6/4/13

aesthetic nudity.


  Nudity could definitely be considered a grey area; specifically, nudity in art. I think that people tend to lean one way or another when it comes to this subject; they either fully support it and take no caution, or they are completely against it, won't have anything to do with it, end of story. I used to be one of the folks who was completely against it. If I saw just the slightest bit of flesh showing in an image, I would immediately conclude it to be: Bad art, inappropriate, erotic, sexual, etc. Why? Well, because a woman didn't have her top on, of course! So it must be porn, right? 


Wrong. 


Very wrong, indeed. In fact, it wasn't until just last year that I began to appreciate and admire nudity in art. I began to question myself, "Am I sinning by admiring nudity in art?", "Is this okay?", "Is aesthetic nudity considered pornography?" It seems that in our generation, so many of us immediately shun the idea of nudity in art. I think the reason we do that (and I used to be guilty of it), is because we either tend to group it with pornography, or seeing nudity in art shocks us in general. Nudity is one of those things that we sometimes get a little wigged out by. It makes us uncomfortable. We tend to immediately see it as sin. I know I used to. And then, I was introduced to a masterpiece of a book called State of the Arts (A Christian book) in a class studying art/artists. The book (and discussion in class, of course!), took art to a much deeper level than I ever had in my life. Through it, I was able to glean exactly what I needed in distinguishing what was art versus what was porn. I learned that there were very, very drastic differences between pornography and aesthetic nudity.  Now, before you throw the tomatoes, take a deep breath, have a glass of tea, and allow me to explain: 

According to the The American Heritage Dictionary, Pornography is: "Sexually explicit writing, images, video, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal."

Pornography is focused on sex and sexual matter, put shortly. The (unfortunately) famous men's magazine, Playboy, is a prime time example (note: Though most people have heard of it, if you have not, do not web browse it to see what I'm talking about).It displays scantily clad as well as, yes, nude individuals and it's form, content, and meaning revolve around sex and sexual material. Pornography is created for the purpose of giving you sexual pleasure and sexual desires. How? By keeping your eyes glued to constant erotic behavior through an image. It is created for the wrong purposes. It brings absolutely no dignity to the human body -- instead, it defiles the human body, causing your heart, soul and mind to become corrupted by grotesque imagery. It is not created with any authentic, meaningful purpose. It's "purpose" is to exploit sexualized women who wear bunny ears. Pornography does not inspire us to live fuller, think deeper, or evoke authentic significance. Instead, it trashes and fills wandering minds with blatant, inappropriate material.  Pornography is not wholesome. It is sin.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, fine art is: "Art produced or intended primarily for beauty rather than utility."

"There are certain contexts in which the nude body is beautiful and appropriate and there are other contexts in which it is inappropriate and thusly loses some of its beauty." --Alexandra Foley

 About a year ago, a friend of mine introduced the art of Brooke Shaden to me. I assumed that I would like her work, and that, I did. As I scrolled through her images, she quickly became one of my biggest inspirations in the photography field. It was definitely the most creative, precise work I had ever come across. Not only did I find myself enjoying her creative genius, but I also really came to admire and appreciate the aesthetic nudity in her photos. Something felt so different about the nudity that she had her subjects portray versus porn (note: I have never intended to view porn. However, because of Google's scary search engine and skank photographers on facebook, accidents have happened and my eyes have been scarred). You see, I noticed that Brooke's photos were not taken merely for the fact of, "Hey, lets shock some people by having a shirtless lady.", but instead had (and still have!) purposeful, enlightening meaning. Through her photos, I am able to appreciate the beauty of the human body and am able to derive concepts out of them. I am able to read  Brooke's take on the photograph, what it means to her, why it is important to her, and make sense of the concept and the photo combined as one. 

A few of Brooke's descriptions of her conceptual & fine art: 

"An idea that I can't get out of my mind is the loss of childhood, and trying to get it back. There are two ways to see a picture like this - there is the depressing way, which is that she tries as hard as she can but is grown and can never get childhood back....but then there is the positive way, that at least she understands the happiness of childhood and has good enough memories that she wants them back. So many people grow up to enjoy adulthood because it is better than their childhood, or they forget all together how great childhood was. I chase my childhood every day."


"This photo means a lot to me...much quieter in nature than many other photos of mine, especially lately. It is very sad to me, and delicate and fragile, and I feel like, if this photo were to come alive, her spine and fern would shatter upon first movement."

(ALL photos below were created by and belong to Brooke Shaden.)

