Monday, February 8, 2010

Innocent or Subversive-you be the judge...

Funny thing happened the other day-a swap hostess dropped me a note that she had received my cards and was concerned about the one with the nudity…


I checked back through my digital library and I had used the central figure from Bougereau’s painting NIGHT as part of a digital collage---you can see the figure in my slide show on the NIGHT card or above this post on the card in question.

She does have (obviously) exposed breasts…I think it’s quite tasteful and you see as much or more on cable television less artfully presented.

I wasn’t offended in the least-rather I suggested we offer the swappers a choice of a G rated card-you know one of those syrupy sweet pink and blue things with a smiling Victorian girl with a puppy or kitten and forget me nots - I actually DO those sorts of compositions…occasionally.

Americans (especially) need to get over the prudish puritanical attitudes and come into a new century with the rest of the world.

We all have the same bits and pieces beneath our clothes-what exactly do we find offensive about showing it artistically?

The famous impressionist painter Mary Cassatt painted many mother and child paintings some of them showing breast feeding-that was back in the early part of the last century.

Nudes are fairly integral to much of the painting and art in the 1700s---ceilings, nymphs and satyrs, various Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses cavort artistically draped in silken, diaphanous veils.

DAVID…the supersized marble biblical hero carved by Michelangelo…NUDE…and we see that he is not so supersized in one area especially.

When they put up a copy of it some years ago here in Orange County they had to add a fiberglass fig leaf-that would have been in the 60’s---are we nuts???

Pagan fertility statues used to have very obvious male members protruding from them until the Christian missionaries went around and broke them all off with hammers---they didn’t bother with the fig leaves they just left the disfigured fellows maimed and embarrassed for the ages.

SO….here we are in the second decade of the 2,000’s and we still have a problem with NUDITY---and especially nudity that has been around for over a hundred years?
In discussing this with the swap hostess apparently someone in the past had gone ballistic about a similar image calling it “PORNOGRAPHIC”.

If you want to see pornography look at pictures of dead and maimed soldiers from the useless wars we fight, starving children in a world where the average McDonalds throws away the equivalent of a quarter cow a day rather than give perfectly good food to the homeless.

I guess my views on pornography are a bit slanted.

To me put any human in a degrading position that they don’t want to be in and you have a questionable image---there doesn’t have to be any nudity involved.

There are slim lines between art, erotica and pornography and they are transient lines that change all the time...often with the political party currently controlling the White House.

Women go bare breasted on beaches the world around but you can go to jail for wearing a thong on the beach in parts of Florida.

It seems that people don’t understand that when you are less puritanical and you take the snickering and leering out of nudity and sexuality things go better in society.

The more repressive you are as a civilization the more violent rapes and sexual assaults become common.

I think good taste dictates that we don’t march about genitals to the breeze while we do our grocery shopping or dropping the kiddies at school.

Common sense must prevail somewhere.

I, myself, never saw either of my parents unclothed beyond a robe.

I grew up in a fairly permissive environment, moderately liberal thoughts and views on art and film.

I am quite modest, I am also (I think) quite aware of what is tasteful and what is not…

Bougereau painted tasteful nudes he didn’t portray women as silicone enhanced bimbos in florescent thongs dripping sun tan oil and biting pearl necklaces (see Sports Illustrated Swim suit editions).

I doubt that anyone noticed very much that his work had bare breasts in them-it wasn’t a big deal in art back then it happened all the time.

I try to be sensitive about the whole business (as silly as I find it) and if someone makes a point that they don’t like nudity then I try and avoid it as my work concerns THEM but they also have the right of self censorship-everyone does.

I am astonished by people who complain about films that they saw and the nudity (seldom the violence which I think is much more damaging) and when asked if they walked out they say NO…well that was your chance to self censor-if you find it offensive turn it off, walk out, don’t go into a place where nudity is probably going to happen.

That is YOUR choice but don’t censor my tastes and everyone else’s to suit yourself.

Pornography (noun)
1. The explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer.
2. (usually humorous) The graphic, detailed, often gratuitous depiction of something.

In The Four Pillars of Wisdom, he devotes a well-deserved chapter to the financial press and its weakness for "financial pornography"—lurid coverage of star money managers. (Seattle Times, August 4, 2002)

The above definition is from Wikipedia.

I don’t think Bougereau or Michelangelo or Rousseau or any of the great artists were painting their pictures (at least the ones they showed publicly) for the sole intention of exciting the viewer.

