So, recently I was asked “Why do you paint nudes? Why not paint something else?”
I found this question so intriguing, especially because nudes are just a small part of what I create. I also don’t see my nudes as nudes. True, the subject of the piece has no clothes on, but it symbolizes how exposed they are to the world, with nothing to hide behind.
Even still, I hadn’t really thought about it. Why is it that some people can look at a nude and be fine, and some people will react as if someone threw acid into their eyes.
The other night I approached a coffee house that had art on their walls and said “Hey, I’m an artist do you display local art?”
They said yes, and I showed them some art on my phone, yeah not very tactful but hey it’s what I had.
Suddenly the woman behind the coffee bar said that the owner wouldn’t approve of any side boob. I looked at the phone, one image was my Speak piece where her arm is draped across her chest and you can see side boob.
“I understand, it’s a coffee house, not a gallery. I meant the other pieces that are a little more neutral, like my trees and bird series.”
“Yeah, it’s just that he doesn’t approve of objectifying women.” she said.
“Ok, well I’ll make sure not to bring any of those.” I smiled.
This made me wonder. Do I objectify women? I paint the male nude body as well. Do I objectify men? Is that even a thing? This really bothered me, my pieces are meant to be empowering and beautiful. They are meant to bring value to the world. So, I decided to sit down and dissect the artist in me that is inspired to use nudes as the subject of some of his paintings.
I wondered first of all if it was wrong. Is the nude body repulsive or evil?
No, in fact quite the opposite, it’s one of the most beautiful creations I have ever seen. The muscle structure, bones, curves and silent language are amazing and unique to each and every individual. I think that is very beautiful and pure.
I thought about how no one would be appalled by a landscape, a painting of a bird, or any animal, even though unless it’s a dog with a sweater those are all completely nude in every sense of the word.
Then I wondered if there was such a thing as objectifying women.
I think there is, but it really has noting to do with the nudity or being a woman in my opinion. I think that every situation is different, but I believe it to be when someone is seen as something that takes their humanity away. Not being seen as a person, just an object… like a walking sex toy, but also a wallet, a child care facility, a daily cleaning service, a taxi service, a restaurant, a bar and halfway house.
I think the reason that nudity get’s a bad rap is because most of us are taught to believe it is bad, or we grow up watching our parents hide their nude bodies in insecurity and shame. We decide that hiding and rejecting it in shame is the way we should treat nudity. So, the immediate response is to lump all that is nude into the category of obscene, objectifying and inappropriate. We don’t actually look to see if it is those things or what it is really trying to say.
Sure, some stuff is stupid and simply trying to sell because they believe sex sells. In fact, I’ve been told “Sex sells” by artist who don’t paint nudes. Interesting thing is that my nudes are harder to sell then any other series I create, because they are nudes.
I had a man once tell me “I love the human body, I just don’t want to see it.” A woman once told me “I don’t have a problem with nudity, I just don’t believe it should be in art.” These slightly confusing comments are rare. For the most part people really enjoy all my work, but you’ll never hear someone say “I love trees, I just don’t want to see them” or “I don’t have a problem with birds, I just don’t want to see them in my art.”
The only people that buy my nude pieces are people that see past the fact that there is a naked body in the painting and see the meaning of the piece as a whole. Others see the human body the way I do, beautiful and they are not afraid to express that by owning the art.
The truth is, everyone sees the world differently and I love that. Some people will always see nudity as something bad and dismiss the value, others will see it as beautiful… Others, especially teenage boys may giggle to themselves and point because they don’t even know what to think.
I’ll get lectures, I’ll get kudos, I’ll get stern looks, thumbs up and a giggle or too when I bring my nude pieces out to the markets or galleries. But the reason I create them is because I love the human body and I love the potential we all have to succeed. I believe (Metaphorically) we do not have to hide behind anything, we can be our true selves and we have unlimited power, beauty and grace.