not looking at the body image thing, it’s more who they are.”

Vive la différence.

Originally posted August 28, 2005

A breast too far

How well hidden must tasteful art involving nudity be in order to keep knowledge of adult nudity out of the view of children, and thereby to pass on unhealthy attitudes to yet another generation?

At least as far as a wall behind a row of book stacks would appear to be the attitude of a librarian in the body-phobic state of Virginia.

VA Library Moves Nude Painting Behind Stacks

After a mother and tutor complained in July, Chesapeake Public Library in Virginia has moved a painting of a female nude from a place near the building’s main entrance to a wall behind a row of stacks, the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot reported July 29. Roughly 12,000 people walked past the piece, based on library estimates that a thousand people a day visit the building.

Morning Dreamer” by local painter Karen Kinser was on display for two weeks before the mother and tutor complained that the painting was on view in a place where children could see it. The painting depicts a woman, one of whose breasts is visible, reclining in bed. Kinser has been showing her work for eight years at the library but it has never been objected to before.

We mentioned this story a few days ago. But it seems worthwhile to revisit it for more emphasis.

Kinser called the relocation censorship. A library official said she made a practical decision for a public facility funded by taxpayers’ dollars.

Margaret Stillman, the library’s director, loves Kinser’s work. But she made the call to move the 16-by-18-inch painting on July 13.

We can sympathize with Ms. Stillman’s dilemma, given the known antipathy towards nudity in a place like Virginia. But we humbly submit that librarians share with parents and other educators the function of transmitting the best of our culture to future generations, not finding ways to keep it out of their sight.

Parents who learned to fear nudity in their own upbringing should have the right to pass this fear on to their kids, if they must. But they shouldn’t be able to deceive their kids into thinking there are no other points of view. It’s true that nudity is controversial, but as the “intelligent design” enthusiasts and their political supporters claim, we need to “teach the controversy”. Libraries do this by making available the writings of “intelligent design” proponents to anyone who’s interested. They should do no less with respect to tasteful artistic presentations of nudity — even for kids.

Karen Kinser’s paintings certainly qualify. By all means, visit her home page and see for yourself. (More here.) The work is striking and beautiful, especially in her handling of color and pose. Kinser illuminates her artistic philosophy with a quote from Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Or, as I like to say, “Art helps explain us to ourselves.”

Originally posted August 28, 2005

Nude theater… in Kansas!

Nude actors to perform in Topeka

Actors and actresses will bare it all next month at a city-owned theater when a nudist colony stages a series of plays it commissioned to promote a clothing-free lifestyle.

The Lake Edun Foundation
Inc. (Edun is nude spelled backward) promoted the plays in its August newsletter under the headline, “No Sex, No Violence … Only Nudity.”

The plays are scheduled to be performed Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center’s Hussey Playhouse.

Of course, just to be nasty, the writer of the Associated Press story had to use the word “colony”. But that’s Kansas for you.

Longer article: Curtain to rise, clothes to fall

More: here, here.

Lake Edun’s newsletter provides a little more detail:

From the frantic and funny to the reflective and informed, these brilliant and witty one-act plays promise a rare evening of Topeka theatre. So rare, in fact, that almost 30 years have passed since the last time auditions were called requiring actors to undress for the stage.

Originally posted August 26, 2005

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

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