Women have been depicted nude in various art forms for centuries and the number of women volunteering to model for these painters has dropped over the years. A famous artist by the name of Chuck Close whose paintings are very well renowned has been accused of sexually harassing his models. Sexual confrontations between an artist and his model have never been a surprising concept in the art world. In history, there has been an artist who has multiple relationships with his models like for example Diego Rivera a Mexican muralist. Should nude artworks be considered controversial due to the devaluing of women and the relationship between painter and model or should we accept it for what it’s worth? To understand more about this question we have to discuss further the Chuck Close allegations. Chuck is known as a photorealist which is an art movement that focuses heavily on photographs and the concept of realism in art.
Photorealist painters attempted to take random pictures in order to try to replicate them with accuracy and precision. Chuck was mostly known for his massive portraits, even having some of them being held in famous museums. It was a shock to many of his contemporaries when the news broke that he was sexually harassing his models. The date is now December 20, 2017, and he has officially apologized for his actions against these women. In the article by Robin pogrebin from the New York Times he “has spoken to women candidly and even crudely about their body parts” but the reason as to why he would do this is because it was for the sake of his art.
His way of speaking is to show interest in them and to evaluate them as possible subjects for his paintings. Two women have come out publicly to speak on his behavior by saying he would often make a request during their modeling that would make them feel uncomfortable. Chuck comment on this by saying “I’m inviting them to my studio to audition. I don’t have a camera there, so I have to see their bodies — it’s a very expensive process,” Mr.
Close said. “I’ve never had a complaint in 50 years, not one.”Now no one truly knows what he did during these auditioning process but to some degree, these girls should have at least understood what they were signing up for.
With all due respect when you sign up for an audition especially one where you are posing nude for another individual to see the aspect of dignity somewhat shrinks. I do respect the rights that a model has when in their profession and that the work environment should be kept professional. Chuck violated these rights by making inappropriate comments about their bodies and probing into their social lives. He has also talked about his sex life to other models which to some degree is somewhat disturbing to hear. In an article by Claire Voon, it is said that chuck has paid all of his models 200 dollars during the audition phase in order to make them undress and even if they denied or choose to not partake with his visions he would still pay them despite that.
The one thing that I am not too sure on is whether he used a professional artist or just women he would randomly see and take interest in. One of the women who wasn’t a professional model but an actual fellow artist felt humiliated to the point that she didn’t tell anyone before coming out with the allegations. In my opinion, I don’t agree with close methods of how he chooses his women and that he should feel really sorry for himself not just as a person but as a man. You would assume that someone at his age would be able to make the necessary judgments. Also in a time where people are sensitive about the way they look and feel it would be ignorance not to understand how saying a derogatory phrase about a woman’s body wouldn’t offend them. When I heard of this story I was expecting the artist to be a young eccentric man who honestly didn’t know any better.
In actuality, I found a 77-year-old man who sounded remorseful but didn’t really get why he was even in the situation he was in. Chuck is one of the highest paid artists to date with a net worth of 25 million as of 2014. To be clear it should be known that he has never engaged in any sexual activities with his workers and to some degree that should be recognized.
Now to answer part of the question stated earlier should it be acceptable for a painter and his model to have sex? The answer is yes and no, art for an artist is considered to be a job and like any work environment, the workplace should be kept pure. Art in its purest form is the deep love that a painter is trying to represent to its artist or the representation of who they are as a person. An artwork can tell you the history of a person and sometimes the thoughts, mannerism, of the individual artist can enhance that work but sometimes it doesn’t. Chuck Close will have to live with his legacy not ruined, but frowned upon and the possibility of not being able to work with other female models again. In history, there have been many painters who have been charismatic and not shy with their sex life. Diego Rivera is always the perfect candidate because of his notorious scandals and reputation with having intercourse with models.
