The nude figure has been used to express ideals of beauty and human qualities in Western art for many years. While art history has shown us nude paintings and sculptures of both men and women, male nudity is less accepted and highly controversial. In downtown Ney York, Rivington Design House is showing the first exhibition from photographer Bek Anderson. The exhibition, called “Clothed Female, Naked Male” features nude portraits of men in their homes. The photo above, hangs in the front window of the gallery, facing the public. Inside the gallery hang eight more portraits of similar scenes: men, completely bare, posing randomly within their own homes.
The photographs had only been up a week when they received negative attention. The gallery is neighboring two preschools, a public school, and a daycare center. The gallery owner, Brion Isaacs received many complaints by parents and teachers. Many upset people came in demanding the pictures be taken down. Two days after opening the exhibit, police came to the gallery, saying they had received complaints of a naked man walking around the street. Upon realizing it was the photograph in the window, the police left without saying much of anything. The mob of parents and teachers were not as calm about the situation. Claiming it was inappropriate for children, the surrounding people insisted he take down the photo. Isaacs refused, and kept the images up for the duration of the show.
Isaacs stated that the parents have the right and ability to avoid the space if they feel like it, or that they can tell their kids not to look, or keep them on the opposite side of the street. He basically states that it is not the gallery’s problem if the photos are inappropriate for children. If parents choose to, they can keep their kids from seeing the photos, but they would not be taken down. The artist has the right to create whatever kind of work they want, and express them how they see fit. Not all people take offense to the photo however, many people that pass by stop to take pictures and laugh briefly. Some people have even suggested a camera be put up outside of the gallery to capture people’s reactions. Majorities of people stop and stare, as it is a very attention-grabbing photograph. One passerby commented that as there is nothing sexual going on, it makes it more acceptable. There is nothing wrong with a person being naked, we all look the same under our clothes.
Isaacs thinks that the reactions to the photograph would be different if it were of a woman instead of a man. Our culture sexualizes women, and it is everywhere. The population is incredibly more sensitive to male nudity, as we are used to seeing nude women in art. It is rather common actually. Why is it that male nudity is far more controversial than female nudity? There are several aspects of society that may attribute to why we as a public are more offended by male nudity. One reason could be as simple as aesthetics. A naked woman, no matter her shape or size or flaws, is beautiful. As a society we have been taught to admire the female body. Women are a symbol of sexuality and beauty. The curve a hip or breast, are simply more aesthetically pleasing. Men, on the other hand, are visualized differently. Their bodies have harder lines, and jagged edges. Men have been stereotyped as hard, cold, and rigid which makes the naked body of a man slightly different in its visual qualities. Another aspect might be that of deep seeded homophobia. Many men fear nude men. We as a society have trained men, to admire women. It is hard to turn around and expect them to start admiring male bodies. Where men are scared of other naked men, women do mind seeing another naked women. Nakedness is more acceptable than males, and Isaacs believes this may be why a large portion of the audience did not respond well to the artwork.
Should male nudity be and less artistic than female nudity? Can we train ourselves to see beauty in all people, male and female?