[PBP2013] Nudity

First, an anecdote:

Some years ago, on some e-mail list for Hellenists, I posted a statue I saw on eBay by artist Jami Young (I’ve since found her on deviantART). The statue was her Artemis, which I admitted, I didn’t really “see” as Artemis, but I thought seemed appropriate as Hera:

Female nude study by ~dreamfloatingby on deviantART

Then cue a mini-shitstorm from people. (Yes, that’s the offending statue.)

Now, all things considered, for a shitstorm, this was only just barely, but if I’d been some fragile little Tumblrite at the time, I might’ve just used that incident as a reason to dismiss all traditional Hellenists as FMPPH’s, but then again, you can point out to some fragile little Tumblrites that you can’t just call green cocktail olives “Kalamata olives”, and they’ll try and “denounce” you for being a grade-A FMPPH.

So, where was I? Oh yes….

So, while people generally agreed that the statue doesn’t really work as Artemis, and for lots of reasons (the reasons it doesn’t work for me is that the body and face seem a bit more “mature”, or rather “old” than Artemis, as I’m allowed to know Her). On the other hand, some people seemed to be losing their shit on me cos I had the audacity to suggest Hera as a more appropriate Goddess. Why? The woman in the statue is nude. And apparently “nude = sexually charged = slutty = FOR FOREVER”.

Here’s a problem with that belief:

We’re born naked. Until about twenty years ago, it was actually very common for parents to take photos of their children, joyfully strutting around naked and free as the gods intended, and it was assumed that only perverts would think “nudity = always sexually charged”.

Not only is the idea of nudity being inherently, and irredeemably “sexualised” fairly new, it’s distinctly Western, and the idea that sexuality must always be covered up and only spoken of in hushed tones is distinctly American. It’s a perverted, immature view of nudity, and speaks more to the social dysfunctions of a nation than the realities of the naked human form.

Your typical Americans are emotionally barely more than infants, adult babies in every sense but diapers, and see no point in growing up, but like a toddler, utterly convinced that they don’t need to learn anything. They infantalise their children well into their teens, abhorred at the notion that at some point in this kid’s life, they might actually, you know, need to know about sex.

Maybe it was my English grandparents, or my mother’s no-nonsense and unprecious beliefs about sex education, but I remember asking at a fairly young age:

Why can’t I go outside naked?
“Because, R, when you’re older than two, it’s illegal.”
Why is it illegal?
“Because some people think the human body is dirty and sinful.”
But in the bible, people are made in the image of god. Do they think god is sinful?
“I never said it made any sense.”
So how come so many of the pictures in museums have naked people?
“Because artists are generally more intelligent than politicians.”
“Yes. Artists understand that the human body can be perfectly beautiful as it is. It’s not dirty, it’s not even always a sexual thing, it’s just about beauty and seeing the divine beauty in the form of the body all on its own.”
So why don’t artists make laws about being naked whenever you feel like it?
“Because art is more important than politics. It’s not just more important to the artist, it’s just generally more important. The only laws people need are manners, and the rest are eventually taken off the books. Art does more for people’s minds than a whole room of politicians.”

I think that might’ve been my mother, but there’s a divine, very traditional polytheist / pagan wisdom to those words.


9 thoughts on “[PBP2013] Nudity

  1. That is a very powerful statue. It could be Artemis though. Not exactly Greek but more the Artemis of the 100 boobies(some city in Turkey). I can see why you would see Hera. There is a maturity to her, but there is a powerful wildness too. There is some oomph in that statue.


    • Now that you mention it, I can see the Lady of Ephesus working out, as well. I think nearly all the current work refers to that particular Goddess as simply the Lady of Ephesus, or sometimes as Kybele.

      And there is a lot of OOMPH to J Young’s work, and I think most of it is really powerful. In the same thread I referred to in the post, someone went through a lot of her other work, and seemed… almost eager and downright excited to dismiss her male nudes as uninspired as “just naked guys”. For the life of me, I can’t find her a picture of her Eros online, anymore, but believe me when I say it was nearly perfect. Her Adonis was a bit too muscular, in my opinion, and I believe she had an Ares up at one time that seemed kind of devoid of personality, but not everything even the most talented people have ever done is going to be a winner. The Mona Lisa is technically flawed on many levels (as the quickest proof off the top of my head, the horizontal lines get broken up a lot in the background, and the perspective between the woman in focus and the background images from the open window behind her are almost cartoonish), and even David Bowie admits that “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl” were bloody stupid songs. And aside from her missing Eros, J Young’s Hermes is gorgeous, which certainly makes up for the fact that she’s had an occasional miss of the mark.


        • [nods]

          I’m still not quite sure it says “Hermes” at me, but her attrention to detail is impeccable. One of Hermes’ people I’m friends with said that the face is closer than most modern depictions of Hermes (which my friend tends to hate cos most people seem to go for “Hermes the playful pixie of Internets and Capitalism!” –so basically a male Iris combined with a cutesy, child-like Loki), even if they weren’t that into the rest of it.

          She’s really talented, which is why I really bothered me that so many were so quick to just talk badly about her work –and for apparently no other reason than she associated a nude female statue with Artemis.

          Which reminds me: In ancient Hellas, it was rare for women who ostensibly were not prostitutes to be depicted fully nude (toplessness was a little more common, cos baby formula didn’t exist then, and bottle-feeding babies was rare), and this tended to extend to Goddesses, as well, with typically the only exception being Aphrodite. Aphrodite was nude, A LOT. I believe there was a description via Herodotus(?) of a statue (or maybe a fresco?) of Hera fellating Zeus, clothed, but Aphrodite was frequently depicted nude in ancient art, even when just sitting around. Kinda makes you wonder how the ancients really did consider Aphrodite, and makes me think I need to do a “Nudity: Part Two”.


          • Wait, the ancients had a statue of Hera fellating(spell check does not like this word lol) Zeus?

            I would like Nudity part 2.

            Actually the earth statue she made, makes me think strongly of Aphrodite, but I can’t place why.


    • Nope, it was thre, I just hadn’t gotten around to updating the look of everything on the new site, yet, so there was a white background, with comments set for a dark background (meaning the text was in white). Cos I’m technically only moving the blog to a new url rather than creating a whole new blog, not everything is at the default settings, anymore.


  2. Pingback: [PBP2013] Nudity (part deux) | Of Thespiae

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