Some might argue that if he never had this side of him it would have never inspired the work of his famous wife Frida Kahlo who was also a Mexican artist at the time. Some of Frida best paintings were during her depressed moments in which she would catch Diego cheating with various women, even her own sister as a matter of fact. It should also be known that Frida partook in various sexual relations as well in order to get back at Diego. While researching I discovered an artist by the name of Benvenuto Cellini who insisted on using virgin girls exclusively for his paintings.
He would also end up deflowering them after his artwork would be complete. Even though Chuck Close isn’t off the hook his misdoing seem like child’s play compared to another artist from different time periods. While I won’t defend any of these men it could be argued that their personalities and the way they approached art are exactly what made it so special. In life, everyone has a different way of reaching their finish line, in the end, we may all reach the goal but the routes for each individual are different. For example, although abstract expressionist like to survey a sense of spontaneous in their art and to focus on tapping into the unconscious not all of the painters in this movement took the same path in painting abstract works. In fact, one could argue that this relationship between painter and model is what brings the artwork to life. A couple of years ago when I was in high school we took a trip to a museum to learn more about French artist.
I can’t recall which painter I saw but I distinctly remember the speaker discussing how the painter would touch and feel his point of interest, by doing this he would be able to clearly envision what he wanted for this piece. I would imagine that most painters see these models not as individuals but an object for their art as soon as they begin to undress. The idea of treating women as objects has always been negatively received by many feminist and other groups. Once a model begins to presumably undress they aren’t who they are anymore but in fact, they transform into the art. A level of professionalism must be taking during this relationship but as long as both parties agree to how far they are willing to create this masterpiece a sense of sexualism can be accepted. It is only in the case of people like Chuck Close who did not inform these women of how he approaches his art that he’s in the situation he is in. what ultimately makes the difference between someone like a Diego Rivera and a Chuck Close is that those women chose to be intimate with Diego and wanted to sleep with him even though he was married.
The next question is should nudity in art be accepted even though it somewhat devalues women? Nudity in art has been around for thousands of years and I’ve always been aware of it in my life. When I was around the age of eight I could remember going to the city and seeing statues of naked women. Going forward in time, in our class, we have discussed paintings that have had women undress to a point, for instance, the painting by Edouard Manet the Olympia. There also other paintings such as Henri Matisse the joy of life which was in the nineteenth century. Frida Kahlo has done many self-portraits where she has depicted herself naked while being a female artist. Granted Freida used symbolism whenever she decided to paint her body to be able to capture the pain of how she felt during that particular moment.
To be able to determine whether nude art is acceptable we must understand that the female body isn’t the only thing that is portrayed by an artist. The male body is something that I would argue is portrayed maybe not just as much but at a high level as well in art. The example I am trying to make is if chuck close was a woman and had been doing these same sexual acts to men would have it created the same ripple effect? Honestly no because just as there are double standards in society I feel that there are double standards in all types of art as well. Women to some degree are more sensitive about their bodies than men are but that’s not to say that every female is sensitive. I think art should be allowed to have nudity because I’ve never solely looked at paintings just for the sexual content but for the painting itself.
Art is always viewed differently depending on the viewer and if the viewer does not accept that form of work then simply just don’t look at it. The best example I can give is when you a see tv show that you don’t like because of the violence or sexual themes the best decision is to simply change the channel. Chuck Close is a contemporary artist who didn’t understand the feelings of the women who modeled for him and due to that, his reputation has been discredited. While I don’t agree with Chuck sexual acts against other women, compared to other artists in the past his misdoings can be considered child’s play. A double standard is in play because if he was a woman and had been saying these sexual sayings to men I don’t think it wouldn’t have been blown to such a proportion. The relationship between model and painter should be kept at the professional level but if there is a level of consent that dynamic can increase to a higher level in order to achieve a different form of art.
Nudity in art has been around for hundreds of years and as times have changed the way we perceive art has changed as well. People are more sensitive to seeing naked bodies whether they be women or men which is one of the reasons nudity in art has died down. Nudity should without a doubt be accepted in art just as long as the viewer is mature enough to be able to comprehend the works. Just like there is a rating for a movie that has violence or sexual content the viewer must be willing to understand what they are getting into.