Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Maybe I'm feeling a bit provocative of late. I didn't mean to shock by voicing some ideas about tattooing that were a bit dark . I was only thinking out loud, and wanting a bit of dialogue. I didn't get it here, but I did in real life. It upset a few, but it did provoke some interesting conversation, and that is all I wanted.
I sometimes don't see what's taboo, or if I do, I want to talk about it and find out what others think.
So, I might be doing it again, by airing these thoughts:
There was a plate of crudites at a party that were particularly beautiful. Carrots with purple skin, bright yellow carrots, "watermelon radishes", and a bunch of other things, all quite colorful, that I had never seen before. I met the grower of these delightful vegetables, and we wound up talking about the immense variety of beans. I do not recall their name, but a friend grows some beans that are particularly stunning - magenta pods filled with purple skinned brilliantly lime green beans. When I was done describing them, a man said, "They would be wonderful to photograph with nudes." Okay. Sure. I said, "Well, they are quite sensuous." He responded, "I didn't say they were sexual." "No, sensuous", I replied.
As it turns out, he was a fine art photographer, and it wasn't some strange comment coming from nowhere. I looked at some of his work on the Web, and some of it seemed to fall into the category of "erotica" more than "fine art photography" (if there is a line). Seeing this, I wondered why he took such seeming offense at thinking I had said "sexual." Reflecting on this, I thought about those slippery categories: 1. Fine art nude photography. 2. Erotica. 3. Pornography. Where's the line?
I have never had a good answer to this question. It seems that the answer is simply a modicum of discretion, and aesthetics, nothing more or less. We know it when we see it.
The "law" has not been able to figure this one out. I certainly can't.
It's considered fine for men to take photographs of nude young women. I'm not saying it's wrong, though sometimes I suspect their motives, but I got to thinking: if a woman did the same thing with young men, wouldn't people, in general, be bothered? I believe so. If I did it, I'm sure it would be scandalous in this small town. Yet, there are many middle aged men who photograph, draw, and paint young nude woman every day here.
This is the kind of thing that makes me want to go out and do something. So, when I think I'm not provocative, or transgressive, I suppose I'm disingenuous, or just blind to myself.
I'm not planning on becoming a photographer of young men, but the idea that it would challenge people did make me think someone ought to do it, simply because it's a taboo based on sexism. Additionally, since I have strong feelings about abuses of power regarding sex and age, and about the idea that youth equals beauty, I will not be engaging in this project (and of course, I'm not a photographer). But, I did think, if I were a photographer, I'd like to photograph older people naked, to challenge myself, for one thing, about my feelings that my body has become "ruined", and this will only get worse. Are wrinkles and sagging skin really that aesthetically displeasing? Isn't this just a remnant of our gaze being affected by having to assess quickly the fecundity or virility of potential mates? I suppose, too, that we are repulsed by that which is dying, but autumn is beautiful, and the starkness of winter can be breathtaking. These last thoughts were not on point, but these are but ruminations. . .
Image note: Goya "The Clothed Maya" 1803
Goya painted the "The Nude Maja" in 1800. "Without a pretense to allegorical or mythological meaning, the painting was the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art." * The questions start here. Does intent and meaning create the divide between high art and pornography? When I hear a heterosexual man state, "I find the female form beautiful", though that may well be true, why is admitting lust a taboo (and how can it not be so)?
*Licht, Fred: Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art
Addendum: I have compressed my thinking about these subjects into a smallish space.vI do like talking and writing about my half baked ideas. I also do enjoy hearing what others have to say on any subject I babble on about, so please, if you are so moved, even if I write something that bothers you, please leave a comment.