"I wanted to use a bold color against the dark background...I wanted to create something that looked very monotoned all around that though, especially in the skin. The pose mimics the nature surrounding, as if she is giving herself to the tree that is swallowing her. I see sadness, but also strength..."












Now I am not saying that aesthetic nudity is for everybody. Some of you may choose not to view it because you personally feel convicted about it. It may give you the wrong feelings, so to avoid lustful feelings, you stay away from it all. Or, it may just not be your cup of tea in general. You may be the opposite though. You may love aesthetic art and admire and appreciate it.You know what? Either way is is okay. I do not want to force an opinion on you. All I want is for you to at least take into consideration the form, content, and meaning of aesthetic art. If you do admire aesthetic nudity, definitely use discernment and take into consideration the form and content it is portraying. Though Brooke's aesthetic nudity has no red flags, there are others who you do need to take caution with, which is where your discernment of the art comes in! I do encourage folks who are interested in aesthetic nudity and fine art in general to take a look at more of Brooke's work here.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining whether nudity in a photo is acceptable or not:

 -What is the purpose of this image?
-Is there meaning and significance to it?
-How do I feel when I look at this photo?
-Is the meaning collaborated with the photo sinful or wholesome?
-Does this image steer me away from God or closer to Him and the beauty He created?

What are your thoughts on this subject? 

35 comments:

  1. I do love this quite a lot! Very well-written, and I have read it three times since I saw you posted it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad you do, Beth! I take it as an extra wonderful compliment, as you are such a fantastic writer yourself.

      Delete
  2. Oh Anna, I appreciate you so much. This is an extremely well written and well reasoned piece. You present a very rational argument and really, make a whole lot of sense.

    We discussed the art vs. profanity issue in my College Writing II class last year and it really challenged me to see things differently. I really don't think that the human body is something to fear - rather is the most beautiful thing God created. Sadly, we live in a culture that glorifies sex to the extreme. We take everything as sexual and as lustful. Why does it have to be that way? Why can't we just appreciate the bodies that were given to us as beautiful works of art? There are limits to this and a line that crosses over into lustful thoughts, but I think that some of this is due to a culture that is so obsessed with lustful sex that it makes it hard to counteract without labeling anything the slightest bit sexual as sin.

    I feel like we could probably get into quite the conversation.... feminism and nudity and Christianity - oh my! (said Wizard of Oz style, FYI)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we would be those two girls in a coffee shop solving ALL of the world's problems. ;] Yes though, I love how we can relate so well to aesthetic art, feminism, AND Christianity. It's so great to have someone to be able to easily and effectively!

      Delete
    2. *Easily and effectively TALK to! Forgot to add that last part in. ;]

      Delete
  3. I do understand what your saying. But I don't agree! Nudity is wrong, no matter what the position is, no matter what the theme is. Sensual or no, (which in my opinion, being almost nude/nude , your only doing that to get certain people's attention for one reason.) It is showing body parts that should only be visible to your spouse.

    teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, (Titus 2:12 NKJV)

    I'm sorry but you can't tell me. That seeing nude pictures, male/female, is living righteously and godly, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts as the verse above says.

    The only reason that there are nude pictures is for a sensual reason. And every single picture above is in a sensual position. I'm sure not as sensual as porn. But sensual none the less. The very fact that they are naked makes it sensual. In the second picture she is basically showing her bottom, while standing in a sensual position. Would you be comfortable having Jesus looking at a picture with you like that? And him knowing you think it's all OK?

    I'm not quiet sure you understand how a Mans mind works? Even if your showing to much of your body when your wearing clothes is a problem, and can cause them to lust, and if you are dressed in immodest clothes and you cause someone to lust, it is your almost more your sin then the person who is doing the lusting.

    Anna, awhile ago you and I argued on the same side over at horse feathers about immodest dressing. And I was so glad that someone else agreed with me, but now Anna! I don't understand this! How can you say that dressing immodestly is bad, but then posing for a picture almost nude/nude is OK?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who says that nudity is wrong? The bible doesn't. Lusting for someone is wrong. Sexual immorality is wrong.

      I'm sorry, I hate to say this bluntly but you are wrong.

      Delete
    2. Also, you can't read peoples intentions. Only God can do that. As long as you love God and your neighbors, and act under His will.... you are not in sin. That's what Jesus said. Anything else is of the old testament and is very sadly judgmental.

      Delete
    3. But how can you say that having a limited amount of clothes on is wrong, but then having no clothes on is OK? You said that Anna.

