The naked truth seems to be that we are a nation of prudes when it comes to nude paintings. There is a Canada Council Art Bank in Canada that has bought and stored more than 17,000 contemporary paintings by Canadian artists. Federally funded, these paintings are then loaned out to government departments and corporate offices for minimal rental fees. It is estimated that 500 of these paintings are nudes. These paintings remain in storage and are virtually un-rentable. Most of them have never been seen. Now, however, the Kitchener, Ontario museum now called THEMUSEUM is displaying 120 of them for a 12 week show called "Getting Naked". Interestingly enough, very few of the paintings are even printed in magazine or newspaper reviews - what I have seen makes me inclined to say "so what?"David Buchan has done a parodic update of Paul Peel's "After the Bath" and there are a couple of almost emaciated nudes by Fred Ross that are variations on the reveries of Balthus. Nothing startling there. It is surprising, in this day and age that nudes are so forbidden in art displays. Our artist guild is not allowed to display any of the results of our Life Drawing in the Cultural Centre. We are told that there is an uproar and people even contact the mayor over such things.I think this shows how distorted our values are when young kids know the names of characters in pornographic cartoons and can see disgusting violence and torture on TV shows, yet a pastel like the one above that shows the beauty of a the human body is considered obscene. In the midst of all this, our Life Drawing group continues. Apparently, a number of years ago there was some protest about its very existence and a presentation on the value and tradition of life drawing had to be given to the powers that be. Life drawing is an ever-new drawing challenge. If a person paints a tree and it is not exactly like the tree in front of them or even distorted, it is still recognizable as a tree. But a head out of proportion to the body, an arm too long - and it is immediately clear that the drawing is "off". Add in the challenges of foreshortening - which simply means perspective as related to the body- when a foot close to the artist is larger than one further away, for example, and it is clear that "getting it right" is bound to keep up drawing skills. One of the reasons I usually work in pastels for our long poses is because it takes less space to pile drawings on paper than paintings on canvas. The "unrentables" of the Art Bank aren't the only nudes that rarely see the light of day. Maybe "Getting Naked" will change things.
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