NUDES: aesthetic?, erotic?, literal? ... or singularly apathetic?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by David Lyga, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    When I am doing something that requires great mental acuity I cannot play classical music in the background because that music’s mental demand conflicts with my other task. I cannot ‘listen’ to classical music without directing an intense mental focus to it.

    Likewise, I find that the human body’s potential erotic ‘beauty’ gets in the way of any loftier aesthetic that strives to be noted and evaluated. I do not find the human body ‘beautiful’ in any sublimated way.

    Decades ago, in 1970 (when the US dollar was worth something), I was in Europe on a three month First Class Eurailpass. I made a point to visit Michelangelo. In Firenze, I visited David and was amazed with the intricacy and detail that the master had captured. But, I will treasure my intimacy with his (Vatican) Pieta much, much more. I saw the Pieta before it was smashed by the deranged Lazlo Toth’s hammer (and subsequently reconstructed in Brazil). I saw it without Plexiglas.

    In fact, I walked up to it and, alone, I glided my hand over it quietly and lovingly. That made a big impression on me: the form of the poses, the empathy and nobility of the subjects, the grace with which the clothing flowed. Far more than a depiction of a grieving mother, here Michelangelo masterfully imparted a successful conflation of spiritual and worldly. I almost was waiting for Mary to verbally communicate her remorse to the dead Jesus.

    I post this to ask others if they witness the nude human body in the same pedestrian way in which I perceive it, be it photographed, painted, or sculpted. Art must say something, I believe, and although humans, be they nude or clothed, might perform, as conduit, the artist’s yeoman’s task of allowing the full, underlying aesthetic to boldly manifest … yet, without the communicative denouement, without subordination of the isolated human form, without other more ennobling factors handily overriding the literalness of the human paradigm, we have, essentially, ‘classical music’ revealed and reviled as, but, enhanced background noise. – David Lyga
     
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  2. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Your question reminds me of the first time I visited Florence and saw the David. It was 1980, I was 22 years old and visiting Europe for the first time, also on a three month Eurailpass. I was in awe of the work. As I sat contemplating the statue, a tour bus of older Americans arrived. The tourists were probably around my current age. One couple stepped to the side, a few feet away from me. The woman turned to her husband and said, "I think it's beautiful, but why does he have to be nude? Why can't he be covered like a good American statue?"

    I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the comment.

    The comment reminded me of the saying that when Europeans are asked about nudes, they think of Rubens, Rodin and Michelangelo. When Americans are asked about nudes, they think of Playboy and Penthouse.

    I guess I'm not a very good American, I tend to the European view.
     
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  3. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Gad, how embarrassing.:sad:
     
  4. cliveh

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    I find the way people behave with their clothes on interesting enough, without even getting to nudes.
     
  5. Katie

    Katie Subscriber

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    I'm of the prudish American belief that wishes most would leave something to the imagination when it comes to nudes. What you see is never as good as what you can imagine...
     
  6. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't know, Michelangelo's David clothed? I don't think it would have nearly the impact, it's quite an extraordinary sculpture of the human form, and there's plenty you can imagine about him. And, like the OP, I saw his Pietá when it was quite accessibly close, and again, it's quite a thing to see. Sometimes, in art, the human form is just that, and sometimes, usually when only half-clothed or when some prudish Victorian stuck a fig leaf where no fig leaf should ever be does it start to titillate IMNSHO. Thank goodness Michelangelo's David was never fig leafed... not sure what I would imagine if it had been. :wink:
     
  7. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    How true.
     
  8. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    But don't you think that certain parts of the body of David, like the hands are out of proportion?
     
  9. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, so? Still a pretty good sculpture of the human form, and in fact,I"m not sure it would have worked so well if the hands were smaller.
     
  10. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    I'm with Suzanne on this one.
     
  11. rbultman

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    I don't think nakedness is necessarily related to titillation, which I am interpreting from your description of 'erotic beauty getting in the way.' Surely you have seen people who have their various bits covered up, but, as titillation is the point, titillation occurs. There are also nudes which are generally regarded as beautiful and not erotic to most, which was likely the intent of the artist - to celebrate the beauty of the body in a nonsexual way. To some however, as you have stated, there is no such thing as a nude which is not erotic. This attitude is at least partly societal, as Allen Friday's post regarding the sensitivity differences between Americans and Europeans illustrates, and partly internal, that is, how we each are internally affected by a work regardless of the 'norms' of society.
     
  12. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    well - SO many have - and somewhere - i think in the hidden basement of the library of Paris - there are drawers FULL of penis'es, labeled and all - taken from the statues and replaced by fig leaves.... Seen it on TV - the guy showing it to us told it was his biggest dream to make an exhibition, just with these remains......
     
  13. TheFlyingCamera

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    Also, the perception of certain body parts being out of proportion is only when we look at the statue at eye level. If you view it as it was intended, up on a pedestal so that you're looking UP at it, the hands and the head appear proportionate because they're compensating for perspective. IF my art history serves me correctly, there was a time when a plaster fig leaf was applied to David, at least for a visit by Queen Victoria. But the whole thing is rather ridiculous to be worrying about covering up body parts out of prudishness rather than climate-dictated need.

