Taking the “R” rating out of Art

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  • August 31, 2016


What once was a universal staple in an art gallery exhibition, the Art of the Nude is becoming a rare sight. Where have all these steamy paintings, sculptures, and/or photographs gone? Is it simply a response by galleries to consumer buying trends? Has it become passé to own or display an artistic depiction of sensuality? Or, are we secretly disquieted and surprised by viewing the “nude” in a public arena?

Rendering the human figure is academic for Artists. The Birth of Venus by Botticelli,c.1485, is one of the most famous depictions of a sensual nude. Art Historians report that over 210 Masters spanning more than 500 years; the likes of Rubens, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, Wyeth; have celebrated the creation of man through their art. (PS: Georgia O’Keefe is not a part of this “Master” list.) Maybe the Vargas’ pin ups, commissioned by Playboy in the 1960s-70s, were an impetus’ that changed our view towards the nude in art.

A newspaper story title caught my eye…“Local Libraries Pull Explicit Magazine”, added fuel to my query. It reported that a Nipomo, California library banned the August issue of Hope Dance ( another local rag ) because its cover was perceived as an explicit nude joined by beyond the cover articles that offered sexual overtones. Was the Library by its conduct carrying out Censorship activities? What I found as humorous was that the controversial Cover accompanied this headline story, in full public view.

Along a totally different line of thought, Art Business News’ July 2006 headline reads “Selling Sensuality”. This article reports the increase in gallery sales of art that depicts the nude human figure. Females are the biggest buying group. ( That may be a strickly regional poll. I wonder what the statistics would be in San Francisco or Palm Springs, California.)

With all of this conflicting input and my own thoughts, I decided to conduct a “woman on the street” research. I canvased my local Gallery walls to see what’s UP ? The first gallery I visited was the Peter Steynberg Gallery because Mark Bryant, the Hope Dance cover artist, is this gallery’s current exhibitor. I was sure I would see a nude in this show, but Steinberg’s walls were NOT “bare” – so to speak! I visited Morro Bay galleries; Visions, Seven Sisters, Marina Square, Fionableu, Graves, Dan Berkham, and the Morro Bay Art Association. Visions offered a classic style oil painting of a reclining female nude. (Quite nice I must add.) Fionableu presented small acrylic Gauguin-like paintings. Berkham feels his nude paintings are “personal”. In Cayucos, Amy Veltman, owner of Ocean Art Gallery, pointed to a painting of hanging pears; we smiled; Suggestive-Abstraction, I presume. Lubeck, artist and owner of Art by Christopher did offer a choice of female studies. The Cayucos Art Association had none.

You won’t see a nude in over 113 works of art at the National Fine Art Competition exhibition currently on display at the Morro Bay Art Association on Main Street. Yet, the Best of Show ribbon went to Tang’s painting of a draped reclining female.

I doubt you will see the nude at weekend Art Festivals, unless it is in the form of ceramic mermaids. There was a Call for Artists by the San Luis Bay Surfrider Foundation, wanting Surfer Art. I suggest that if you really want to participate, you NOT submit art of naked surfers. Hey, that might be interesting.

The nude in art is in the eye of the beholder..TO A POINT. There is a difference between Sensual vs. Explicit vs. Suggestive. I admit, there are no nudes hanging on the walls in my home…and I don’t even know why not.

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