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The Nude in Art: Where might discomfort lie?

October 30, 2009

Despite the fact that throughout history, the nude has been the subject of thousands upon thousands of paintings, in today’s society, the nude, as it is presented in art (both in visual and performance) still makes particular individuals uncomfortable.  It is the belief of scholars and artists that the nude in art adds a level of discomfort for the viewer because it allows the viewer to see a semblance of oneself in one’s most vulnerable form.
Why is the nude body seen as vulnerable?  This answer to many of you is likely an obvious one.  Clothing acts as a form of defense, a defense against other’s judgement, a defense against our own self-judgement, as well as a shield against possible predators.  Without clothes, we are exposed to the elements.
This lack of protection as presented through visual depictions of the nude through art accomplishes what I believe to be one of the most important duties of art:  it provokes self reflection as well as reflection of the state of society. The nude body in art displays our vulnerability.
At times, the nude is sexually charged.  This presentation of sex and/or the body as it would be in intimate moments causes a feeling of retreat for many people.  The nude is intimate.  One’s body can be said to be the only thing that belongs to a person.  It is the ultimate possession and it’s display, to some, might take away from some the only thing that is truly personal.

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