I wonder what your body-image is like or indeed to opinion of nudity it? Are the two related perhaps?
As an artist I have developed an appreciation for many forms of art and have over the years tried my hand at a few different forms too.
Art communicates in way that words sometimes cannot and as a writer I have no reservation in admitting that. Often, actually very often, a piece of art will inspire more questions than it provides answers for. Likewise what I see in a piece of art you might not see and vise versa.
Take for example this piece of art which is actually a bronze sculpture of a nude which is commercially available from AllSculptures.com and which I would seriously like to own one day.
What do you see in this sculpture?
A man embracing himself? Someone in need of physical warmth? Physical contact?
Perhaps a man who is so overcome with the realization that he is indeed loved that his only response was to portray that love in a communication of self-acceptance, self-embrace?
Or perhaps you see something different?
A man who is ashamed of his nakedness? Lowered to his knees, covering his own shame in front of his God or perhaps his peers or maybe even his captors?
What emotions, feelings do you see portrayed? Warmth? Compassion? Love? Humility? Vulnerability? Shame? Pain? Slavery?
It is interesting isn’t it? How we all see things slightly differently (or even greatly differently) from each other.
Perhaps the nudity of the sculpture embarrasses you a little. It would embarrass some folk I know. And I for one make no judgement of that. Who knows that nudity might be the very thing you feel most appealing about it.
Personally is doesn’t worry me in the least bit. I have long since been convinced that we have nudity all wrong when it comes to our understanding and approach to it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for being conservative in these things and would by no means consider myself a naturist or a hedonist or someone who would advocate us all walking around publically naked. But nor do I believe that we should be ashamed of our own bodies or indeed our own nudity when in private.
And I do so very firmly believe that society sends out and teaches the wrong messages about nudity and that we have in many ways long since lost the ability to appreciate the naked body without assigning some sexual context to it.
So consider these questions if you will…
Look at that picture again for me but this time imagine the man dressed in some way. You can choose the attire he is dressed in.
How is he dressed in the image in your mind? (Feel free to participate and comment below)
Would it be as appealing to you as a sculpture or perhaps more appealing? (Again please feel free to participate and answer or comment on any of these questions or points by commenting below)
How does the message, the meaning, the feel of the piece change now that he is in some way dressed?
Has it lost some of it’s beauty, it’s rawness, it’s intimacy? Has it gained or lost some of it’s innocence?
What if we were to keep the nudity of the figure and indeed keep the same position or pose of our figure, our sculpture, but this time change the model.
What if instead of that well defined, athletic and muscular form we changed it to something closer to home? What if we made it of me or of you?
If I were to be immortalized in a nude sculpture of that same pose what would I see? What would you see? What would others see?
Indeed if you were to be immortalized in a nude sculpture of that same pose what would you see? What would I see? What would other’s see?
Would they still see that Warmth? Compassion? Love? Humility? Vulnerability? Or would they see that Shame? That pain? That Slavery?
As someone who battles with self-harming I am very much aware of the scars that my skin still holds. Would the sculptor somehow include those? Would they be noticeable and if so how noticeable would they indeed be? Likewise how would they change the feel, the meaning, the message of the piece?
Hopefully you don’t have those same battles with self-harming as I do nor the all too familiar signs of it. But here is a really interesting thought for you to ponder if you have a mind to…
Not all of our scars are physical, some are indeed internal – psychological, emotional. Some are real or even perceived by us as a result of our having poor mental health but yet not even seen by others.
If you were immortalized naked in that same pose – would others be able to see in that sculpture your – bipolar disorder, your OCD, your depression, your schizophrenia, your aspergers, your… (The list goes on and only you truly know the ones that apply to you.)
Perhaps rationally, logically you would answer, “No of course not.” But take out the rational, logical part of your response for mental illness often places us in non-rational, non-logical mindsets.
And is it not true that mental illness sometimes induces a sense of nakedness and of vulnerability? Certainly, for me personally, when I have an episode and others witness it I often feel naked and vulnerable and all too often ugly, broken and ashamed afterwards.
Actually these times are the times when the my deepest compulsion is to hide and yet ironically when I haven’t hidden and someone has reached out to me this is the time when I feel the deepest sense of love.
As I said, I don’t view physical nudity the way a lot of people (and certainly a lot of other Christians) seem to.
Perhaps it is because I am not very sexually minded or perhaps because I have seen so much suffering at the hands of corrupted and mis-taught body-image messages.
Or perhaps it is because I know that the body is but a shell and that body-image is but one part of self-image.
Perhaps also it is because true beauty is not skin deep, nor is it seated in sexual desire, pleasure. or gratification. Nor is it found purely in; chaos, nor order, nor in perfection.
True beauty is, in my opinion, found in love. Love given and love received – loved shared.
Shared despite the chaos, despite the order, and despite the imperfections.
Look at our sculpture one last time if you will. But this time let love direct your sight.
Notice if you will the head he lowers perhaps not daring to look up, to fully connect or perhaps in an act of submission or of worship?
This time notice how he covers himself, his manhood, his vulnerability and yet notice also if you will, the nobility of his form. The way his left hand, participating in the covering of himself, does not yet grip his right ankle as perhaps some would when in a similar but defensive pose.
Notice also the positioning of his right fingers not held flat against – but gently upon – his left shoulder almost seeking to caress to complete the embrace.
Is he experiencing and this expressing that warmth, that compassion, that love, that humility, which we spoke of earlier? Or is he experiencing and expressing that vulnerability, that slavery, that shame, which we also spoke of?
You decide. But in your decision, consider your place in this interaction and consider the needs expressed the invitation given and then ask yourself this – “how many of us have bared ourselves and crouched before each other in literary or virtual nakedness – deeply in need of that hug, that acceptance, that embrace?
I for one know I have and I for one know I will again…