Why does art make nudity OK?

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I was at an art gallery the other month, playing Mozart background music on my viola while gifted artists milled around appreciating each other’s paintings of the nude human body.

I was taken aback at how sensual some of these paintings were. I guess it had been a long time since I’d viewed nude art.

They were sensual enough for some of them to cause me to feel something…’down there’.

What a riot.


Yet, if I decided to suddenly dismount from my viola, take off my clothes, and join the lovely ladies on the wall in their nudity but as a real-life addition – that would have caused the riot – as well as probably not getting paid for my background music that evening.

Funnily enough my encounter with this art society led to my first ever life modelling two months later. It was wonderful and I’m now a regular for this group, doing another model for them next week. It’s paid work. How’s that for a new string to my bow?

But these pictures on the wall got me thinking. Something bothered me.

Here were these people, staring at explicit images of naked humans, for minutes on end, not only OK with them but commenting to each other about their appreciation of them, yet Orlando Bloom enjoying a bit of nude recreation with a friend while on vacation is the day’s biggest scandal!

We live in a nude-hysterical society. Facebook itself is having trouble trying to figure out how to allow it on their network after multiple censorship gaffes and outcries.

But let’s step back for a second. When nudity is billed as art, it’s suddenly given a free pass – a badge of legitimacy – a relief, from all the hysteria.

Is art a dream world to allow our most personal fantasies and desires to roam free where ‘real life’ normally forbids them?

Is art therapy?

If you take a look you realize this is about way more than just nudity. Many of the weird, the wonderful, the deep, the taboo, the unspeakable – all manner of ideas, messages, and human honesties – all find solace, in this wonderful thing called art.

But what are we as a species if we have to shunt our deepest expression into mediums and objects instead of real life?

Why have this distance from what we love the most about ourselves? Why can’t we TOUCH our dreams?

I’ve now realized why nudity in art is comfortable for people – the emotional reason for it being ‘OK’.

In art we don’t have the responsibility of dealing with a living human being on the other end of the nudity. It’s a bit like porn vs. sex – it’s a one-way interface with only one person giving, and another receiving.

There’s no living, conscious being to have to ‘respect’ – we can just view the person as an object, objectifying that subject and doing whatever the hell we want to do with them in our mind.

And that’s actually great – we need to enjoy the human body and its full gamut of expression, beauty, and story. But it explains why people have a problem with ‘real life’.

There’s a real-time, two-way social reality when it’s ‘real’. The subject can talk back at you for gawking at them or appreciating them for as long, or honestly, as you are. Maybe they – a conscious being sharing your meatspace – feel uncomfortable. And that brings in the possibility of judgement.

It makes me wonder if the talking portraits in Harry Potter ever tell the students to stop looking at them.

It’s crazy to think we’re all ‘violating’ the dignity of nude human beings in artworks because they’re not alive – and that we’re ‘objectifying’ them. We peer, and leer and stare at them, and it would never be ‘right’ to do that outside of art.

That makes art an outlet. It’s an invitation to look and appreciate – a safe, controlled and non-threatening platform. And because of this it’s sacred. In the case of nudity it’s a way to communicate – by simply showing – the neutrality of the sexiness of the naked human body.

Aspects like that are why people crave it. They desperately want it, and they come to it to worship. No wonder people call creativity spiritual. It’s a space free from judgement, a realm of boundless self expression – a place, where normal rules don’t restrict us. It’s a temple of freedom of expression, and freedom of speech.

But should the freedom stop there? Why can’t we be boundless in real life? Boundless outside of the structure of art?

What – honestly – is the reason? Is it fear? Is it other people’s fear? Is it shame? Is it other people’s shame?

I think we’re ready to start working this out and getting mature about our body as a society. This generation is waking up.

It’s not easy overcoming shames drilled in since birth – but if I can do it, so can you!

Don’t let anyone else’s shaming or judgement tell you how you should live with your own body. Decide how YOU want to live in this world. And that might mean wearing clothes!

I have a good friend who tells me, ‘With nude art it’s not about the nudity.‘ And she’s right.

But who said being nude should EVER be about the nudity?

All you need is a reason important to you, to do it. For some people it’s health. For many, it’s mental healing. For others it’s as simple as tan line hate. A great reason is that skinny dipping just feels fucking great.

I thought of a quote the other week and I shared it on our Twitter:

That’s my reason for being nude.

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