if there is one topic out there to make people defensive and reactionary, it is the discussion of sexuality. the word encompasses many layers, yet is so overused in media we have a hard time thinking about it sanely. while artistic concerns are much broader and richer than simply brash excitation of the sensual senses, i find the statement that an image of a nude person is completely non-sexual to be disingenuous and ignorant. to completely ignore the factual biological analyses of depictions of mature animals is diminishing to the potential readings of the work. lessening the overt sexuality to an image does not make the image free of the themes, it merely places that interpretation on a less prominent level. by choosing the mature human form as the site of interpretation how can the topic of sexuality not enter into it? in our modern era the discussion branches into current affairs, and ethics, as well as reaching far back into art history.
originally textile coverings served a protective purpose. this protection crossed a symbolic boundary to protecting our morality, leading to puritanical times when the sight of disrobed body meant lewd and rude behaviour. now we have swung so far the other way, insisting that it’s only about form, light, texture and technique, that it has absolutely nothing at all to do with sexuality, that it begs the question, why choose the nude human form at all. the initial interpretation must take into account whether the sexuality of the subject has been downplayed or overblown. many clothed or partially clothed images are highly sexualised, the removal of all coverings completely is far more intimate and vulnerable than simple enticement.
the history of painting and drawing the human form is linked to anatomical studies as works of plants and animals resonate with the history of biological studies. accurately capturing the exterior hangs upon a thorough understanding of interior structures. part of these studies is an acknowledgement of the factual function and purpose of the forms drawn. a mature subject has an innate sexual interpretation, as that is a biological function of a mature organism. pornography is the depiction of the body as attractive, alluring, and voyeuristically as a sexual partner. all other types of body imagery then lead to other realms of information. what is the message of a sexual being doing non sexual things?
by downplaying the overt style of sexuality and dealing more with form and texture we are saying that there is more to the body than simply sex. that we have an aesthetic arrangement that is pleasing beyond simply attracting for a mate. a nude posed in a non sexual way allows free enjoyment of these forms and nudes engaged in an activity beyond posing, normalises an unclothed form, one which we all share in some fashion between each member of our species. our current mainstream media culture overplays the availability of sex in our society and pins too much of our worth on being desirable. images that de-sexualise the body allow more space in our minds for alternative types.
more accurately art involving the nude figure is not about unhealthy sexuality, rather it is healthy balanced sexuality showing through. a sexuality that isn’t about being too concerned with attractiveness, that is natural, wholesome, and balanced. healthy sexuality isn’t all about sex, it is as much about being comfortable not having and not thinking about sex. artistic statements about sexuality are as much about innocence as they are about the lack thereof, all under the control of the intent of the artist. by making art that removes itself from the arousal aspect of initial interpretations the art is still making a statement about its relationship to our sexuality as a species.