Nudity in Art

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 133
  • Published: February 21, 2007
Read full document
Text Preview
Nudity in art, or as some may call it pornography, has placed people at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Artists many times will include depictions or description of nudes of the human form in their works. The artists themselves and many liberal, art-loving patrons argue that the world of art needs to have the freedoms to express the human form in the most basic of forms. In opposite of that opinion, many also find the nude human form disgusting and to be categorized as pornography and treated as such. This argument is valid and important, but as found in the Art Journal, Dennis Barrie says this about art, "sometimes art is not beautiful, and sometimes it's challenging, and sometimes it's even offensive, and yet it can be art" ( Barrie 30). Reprisal for being an artist or the fear of public outcry when creating a piece of art several limits the artist's ability to fully express what they see.

The First Amendment is one of the cornerstones of the American Society. When asked, many Americans name the greatest right they are provided by our constitution as the freedom of speech and the right to express one's self. Clashes happen over the First Amendment when someone is offended by another's free act of speech or expression. The laws were created to protect one's right and another's freedom to disagree on that subject. This does create times where a common agreement must be made to consider both parties involved. In Cincinnati, at the Contemporary Arts Center, Dennis Barrie was indicted and acquitted for displaying at an exhibition photographs depicting human bondage and nudity. After Barrie's discourse on the events of that day, one thing stood out for him, "More than anything, that image-that image of policeman in uniforms pushing patrons out of a museum because of what is on the walls-is the image that's going to haunt me for the rest of my life. Because that isn't our country, or it shouldn't be our country" ( Barrie 30). Barrie alludes to the First Amendment and the rights covered by that amendment to create and view art. This freedom, granted to us by our founding fathers and upheld by the Supreme Court of this land, is one of the building blocks that this country rose from.

In opposition to Barrie's view, dissenters feel a need to define what is considered to be obscene and to create a boundary that people should not cross. While this may seem to be an idyllic concept; a single person or group of people cannot define what is considered pleasing to all and yet still give artists the right to create. Art is viewed differently by everyone and to create boundaries may stifle innovation or creation. The toughest decision is the determination of acceptable, risqué or obscene. Without a single entity to measure or convey judgment to the art world, artists are producing pieces that are considered distasteful. The art world does have a strong defender in the Supreme Court which gives the right for protection under the First Amendment as long as sufficient artistic merit could be shown or social value can be justified. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, obscene means:

1. Offensive to accepted standards of decency or modesty

2. Inciting lustful feelings; lewd

3. Repulsive; disgusting

The human race is the only species on earth that clothes or hides itself in other than the natural form. In the Bible, Eve took a bite from the apple and she was suddenly made aware of her nakedness, "And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them" (Genesis 3.21). From that point forward, people made rules of what is considered proper or not. Going back to ancient Greece and further back, nakedness was a sign of slavery, poverty and defeat. The Greek art form of naked women was depicting prostitutes or women of ill repute (Bonfante 33). In the Iliad, Thersites, a despised Greek, was threatened with the punishment of being stripped naked and sent...
tracking img