Because our culture (in fact most cultures on Earth) is so suffused with anti-nudity sentiments, even people such as I, who believe it to be just cow manure, can sometimes tend to think about this issue as a matter of viewpoint, and rather trivial, like so many other small differences of opinion in life. It is easy to forget what great damage these ideas actually cause.
If we can't relaxedly look at another person nude, how can we honestly say that we are really ever being relaxed with another person at all? After all, a person nude is the person himself. Clothes are an additive. Whether you believe in God or in Nature, it is a fact that none of them gave us clothes. It is something we added as protection against cold, and to create status, and later it simply became convention. (And if you don't believe that convention is a strong force in humans, try to come to work without a necktie. Many places that creates a very strong reaction. Yet what good does the necktie do, exactly?)
I believe that the emotional revulsion that is artificially created in generation after generation towards the nude body is generating a huge alienation factor towards other human beings, and even against oneself. It is poisoning our natural love towards our fellows. Now is the time for enlightening.
I was lucky enough to be born the child of two artists. My parents met at art college (father a painting major and mother a sculptor in college, self taught animators with long commercial and teaching resumes now) and were married at 20. My father's family being Irish Catholic, and my mother's being Hungarian Jewish, they like to joke that they weren't a mixed marriage: they both practiced art. And really that was the faith I was brought up in. I think I've only recently started to realize how much I've become a devout artist.
Although I'd been saying I want to be an animator since I was in preschool, when I was 16 and still working toward that goal, the folks decided to take me along to a weekly life drawing group they were a part of. That was an amazing place, and surprisingly not for any pubescent sexual reasons. It was a smallish room seating maybe 15 people around a nude woman in the center on a small raised platform covered in a ratty blanket going through short poses of a minute or so. The energy during the warm up sketches in that room is very high with pencils and charcoal flying about the page to capture the rhythm and attitude of a pose before it's gone. After several of those, it was 5 minute standing poses and the room relaxes into more comfortable drawing. Then onto 10 or 15 minute long poses. I think that's when the remarkable part of those sessions would happen, because that's about when the model would strike up conversation with the room. Usually they would ask about recent movies, or there'd be a discussion of the music we were drawing to, or sometimes discussions of work or light politics.
Honestly, at the time it was incredibly natural to talk to people in the room during a life drawing session and of course the models were all rather interested in the work people were all doing and would usually check out drawings and talk to the artists about it during the break in the session. Seemed like the way of the world and really made me grow in my work as a high school student.
When I started going to art college myself I found something that disheartened me a bit. I was taking life drawing classes, but the energy that used to be a part of the home group changed to a tension. Students would draw form, but not only would they completely omit genitals and nipples from male and female models, but they wouldn't even include a suggestion of a face in their work. Most forms were also very generalized as if they had a sense of what a nude should look like and were doing everything they could not to stare at the models.
On top of that, the models never spoke, or if they did try to bring some life to the class would be met by silent reservation from the students. On some deep level this offended me as an artist. Fat, thin, old, young, men and women of all types and bearings were practically being ignored because of their nudity. I think I was given my harshest critiques in those classes, and the longest too, because of that. The most common comment (and in my opinion: highest praise of good life drawing), were "Hey, that's Doyle!" or "That's Bill!" or "That's Mary!" Comparing the two lifedrawing experiences I came to feel that if a person became just a "nude" that it didn't elevate the work to "art", but instead lowered the subject to "object". Almost enough to make a guy want to convert.
I think that two events triggered my acknowledgement of my membership in the faith of the artist were accounts of my mom's dealings with students. One being a story of a man canning his own excrement and selling it to galleries as his latest work. One of my mom's students in an animation class brought this up asking whether a can of feces was really art, and her response was "Oh, that's fine art. Here we teach you to make good art." The other instance being an animation student coming to her as department chair and asking to be excused from taking life drawing classes because he felt he didn't need them as an animator (2D character animation) and that seeing the nude form was against his religion (Christian).
To which she replied "As an animator and an artist you need to understand the construction and form of the unclothed figure. If this is something you're uncomfortable with, you should consider changing your course of study, and frankly, you telling me you don't think you need life drawing, to be a character animator no less, offends my religion. If you were studying to be a physician and told your professor that you didn't want to see a naked body because of your religious ideas they'd tell you the same thing. No is forcing you to be an animator, but if you are studying to be one you are required to take life drawing and I will not excuse you from taking it."
As artists, my family reveres form and personality and the subject in life drawing and I want to thank you for sharing the life and form of diverse and beautiful nude women here at DOMAI.
This lady was older than me, perhaps 30, and she looked completely at home. The few people scattered around were pointing and whispering amongst them selves. The first thing that I noticed was her complete lack of clothes, the second thing was her amazingly open attitude about the situation. She appeared to be whispering lyrics, or poetry to herself. She had a beautiful, natural smile, and inquisitive eyes that danced from onlooker to bewildered onlooker. Her skin was tanned evenly all over, barring a tanline where an anklet bounced along her broad brown foot. She had sun-bleached blonde hair that was tied up in a loose, casual pony-tail.
I contained my amazement at the situation, and walked onto the jetty and along to the point where the water and sand met. Soon, the woman and her anklet were entering the water, releasing a giggle of delight as the cool water splashed up onto her thighs. She finished singing her song ? and looked around, then quick as a flash she dived under the water. A strong stroke propelled her along under the water for several metres. A smiling, happy face popped out from under the water and shook droplets of water out of her rapidly untangling hair. She swam back immediately to the beach and walked out. A perfect view from behind, I could see the water glistening on her shoulders. As it ran off, it formed rivers and channeled down her back and spilt off her hips onto the ground, or clung and ran down her long brown legs. As she walked up the beach and grew smaller and smaller, disappearing over the steps back into the street, I sighed. What a perfect way to spend the perfect day.