Note: Since the original publication of this article, I have finally found a term for what I am talking about: "Simple Nudes". "Simple" meaning without anything added.
Traditionally there have been only two kinds of nude art: Fine Art Nudes, and pornography. Both have their place in the world, both have important functions, and both should be respected. But they are not the only options.
Pornography of course has as its main purpose to sexually arouse the receiver. Everything else is secondary to that. There may be political overtones (as in Marquis De Sades works), there may be aesthetic values or ambitions (as in Story of O), but sexual stimulation is the be all and end all. If the primary intention of the work is not sexual arousal, then it is not pornography, no matter what some may call it. Intention of course can be a bit nebulous to judge, but it is real.
Fine art nudes are a different creature altogether. Here the main purpose and ambition is Art. With a capital A. Now, how to judge purpose and quality of Fine Art is an issue that is as violently debated as any in history. Some say the essence of fine art is the pleasure of aesthetics. Some say it is the attempt to expand the human spirit to new and unknown experiences. Some say it is an education of humanity in humanity. Maybe it is all of those. But in any event, the subject is usually secondary. It does not matter if the model is attractive or what parts of her/him we see. Sexuality is also secondary to that. In fact many fine art nudes seem to shy away from any sexuality with intent. What matters is the Art. (I have been a painter and a fine art photographer for decades, so I can certainly understand that approach.)
So, traditionally we have had the choice between two forms of nude art, one of which sacrificed the model and her beauty for sex, and the other which sacrificed the model and her beauty for Art. None of these things are necessarily wrong, they are simply not the only options.
Which leads us to the creation of the third kind of Nude Art. I wish I had a clever name for it, but I havent found one, so for now I will call it what it is being called by models and photographers who are working with it already: DOMAI style. This name comes from the primary club and web site which champions this style, DOMAI.com.
This kind of nude art is special in that the primary objective is to celebrate and forward the model and her beauty (DOMAI concentrates on feminine beauty, but in theory there is nothing to stop anybody from applying this style to male models).
Fine art is not ruled out, and indeed often appreciated, but only so far as it does not overrule the beauty of the model. For instance a picture of a beautiful model where the pose and the light was such that one hardly recognizes the figure, would belong in the fine art camp, and not DOMAI style. But if a picture is brilliant artistically, and at the same time shows an attractive model in a nice way, this would be fine art and at the same time also DOMAI style. This has happened occasionally in art history, for example many of the sculptures by Auguste Rodin.
Sexual stimulation is not ruled out either, but similarly only to the point where the beauty of the model is not pushed aside. For many, a tasteful nude of a beautiful model is far more sexy than hard-core pornography. What makes pornography different from DOMAI style is that in porn, the strange contortions of the body and the aroused (read: fish-like) facial expressions usually robs the model of what beauty she may have. (And they sometimes have a lot.) Additionally, to many people explicit sexual activity has such a strong effect, positive or negative, that it overpowers the subtler effect beauty has. In other words, too much sex and the beauty tends to be lost to most people, at least at this time.
The upshot of all this is that DOMAI style is nude art (often photographic) which focuses on the beauty of the model, and where the more esoteric artistic qualities of the picture are secondary, and where any sexuality is also secondary. (Technically it is not even erotica. Erotica is simply refined/educated porn. Some people will resent this statement, but only because porn is a derogatory term for many, which it shouldnt be.) We will here skip the huge and tangled argument of whether it is possible for nude art to be completely asexual. Probably it simply depends on what is put into it by the viewer (and the artist). This is a fascinating question, but not really essential, when we establish that whether sexuality is there or not, it is secondary. Beauty is primary.
It appears that this is not always an easy thing to understand. Probably because sexuality is such a powerful force. This means that when people approach it, they tend to either go away again, or fall all the way in. It creates an artificial polarity between sexual and... well, not-sexual. But it does not have to be that way. Just because a nude person, especially girls, tend to be associated with sexual feelings for many people (those who have been artificially barred all their life from seeing any nude people), that does not mean that you have to give in and go either to one side and make porn, or to the other side and create art which lose sight of the attractive aspects of the model. There is a third alternative if you focus. Please note that the third kind is not a compromise between the other two, and it is not a blend of them. It is a fully independent form of expression, which simply has been curiously neglected, but which focuses on an important aspect of human life.
It is about the beauty of the model. Just as she is. Without having sex or trying to be sexy. Without loads of fancy lingerie or make-up and hair styling. Just herself, nude as she was created. Natural and beautiful. That is DOMAI style.
Fine art nudes © Sergey Babenko and Laurie Jeffery