Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Naked and the Nude and the Pottery - Part 1

We’ve been asked about it over and over. Yes, we do a lot of naked people in our art.

It was the main thing a reporter from the local newspaper wanted to talk about when she interviewed us for the features section. Granted, the article was about the custom-order nude figurines we make (Naked Peeps, so named by a customer). My answers didn’t make it into the paper as I had hoped – it comes out as some absurd utopian mush about freeing people and making nakedness a part of casual life. And the reporter presents it as a joke – the headline, “Couple’s Art Proves Everybody Looks Funny Naked.”

No, dammit! Everybody looks beautiful naked!

The human body is the single most glorious thing in the known universe, the most perfectly designed machine and the most magnificent, soulful of creatures. As a Christian, I think the most dangerous thing in Christian doctrine is the neo-Platonic separation of soul from body – the beauty of the body is that it has and IS soul, vitality, goodness, and that we cannot corrupt the body – only our minds.

And most of us just elbow each other and make eyes when we see one stripped.

We see the same thing every time we do a craft show. People walk by, snicker, point, turn red, grab their friends, pick pieces up, tell us how cool it is, how funny, how liberating – and then buy nothing. How many times has someone picked up a bowl, a cup, a magnet, and said “I have to have this, it’s so beautiful,” then, in the end, cannot bring themselves to buy naked pottery in public.

As I said to the reporter, our culture’s attitude toward the human body is confused and diseased. We are the inheritors of a mixed tradition – Puritan anti-body, anti-sex rigidity; Enlightenment Neo-Classical glorification of the objective, idealized body; and working-class bawdiness of the kind embodied in Hogarth. Sometimes these traditions clash in amusing ways, as with Greenough’s Neo-Classical statue of George Washington shirtless in a toga, which was rejected by the government that commissioned it in 1840, probably because they were intimidated by Washington’s well-developed, shaved pecs.

No comments: