A few days ago we wrote about artist Nicole Touchet 's recent brush with censorship in Free the Nipple: Nude Paintings Raise Temperatures in Lafayette. The artists of Lafayette have since rallied around the cause of freedom of expression with a city-wide Nude ArtWalk. For this occasion we offer our statement on nudes and censorship:
The Human Body is Not an Object of Shame:
The National Coalition Against Censorship Salutes Nude ArtWalk
It is sad and ironic that in a society where sex is frequently used as a selling point, and where the consumption of pornography involves many millions of Americans, representations of the nude body in art remain subject to complaint and censorship.
Last month, Property One, Inc., a billing management company, demanded the removal of Nicole Touchet’s paintings from a space they were renting to the artist. The reason: the paintings were all large-scale nude self-portraits, and apparently the management company could not stomach a nude and considered them a “nuisance.”
But what’s so irritating about an image of the human body? Is Property One unaware of the fact that nudes have been central to art throughout history? Representations of the body date at least as far back as the 5th century, and classical Greek ideals celebrated the human form as an expression of the beauty of the human spirit. There are nudes in every museum, and sculptural nudes decorate public buildings and squares in cities across the country.
Nudity is fully protected by the US Constitution – unless it is obscene. And to be obscene a work must not only represent sexual acts that are deeply offending to a community, but it must lack aesthetic value. In a word, if it is art, it cannot legally be obscene!
The law aside, why does the nude body so often excite censorious reactions? Perhaps the reason lies in religious traditions that relegate the human body to a position of sin and shame. Or perhaps they are the product of a lascivious mind, itself ashamed of its fantasies. Whatever the root cause, we all have different beliefs and desires, but a company should not misuse its ownership of real estate to impose its beliefs on the community as a whole.
Imagine art history without nudes: we would have to condemn Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Ingres, Courbet, Manet, Rodin, Degas, Renoir, Modigliani and Picasso, to name but a few artists for whom the nude was central. By removing nudes from public view, we remove access to a living language of visual expression and its centuries-old heritage. But more than that, wrapping the human form in shame alienates us from our own bodies.
Nicole Touchet found a creative solution to the management's demand: she covered the offending parts of her paintings with cut-out newspaper bikinis. Thus she drew attention to the absurdity of censoring nudes. And now the Lafayette arts community is mounting a city-wide event – “Nude ArtWalk”- to support freedom of expression and the right of all artists to represent the nude and explore it in various mediums without fear of having their shows closed or leases revoked. We salute Nude ArtWalk and the artists of Lafayette who are standing up for art and creative freedom!
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