    I think it's a vain effort to try and separate the erotic from the artistic - and there's not a damned thing wrong with having your cake and eating it too when it comes to this. I think part of the impact of a statue like the David or the Pieta is the stark, confrontational physicality and humanity of the figure being nude. David was to inspire the Florentine republic as an heroic figure who was also human. How more human can you get than when naked? And certainly the erotic charge of this virile young man, a conqueror and giant-slayer without arms or armor, would inspire anyone. The nudity of the Pieta reminds us of the ultimate humanity of Jesus - none more corporeal and human than the naked body. Seeing the form of vigorous youth laid low doubles the tragedy - someone who you can picture in a sexual way now dead magnifies the sense of tragedy. I'm certain this was a thought in Michelangelo's mind as he was creating the statue - he was a master of the psychology of art as well as its practice. If he had Jesus in a funeral shroud, we'd look at it and say, "oh, how sad for the mother. Didn't he do a beautiful job rendering fabric in marble?" instead, we look at it and immediately feel a profound tragedy. Were Jesus draped, it would be just another statue at the Vatican to be noted as stop number 23 on the tour.
     
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  15. doughowk

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    from Kenneth Clark "The Nude". I suspect the same should be true for the creator of the image.
     
  16. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    Only minds are dirty.
     
  17. Katie

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    Very well said.


     
  18. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Nudes are fine. All you puritans and prudes... lighten up! I agree 100% with JBrunner that only minds are dirty.
    As for David, anatomically (especially his back) there are quite a few anomalies — artistic licence combined with exaggeration of anatomical form.

    Sadly for David, he was looking considerably worse for wear after a 2-year loan to the Guggenheim. They won't be doing that again. Take your pick which is the most beautiful nude.

    David after 2 years on loan to the USA.png
     
  19. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    ^^^:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:^^^
     
  20. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    I 'came of age' rather late, after the rather uninspiring beginning in the suburbs of Los Angeles and when I moved off to university in far northwestern California. I spent a lot of time in the Falls and Summers at the local "Free" beach. After a couple times, nude bodies were no longer a big deal...we were just young people at the beach, playing volleyball, frisbee, swimming if we dared (the ocean only warms up to the low 50's). The nudity was relaxing...not tittalizing (is that really a word, LOL!). It seems the America as a whole gets off on Puritanism. As if we can't enjoy sexuality unless it is the forbidden fruit.

    My own mind -- I tend to think "nice body" ( I am no monk), then get past that and look a little deeper, if there is anything there that might be worth the time and exploration.

    One of my boys (almost 16) has recently gotten into Japanese anime -- it is fun to watch some of it with him. One series I joke a lot about with him because it is so obviously a form of animated soft porn -- almost kiddie porn. Blows my mind at times. It is by no mean subtle!
     
  21. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Inactive

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    I think... Hmm...

    I think the nude form is the hardest to capture, every nude shoot I do is a challenge, the moment I begin to feel "aroused" or attracted to the model, I end the shoot because I know after that point my artistic mind is gone and only my sex craved mind is there and it's impossible to make something beautiful and artistic.

    I also found it odd that though there are many statues of various size and shaped women with big breasts or flat ones, big butts and no butts, the men tend to all have the same "average" or small size members, and none are Increadibly large as to make a normal man seem to feel inadequate. At least when it comes to realistic sculptures. In other cultures with sculptures I've seen all sizes but they aren't the "realistic" form. So I find that an interesting commentary :smile:. Though I am not worldly so please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Hmm what else.. I think that being connected to your own sexuality and being able to incorporate that somehow into your view of nude art can be both powerful as distracting at the same time. It's really the most difficult of all art creation IMHO.

    I don't think that art should be censored so I'm of the mind that the artist should dictate what is seen and exposed and what is "left to the imagination" and the kind of dismemberment /disfigurement and destruction of sculpture like replacing penis' with fig leaves is a disgrace to the human race and they should feel ashamed of themselves for destroying something they feared out of ignorance.

    It also makes me sad that I can never view it as intended. Just as I'm not sure we know EXACTLY the height of the pedestal that David stood on originally (we may I don't know) but its that kind of thing that just saddens me because it cheapens the experience and leaves me feeling ... Sad for the world. I hope someday we can overcome.


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  22. David Lyga

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    I certainly have no 'prudish' problem with nudity. But I do have a major problem with the American need to sensationalize it and call it ipso facto 'art'.

    Like the Europeans, I see nudity as 'no big deal'. I do NOT, however, see it as something beautiful in and of itself like a lot of Americans do who want to indulge their obsession with being able to 'express' themselves. Yes, indeed, the Puritan ethic is pervasive here in the USA, even amongst people who think themselves liberated from it!

    Nudity should be an afterthought, not a necessity in order to make a point. Like left-handedness, it should be not 'thought' about. The Europeans have that 'over us' for sure with their far more mature outlook on the human condition.

    But what I want more than anything else at this point is to question SuzanneR, and force her to reveal to me, "just how did you get that proper accent on the 'a' of Pieta"? - David Lyga
     
  23. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Here ya go...

    On my keyboard, (I have a mac) I hit the "otion" button and then the "e" at the same time, the accent aigu appears, then type whatever letter you need under there. Not sure which "option" and letter combo will produce the accent grave, but if you are in need of an umlaut the "option" and the "u" will produce it.

    And now back to regularly scheduled programming and the nude in the history of art...
     
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    That was my Aunt and Uncle from Boston. Yes, they really felt that way after visiting Italy. I laughed... out loud and in their faces... adn then apologized for being so rude. They also didn't like the un-authentic Italian food either.
     
  25. David Brown

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    :laugh:
     
  26. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I think the nude, for most serious artists, is always the elephant in the room. It's about both challenging a tradition and adding to it at the same time. For art's sake, but in the most reputable way.