I do think that many modern film makers and photo journalists gratuitously depict violence in a graphic, detailed way.

If one is so repressed or unsettled mentally that a pair of breasts or a flaccid penis is sexually exciting to them---they need to be hospitalized and treated because NEITHER of those separately or together fulfills the definition of pornography.

My Mother loved what we lightly referred to as “Tits and feather” shows in Las Vegas-those productions dripping rhinestones and ostrich plumes with beautiful women elegantly strolling about the stage often bare breasted.

She and I saw MANY of them together-she said that with all the distractions she often forgot that the women were not wearing tops…she had been raised on Ziegfeld and Erroll Carroll shows and she understood the line where taste and elegance starts and stops…she, herself, was very conscious of her own modesty and would never have appeared in any less than what she thought was appropriate for her age and station.
She also explained to me in great detail once what the difference was between a “girlie” calendar and the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar-to her one was tasteless and the other art but neither one was, on the surface, pornographic.

I guess because she had education in fine art and had come from an environment of good breeding she eschewed the pedestrian morality of some.

I hope that we don’t as a society, slip back into being a repressed, censoring bunch of blue noses.

Often those who speak the loudest against a thing are the very ones who are most involved in enjoying that thing (see many evangelic/right wing Christians).

It’s time to just relax a bit and see things for what they are, innocent until proven pornographic.


  1. I got the card. I wasn't offended at all by the nudity. I thought it was beautiful - although as you already know, I couldn't make out the handwriting to see who had made it. (I too suffer the same affliction.) I saw your blog in your signature, touched by your sense of humor I came over to thank you for being so gracious. Amazingly I see my card. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I love the card. I am a Christian and I think you are so right about it usually being a Christian who pitches a fit. They need to focus on living a Christian life which is in my mind, more modest and loving rather than judgmental. When Christ was here he loved everyone. Anyway, I am a member of a gallery with a "No Nudes" policy and they are so rude about it. Until I had moved to the bible belt I never even considered that a nude such as that in art, even the masters, would offend anyone. It is beautiful. If they find something pornographic about it; well, they need to scan their inner thoughts and maybe do the work there. :) Anyway, I love the card. I started a new album it is on the first page - centrally located. I have Waterhouse prints in my bedroom. Thought about removing them lest I shock the locals. (I thought the bug sprayer guy was going to have a stroke when he saw them. He turned his head to avoid one only to run his eyes smack into one on the facing wall. LOL He tried so hard not to notice them it only made his discomfort palpable. I know I am wrong to find that funny but it was funny.) Anyway, I decided that there was nothing wrong with the art, nothing wrong with my having it, it is not inconsistent with my faith, and that I would rather be true to who I am - as God made me, than to try to cramp myself up into what other people think a Christian - or an artist for that matter should be. I don't paint nudes so I have never had a conflict with our gallery (although I have railed at them about the rudeness with which they inflict the policy on people - and they have relaxed a lot about it). Before the gallery was less rude about stating their policy I had been tempted to try to paint a nude and then place bandaids strategically just to make a point. I decided that the point would probably be lost and that my actions in making such a painting would be too, well maybe a tad nasty so I let it be. :) Anyway, my advice to you is to keep doing what you do and if you hear any more about your nudes - well tell them to contact me about maybe joining the swap, if I am not already a member, and send them my way. I thought it the best card in the lot. Also, please don't let the really awful Christians out there throw you. There are a lot of us that are great people and I think those others are struggling. They are probably as lost as those they want to change or save. Just like the gallery, they need to get into this century if they hope to connect with people's hearts and minds. Before I get on my soapbox I will sign off. Thanks for making a great piece of art.

  2. Lisa.
    Thanks for the heartfelt comment- being on good terms with the divine superpower myself I have no problems with Christians EXCEPT when they live and talk a double standard.

    I know born againers and what we call 5,000 year Christians (those who think that the Earth is 5,000 years old based on some bizarre Biblical calculation process) who will not read certain parts of the Old Testament because it is pornographic (??????)!

    Narrow minds come in all sorts of packages and sometimes peoplke USE religion to hide their own innate bigotry.

    JC certainly wasnt a bigot and the only thing that ever got him really angry was bankers...

    Thanks again for your most kind words!!!

  3. You can from the outside of the United States to comment on a flower or a butterfly, but you can not to comment on a person

    Translation of comment charecters above



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