Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Nude Life Model

This was a spontaneous idea that arose during a photoshoot the other day. The dominating thought in my head at the time was how ridiculous it seems to me that anyone could object to the treatment of the naked human body as a subject for art. Obviously not all bodies are built the same, and some are more "polished" than others, but certainly the physical ideal exists as an object of beauty to be admired. The Greeks understood that. And there is an unbroken strain of the fine art world that continues to believe that, in spite of those who may oppose it. When I look at an attractive body unclothed, I can't imagine how anyone could possibly fail to see the beauty in it.

I can't ignore the fact that there is a subjective element involved in the aesthetic appreciation of art, and particularly other people's bodies. But at the same time, it baffles me that anyone could fail to acknowledge that some bodies are, indeed, beautiful - or, at the very least, aesthetically interesting enough to be the subject of an artistic exploration. If you were, for example, to observe a nude life model with an appealing physique both in and out of his clothing - while he may still be appealing in his clothing, and it may be possible to take an interesting portrait of him that way - I can't get into the mindset of the person who would say "leave the clothes on."

A man is not the clothes he wears.

I mean, seriously, who but an enemy of Beauty would require such a thing to be covered up and censored and hidden from the view of others? Why are people offended and frightened by beauty? How insidious is the culturally-ingrained but largely religiously-motivated indoctrination of innocents to make them believe that bodies cannot be beautiful, or if they can, that indulging in the appreciation of that beauty is some kind of sin or vice? There has to be a puritanical element to it - that any enjoyment in life is poison, and that any earthly indulgence of the bodily pleasures is a stain on the divinity of your immortal soul. That all such pleasures in life are a temptation conjured by the Devil to lure you away from God. Again, I ask - how insidious is that?

And as much as the religious themes are interwoven into these attitudes (sometimes subconsciously), much of it relates to a very negative approach towards sexuality and the body in general. People are so uptight about sex, that their attitudes extend to treatments of nudity as well. Noone is allowed to see your naked body except the one (and only) person you're having sexual relations with. Viewing other people's naked bodies is a temptation of the flesh, designed to incite libidinal feelings. A person who shows off their naked body to others outside of a committed sexual relationship is bizarre, and has twisted morals, and is probably sexually promiscuous. An artist who deems the appreciation of naked beauty a higher virtue than his own sexual purity (and the sexual purity of the communities he "inflicts" his art upon), is a deviant, a moral outcast, and quite possibly a dangerous predator. Forget how the artist is treated who believes that actual sex can be beautiful, too...

Well, I'm sorry to say that these attitudes seem to be disturbingly prevalent, even among those who wouldn't normally consider themselves to be either particularly religiously devout, or even sexually prudish (there is a cultural acceptance, especially among males, for a certain level of sexual license, provided it follows an approved course, and is accompanied by participation in the shaming of anyone who deviates from that course). But I don't believe in them. And frankly, I think that their error is obvious, when one looks at the true nature of the world around. I challenge you to look at a beautiful body unclad (and it doesn't have to be a particular one, but the one that would most appeal to you) and claim - not just to me, but to yourself, in your own heart - that it is vulgar, and not beautiful. And if you can do that, then you and I are at a fundamental disagreement, and I would appreciate it if you refrained from trying to mold my views and regulate my lifestyle so that it more closely resembles your own.

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