Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Naked Nude

In The Naked Nude, a study of the nude in art from history to modernity, author Frances Borzello contrasts the idealized nude of the historical artistic discipline - which emphasizes the beauty and triumph of the human body idealized to a godlike state - with the confrontational aspects of the modern nude - which is on the whole more reflective of reality, and dares to be provocative in a way the fine art nude was never allowed to be.

I've had a niggling problem with this dichotomy all throughout my reading of the book, and here is what it is. My approach toward nudity from an artistic perspective is actually a marriage of the idealism of classical art, and the confrontationalism of modern art. Depictions of old, awkward, and embarrassing bodies in all their realisticality do not interest me much. My pursuit in art is mainly that of the ideal form of beauty.

Yet, at the same time, I spurn the asexual cast of the classical nude. I want my nudes to be works of art that artists can seriously discuss, but I refuse to de-emphasize their sexual power. I want to raise the subject of sexuality itself out of the pit of pornography, and turn eroticism into a fine art ideal, much as "simple" nudity has been allowed to be for so long. In this respect I am entrenched in the modernist camp, yet Borzello's focus on the realism (rather than the idealism) of the modern nude doesn't resonate within me.

Truthfully, I am fascinated by an altogether different idea. Not the artistic embellishment of the human body to godlike proportions, as one can imagine the ancient Greek sculptors had in mind, but a capturing of real world beauty that aspires to that ideal. The realism is what attracts me to photography, yet I am still interested in the ideal. The result is that I want to find ideal models, instead of depicting normality, and instead of embellishing via the imagination. In this I suppose I am of a like mind with the magazine and fashion industries - and that is probably true - except my sole motivation is art and not profit.

And if you don't think that kind of perfection exists naturally in this world - I've seen it. You just have to look for it. (And of course, there's a subjective element to it as well).

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