I was planning to be very productive today, and I will in a bit.
But first I wanted to read the newspapers through. I should really give up news, they are obnoxiously irritating. This time I happened on Graham Ovenden case, where the world of art collides with oh-hide-away-your-nakedness world.
Where runs the line between pornography and a nude? How long does it take for it to hit literature? Because, behold, us commoners, we are unable to decide ourselves what is proper and what is not! Thus, we must be protected.
Ok, reading the newspaper, I understand that what Graham Ovenden paints doesn’t go easily down on many and thus questions rise one way or the other. But how the public has started a hunt on him, is just as much disturbing. Listing him as pedophile? I do not support pedophiles, there is nothing natural about it and thus I’m not commenting on that charge. I’m just not sure if he really is a pedophile…
This reminded me another shocking case. There was a female painter, who also painted young girls. Her choice of topic didn’t go down with many either, but I guess it was female painting females and thus at that time people accepted it more. Then in her new show among many of her paintings stood one girl with tiny red dot on her thigh. Her explanation was that her subject got her first period while she was painting her. Didn’t matter that the girl was fully aware that she put that painting up. The world went nuts! “You can’t paint young girls on period!”
Another case I remember was in Australia, where a local magazine was crucified for putting an image of a young girl posing on painted canvas on their cover. The pies protectors of children immediately turned it into fiasco and image meant to show the wonderful photograph with balanced color palette was suddenly red light and pedophile case.
I can’t even count all the cases where parents have been under investigation for photographing their children nude on a hot summer day.
In his case, I can’t decide anymore. I have artist way of thinking. I know it, because I grew up with art. I don’t have problem with naked body, so to me it’s not an issue how old the subject is or in what conditions I see the nudity. I only don’t like in-your-face or protesting-to-make-a-point-using-our-nakedness kind of nudity. To me runs high wall between pornography and art and literature. I find it indecent if someone undresses, paints slogans on their chest and goes on a rally. But not because they are naked, but because I don’t understand this attitude. Such people are often very aggressive and thus they turn this entire nudity thing into pointless shaking of their body parts. So I am selective about it, too.
Thus I’m not the best person to judge the pies people. But I can judge how artist mind works. If I get into artist mode, start painting or drawing, then whoever I’m sketching turns into an object. I don’t look at it any more like a human being, but as a lifeless object made of soft material and varied colors, meat and skin variations. The sexuality is turned off, because if you’re not drawing very personal lover’s portrait, then there is no sexuality involved. No chemistry. It’s tedious, hours long work on both the artist’s and model’s side and believe me – if you have sat in one place over two hours, you’re more thinking of soar shoulders and dead cheeks than how sexy you look. Same goes for the artist – if the subject seemed attractive at first, then after two hours they are more concerned with the fact that the object on the drawing board looks nothing like the original before them. No chemistry.
There are times, when drawing is erotic activity. I have painted nude few times in my youth and I’ve been nude model few times for art student. Male art student (tadaa!). In either cases the attitude and environmental was nothing erotic. Arousing while painting often happens if you’re alone and can indulge in your own fantasies, but if you need to work with someone else, then it is hard.
So no, I don’t think he is 100% pedophile, just like aren’t pedophiles Nikolaos Gyzis, Anna Lea Merrit, Auguste Renoir, Egon Schiele, Leonardo da Vinci, Vernon Kerr, Albrect Durer or Pablo Picasso. There is difference between child pornography and nude. Where is the line? The sexuality is the difference. If you look at child paintings and even think that it can be erotic, I would suggest you go and have yourself checked before starting a war on the artist, who painted it. Because the artist can die vowing that they didn’t think of them as something sexual, but if this sick twisted mind happens to be the piety of the community, then they will be charged and crucified for it.
Perhaps this society should have listened the art community that knows that artist far longer than the guy, who felt offended by the artist vision of the child? Instead he was pulled out of his context, his every thought twisted and wrenched and attacked. He is well known authority on Victorian erotic art and photography. The guy studied Lolita aspect in art and I didn’t need the latest news to know that!
Nudity in art is a normal thing. I guess, in our current world, it is also one of the few places where it is seen as normal. Why are we so afraid of it? Why are parents so afraid of it? Haven’t they ever seen any grownup naked? Or other children?
That’s where the problem is! Not being educated about it! Of course there is a problem if we now have a grownup generation, who was kept away from art and nudity and their only way to it was through sneaking in erotic magazines behind their parent’s backs! They have no understanding that naked body could be seen as anything else. So even an image of a child can bring out erotic feelings, because their only connection is sex?
Then I read a mother’s post about taking her little boy to see art, casually saying “but traditional, 17-18th century stuff, nothing alarming.” She goes on coming to conclusion that she should check next time before taking him somewhere, where he might see naked girls.
I don’t know, who commits the greater crime here. I have seen paintings, where the nakedness was covered up by white or black stripes. On a classical painting! My art history teacher would cover the photos of paintings up as well if they had even . I was always disturbed by such ignorance and wondered what is wrong in this person’s head? Reading that little post with the boy, I partly understand – the parents re so uncomfortable with nudity themselves that they don’t bother teach their children.
Grow up, teach your kids! They’re gonna figure out the difference between their pee-pis by the age of five anyway! Then it would be good time to teach them and show that nudity is normal enough that they don’t need to search for it in dirty magazines and their understanding of this world grows enormously. Perhaps you then don’t need to answer questions “Why are animals naked?” or “What is that hanging between bull’s legs?”
I wonder if this entire fiasco is because we are afraid of our own thoughts? Or what is thought of us? So in fear we attack first to show how much we are not like them? Scary thought. How many artists and writers are condemned because of this?