      If there is nudity people will lust, not everyone, but some will, and it's shame to the person who is nude, because they have the sin of the person who is lusting on them as well, because they are dressing, or perhaps I should say not dressing at all, in a way that would cause someone to sin.
      And would the person go lust after someone else, yes they would, but then the sin is no longer on you, as long as you are dressing in a way that doesn't cause someone to lust.

      Can you please show me a bible verse that says that being nude is OK? Because all I know is that in Genesis after sin can into the world, The Lord made coverings for Adam and Eve so they would not be naked. If it wasn't wrong, then why wouldn't he have just left them nude?
      And if it wasn't wrong, then why after eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve knew they were naked, and they were made leaf garments to cover themselves. If it wasn't wrong, then why would they have made coverings for themselves? When Adam found out he was naked he was afraid to see The Lord, The Lord who is perfect, and does no wrong. I just don't see how you can say that the bible doesn't say it's bad. In the very beginning of the bible it says so. In everything I just said it proves that it's wrong.

      And Anna, can you please explain what I asked before, how can you say that dressing with a scanty amount of clothes is bad, but having no clothes is OK?

      Delete
    4. Katie, you have raised a good question. Here is the answer: God has instructed us as living beings to dress modestly, but it is not said so about art (which is where the discernment between aesthetic art and pornography come into play). Think back to the early 1500s when creative genius, Michelangelo, created his famous sculpture "David", which is a full nude & still stands 17 feet tall. It was not sculpted for the mere fact of having a naked man, but instead created to portray a Biblical representation of David. Though aesthetic nudity, specifically, is not mentioned in the Bible, it can also be seen as an illustration of poetry. Instead of words though, a story is told through a visual. A lot of the time, yes, it is shown through aesthetic nudity (take "David" as an example, once again). Song of Songs is a great written poetry example: Song of Songs 4:5 “Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.” Even the Bible describes brief nudity and applies beauty and creativity to it. Imagine taking that verse and creating a visual art piece out of it. Or, you could even take the Fall of Man as a visual. It's all about form, content, and meaning.

      Delete
    5. Yes, but wasn't Solomon talking about his spouse?

      Delete
    6. It could be possible. All we know is that he (most likely) was the author who wrote the poetry in Song of Songs about love. He could have used his own characters, or he could have written it about he and his wife. Either way, it is a large description of love, sex, and the human body through poetry.

      Delete
    7. Im gonna have to side with katie on this. I respect your thoughts Anna and found this post interesting,but as a photographer I would not be comfortable taking a photo like that and as a sister and hopefully a mommy to boys someday I wouldn't have photos like hanging up around my house or would I want them looking those type of pictures. Yes they may see girls like that at the beach in bikinis,but why add to their temptation those photos definitely show a story and have creativity,but I'm not here to say what's right or wrong it's not my place. But I want to put my eyes on things that are pure,right... (Phil.4:8)

      Delete
    8. You are most certainly entitled to your own opinion! I definitely respect your decision. Some people are comfortable with aesthetic nudity and others are not. It's where the personal conviction takes place.

      Delete
    9. But Anna, if it's all OK, then why did God cloth Adam an Eve after they found out they were naked? If it wasn't a sin, then why can't we all walk around naked?
      And since you say our body is beautiful (which I'm not denying it, we are fearfully an wonderfully made,) we are walking art. But also in the world we are walking art, so why is it Ok, to pose for a picture naked, but it's wrong to walk out in public naked? What's the difference? The public will see you either way.
      And if nudity is OK, then why as they did in the New Testament, why when they would crucify people, why were they naked if it wasn't wrong? Jesus hung naked on the cross. Why was it so? Because it was shameful! Not only did you have to go through all of this pain, but you also had to go through the shame of having people see you naked.

      Matthew 27:35

      ( I also want you to know that I'm not trying to slam you in any way, I'm just truly concerned that you would think this way.)

      And Blythe, thank you so much for agreeing with me, I was kinda getting discouraged. :) thanks for the encouragement.

      Delete
    10. And Solomon did write that book, and he wrote it about his wife. And yes it is beautiful, it's very beautiful, but again he is talking about his wife.
      Not some random person.

      I meant to add this in, just because someone famous like Michelangelo
      makes a tall statue if David that is completely naked doesn't mean that God thinks that's OK. I actually think that it saddens God.

      Delete
    11. Again, Scripture confirms that us as LIVING BEINGS are not to dress immodestly or, as you say, "walk around publicly naked". However, absolutely nowhere in Scripture does it condemn aesthetic nudity in art or even have specific regulations on art in general. I have answered your questions in my previous comments, so please, read what I have already posted and read it thoroughly. Let's compare art to poetry (or text in general) again, shall we? In the Bible, as you said, Jesus was crucified and stripped of his clothes. Say someone paints that, that is just a visual version. It is still glorifying Jesus. It is not sin, I assure you of that. Or, again, we can use Song of Songs (just look at the original verse I put) and someone could either photograph or paint the visual because it is ART.

