I used to hate art … never got the whole idea of someone throwing paint on a piece of canvas, aging it, and making several million dollars. But, I had a really great teacher in an art appreciation course, and I had one of those epiphenic moments in my life. I really like art quite a bit now (I mean if I get why someone would lay down a cool million for an ATC T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, I guess I understand why someone would shell out tens of millions for pictures of their doctor). But I digress.
Art goes through cyclic phases like just about all of history. Not only do various styles in Western art cycle through, but subject matter has an alternating history between the sacred and the secular.
Art also does a great deal to do with portraying the human form … I mean a lot of sculptures and painting do in fact show people, and a lot of an artist’s training is involved in being able to portray the human form just right … something that is difficult to do with all of the bones and muscles. That’s part of the reason artists stereotypically work with nude models as this allows them to focus on the real form of the human body.
Needless to say, if you got to an art gallery, there is a good chance you are going to see human nudes. Its nothing but a thing. However, every so often, someone does not quite get the whole difference between art and porn.
Now the Europeans are typically, at least compared to a lot of parts of the U.S, at ease about art being out and about, and no one gets hung up on a penis or a breast hanging out. One of the most famous sculptures in all of the world is Michelangelo’s David, and Dave is naked! When he was unveiled, the crowd in Florence threw a gigantic riot/party in joy … not for something scandalous or erotic, but because they were amazed at the craftsmanship. It was displayed openly for a long time, and only relatively recently was it moved in doors to protect it from the elements (and a copy was stuck out in its place … no problems … ART!
Even some of the most breathtaking paintings ever rendered in the Sistine Chapel … the pope’s private chapel in the Vatican, included nudes … a lot of them! Here is a quote from a great appreciator of Michelangelo’s work:
It seems that Michelangelo, in his own way, allowed himself to be guided by the evocative words of the Book of Genesis which, as regards the creation of the human being, male and female, reveals: ‘The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame’. The Sistine Chapel is precisely – if one may say so – the sanctuary of the theology of the human body. In witnessing to the beauty of man created by God as male and female …
That was John Paul II himself.
The Sistine Chapel went through a period of censorship though. After the Council of Trent reacted to there being a little too much nudity, Daniele da Volterra was called in to touch up Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, painting loincloths and pants over some figures, and even chiseling and repainting others. By any modern definition, this would be an abomination to deface a work of art like this. Certainly, when the Sistine was restored much of Michelangelo’s original work was put back the way he meant it to be.
So in Edinburgh, Scotland, they are having an exhibit of works by Picasso, and as part of the ad for the exhibit, they are using his Nude Woman in a Red Armchair
Instead of people saying “WOW! Works of Picasso in town … we need to check this out!” a few people decided to complain, because kids playing video games and surfing the internet aren’t normally exposed to this, and it could affect them in some way that is bad, I guess.
So, the Edinburgh Airport decided to cover the image to stop the complaints, figuring that most Europeans would much prefer to see a blank piece of paper instead of the art of a world renowned grand master.
Then the complaints really started pouring in. End of story, the ad is back, uncovered in its rightful place.
So why am I on the pro-naked chick bandwagon?
As I mentioned, art and history go in cycles, and right now in ‘Merica, we are in the midst of a fairly anti-intellectual era, and with that comes some voices of the past who want to do this very same thing. One town over from me is Park Ridge, a modestly affluent community. It’s a nice place. One of the centerpieces of that community is the Pickwick Theater.
The Pickwick is a real treasure of a place where I prefer to see movies. The sound isn’t as good, but the interior is a classic!
Not only does it show first run movies in a beautifully restored art deco theater, but it still has the old organ that was used when silent films and vaudeville played (restored and fully functional), and the stage serves the town’s orchestra in addition to a few other shows. As a part of the decor, at either end of the lobby are two nudes.
If you are looking at this now, SHAME!
One of my colleagues has informed me that there is a movement afoot to cover or remove the statues. This in a town that had an artist’s colony that once included Grant Wood. Censorship is one of those things that comes back around every so often. I am hoping that this talk remains among a small group and gains no traction in the town. Censorship is one of those things that a town should never want to be a part of its heritage.