      Also, I don't quite get the point you're trying to make with the poetry in Song of Songs. That is, unless you are just trying to find something else to counter for the sake of countering. Anyway though, no matter if it is about his wife or somebody else, it still is in Scripture, it still talks about love, sex, the beauty of the human body, etc. So what difference does it make when applied to art (whether it is his wife or own characters)?

      There is no need to be concerned about my "way of thinking". I have given you a very, very rational and Biblically based argument. I am not just adding to Scripture, taking it out of context, or formulating my own worldview, if that is what you're thinking. I do not mean this as criticism in the slightest, but I feel as though you do not have a thorough understanding on art and how it fits in with Scripture, even though I have already given an entire post along with comments.

      Delete
    12. So now, my question to you is this: How is a visual representation of Scripture, for example, sin?

      Delete
    13. Why do I get the feeling that you two won't convince each other and that this is one of those very debatable topics...hmmm....???? :)

      Delete
    14. Why I keep bringing up Song Of Solomon is because he is talking about his wife. And he's not talking about someone unknown, and that is what makes it not wrong, because he is talking about someone that God has given him to enjoy in holy wedlock. Not some person, that he is lusting after. Not someone that he is seeing nude pictures of either. God gave us as humans a spouse that we can enjoy in holy wedlock, something that is very holy and pure, and yes very beautiful. So yes there is this in the bible, it's showing something between a husband and wife, but it is also something that God created for us to enjoy, as a husband and wife, not for anyone to see. We are meant to enjoy the human body, but not everyone is supposed to enjoy yours, just your spouse. And if he was saying this about some woman, then he is sinning, because it's obvious that he is lusting after the person he is writing about. But since it is his wife, no sin has been committed.

      And I just would like to point out that you haven't answered anything about Adam and Eve. Why were they clothed if it wasn't wrong for them to be nude?

      It doesn't matter if it's art or walking, you are still a human being who is dressing, or actually not dressing in a way that is pleasing to The Lord, you are opening yourself to the world to view, they might not be seeing you personally but it is still you. And you are still removing your clothing to take this picture. And it is your body that is there for people to lust after. And yes, you can say that people who have a lust problem shouldn't look at it. But it is your body that is putting people in the way of temptation, and by removing your clothes you are doing something that God says we should not do. We should never be in a position that could have any possibility of causing someone to stumble. That is something that is supposed to separate us from the world, we are not to be causing others to sin. We are supposed to be a light, showing non christian people what it means to be a christian. Not posing for pictures that will cause others to stumble.
      The bible is a beautiful book, but it also has things in it that aren't very pretty. And I think God has done this to show us life. But reading about something and putting it in a picture before your eyes, ( eyes that are only supposed to look on things that are holy and pure) and seeing someone who is not your spouse naked, I'm sorry that is wrong. That is not keeping your mind and eyes pure.

      So would you look at a picture of 2 unmarried people having sex?

      Delete
    15. Katie, I've been following the comments and I have to applaud you for yours. =) Your argument is solid and its encouraging to read what you've said.

      One thing that is so important to remember, Anna, is that the Bible and what it says is absolute - it applies to all of life. Just because it doesn't lay down detailed guidelines for art does not mean art is something we can do absolutely anything with. Where in scripture does it say that we are to dress modestly except in art? It doesn't say that. No, what the bible says applies to 100% of life, including art. Frankly speaking, it's plain old wrong to believe that nudity is permitted by God outside of marriage. I know that doesn't sound nice, but it's the truth. You either accept God's word or you don't - it's not a matter of opinion, and this matter is not one of opinion, either. To go around naked in any situation outside of marriage is sin and it dishonors the Lord - it's an act of shame.


      The Bible always speaks of public nakedness as shameful. Luke 8:27-35:

      27 And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” 29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.

      30 Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?”

      And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.

      32 Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. 33 Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

      34 When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.

      Delete
    16. Hannah Beasely, thank you so much for the encouragement. Those verses that you wrote are perfect, I didn't even think of those.

      And Anna, I meant to mention this before, I have never seen a picture of Jesus's crucifixion without him wearing some clothing. Because the artists know that it would be blasphemous, and shameful for them to do such a thing.
      and since you brought up Michelangelo, how come in his sculpture of Jesus and Mary, why does Jesus have on some type of clothing, when in real life he did not?

      Delete
    17. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

      (I Corinthians 6:19, 20 NKJV)

      Delete
    18. Hannah Beasley, I found myself nodding my head as I read your comment. I agree with what you said. Anna, I'm going to have to politely disagree with you :). You basically said that the Bible doesn't say anywhere that nudity in art is wrong. But couldn't you present that argument for anything sinful? You could argue that cursing and blasphemy is wrong unless it is in a song because music is a form of art. You could say that sex outside of marriage is wrong except when it is portrayed in a movie because films are a form of art. Etc. etc...

      I agree with Hannah in that what the Bible says is wrong is wrong all the time. I don't know of any verses that specifically say that nudity is wrong, but there ARE verses that say to think about things that are pure and and right and noble and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8), to honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9-10). I don't believe that posing nude for pictures is honoring God with your body (a body He created for your future spouse ONLY to see). Even if you feel you have the right intentions about the pictures, I do not believe that makes them right. When men view these artistic photos (or vice versa with women with photos of men), are they being pointed to God and not lusting after the person in the picture?

      1 Corinthians 8:12-13 says: "And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble."

      1 Timothy 2:9-10 says:
      And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

      Delete
    19. Hello Anna this is my first time to your blog and I just couldn't keep quiet about this topic. It saddens me to see how corrupted our world and the church has become. I think of the verse that says "what is wrong will be seen as right and what is right will be seen as wrong". Public nudity in any form is against God's will and as His followers we are to "flee from temptation" and "all appearances of evil" . Another thing I wanted to point out is that back in the garden of Eden God COVERED Adam and Eve completely. The fig leaves that they had sewn for themselves was not enough. So, yes, the Bible is against nudity. To say that you are for nudity in art is just the same as agreeing with pornography.

      Delete
  4. I love this post and I completely agree with you. I find nude art to be very tasteful and even classy. Nude art is actually one of my favorite kinds of art. There is a huge difference between artistic nudes and pornography. And, God made our bodies the way they are. There is nothing wrong with seeing a naked human being in a nonsexual way. Our bodies are natural. There is nothing 'dirty' or wrong with them.

    I applaud you for this post. It was great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Rachel! I completely agree with you about how God created our bodies just the way they are. He has designed them to be "Fearfully and wonderfully made"!

      Delete
  5. I really appreciate this post, Anna! :) And I'm sorry you're getting so much flack over it! :( That's just sad.
    God made the body to look like it does, and if He didn't want people to appreciate it in an aesthetic way he would have made us all look like straight up and down sticks (and made sex unnecessary too I might add).
    He made all of this so we could appreciate and enjoy His beautiful creation. And if we do it with pure intentions, I don't see anything wrong with it. God sees our hearts, and who is anyone else to judge how we really feel when we see something like this? I think the photos are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you were able to relate to it, Bleah! I like your example of God creating us like "straight up and down sticks" and enjoyed reading your view on this as well. It does sadden me that society has become so corrupted that the nude body is immediately seen as almost "evil" in art. Aesthetic nudity revolution, perhaps?

      Delete
  6. YES.

    I am just now finding this as I transfer all my blogs to Bloglovin, and going through to find out which ones to keep and which ones to clear aside for a time. And then I found this post, and after the day I have had, this is so timely.

    Yesterday, I posed as a an artistic model for a body love project...and save for my panties, I was entirely nude. My breasts were covered with my hands, and the shoot was very tastefully done. I have never felt so beautiful nor so confident in my body. And then my parents saw the pictures in their gallery. And they absolutely went balistic.

    My father called me shameful, my mother was appalled. They called me a slut and wrote my husband in an attempt to shame me into deleting the pictures. I did not, and my husband was irate that such a thing would even be asked of me. I have been bashed against the wall for being "a part of evil, pornographic images."

    This healed me. God created me this way, this skin and this body. We were covered AFTER we sinned because shame came into play. There is NO LONGER ANY SHAME in our freedom in Christ.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I understand what you are trying to say Anna, but I have to agree with Katie and Hannah. Personally I believe that the Christians in this era have taken "no shame in christ" too far. You cannot say one verse in the bible is true, and another is not. You can't pick and choose. The bible is absolute truth, and we know in our hearts when we try and manipulate what it says.

    The world completely accepts and promotes nudity. We as Christians were called to be light, to step away from the darkness.

    You CANNOT mix what the world says is true and what the bible says is true. They are two different things. We only believe what we want to believe. But if we say we believe what God says, shouldn't we believe ALL of the bible? Even if we don't understand?

    ReplyDelete

I do love comments!