As with many naturists, my first experience at a clothing optional resort was one of delight, joy and, dare I say, spiritual revelation? Thanks to my lifetime of exposure to art, I believe I was very open to the idea of non-sexual nudity. While most people see bodies only as sexual devices, thanks to advertising, I had been viewing artistic nudes for my entire life. When I was “confronted” with human forms that were unPhotoshopped but in so many ways, much more perfect and non-confrontational than anything in a fashion ad, I was home. Upon arrival, I was suddenly within the paintings of Degas and Gaughin. I was speaking, openly nude, with Rodins and Michelangelos. I had found a new understanding as to why the authors of Genesis depict Adam and Eve as naked and unashamed: This was Eden.
My childhood probably had a bit more nudity than most American children of my age. I grew up just outside of New York City and I have many memories of being in New York in the 80’s, seeing different representations of nude bodies. There were the more lewd places, like pre-Disney Times Square, where my parents would hustle my brother and me through on our way to a show. A few blocks away, however my parents never seemed to have a problem with more artistic representations like the Atlas or the Prometheus in Rockefeller Center or the Goose Girl in Radio City Music Hall. It was not until I was an adult in my thirties that I realized these three images did not show genitalia; in my memory, all of this imagery was nude. This was my exposure to nudity before adolescence and it taught me quite early the difference between naked and nude.
Starting in high school, I attended serious art classes where we often copied masters’ paintings and sculptures. There I learned the formal distinction between nude and naked, the difference between beauty and pornography. Of course, I indulged in both, especially at that age, but they were completely different experiences. Trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art versus trips to the magazine rack at the bodega reinforced the distinction. As an early adult, I majored in fine art and was exposed to many different live models with very different body types. I hazard that I have been exposed to more non-sexual nudity in my lifetime than most people which made me very comfortable with my own nudity.
Today, as a naturist and a formally trained artist, I wish we could attend art galleries while nude. Such an experience would bring us closer to the art. Imagine being one layer closer to a frolicking, carefree satyr; being one layer closer to a seeing Lady Godiva in 13th Century Coventry; being one layer closer to witnessing Venus’ birth from the sea. Picture no shame in the art, no shame for us, just a deeper connection than our society allows us.
Here are images of some of my favorite artistic nudes. Most of these were alluded to above. I invite you to remove your clothes to improve the viewing experience:
Edgar Degas: Young Spartans Exercising
Paul Gauguin: Two Tahitian Women
Auguste Rodin: Age of Bronze
Auguste Rodin: Pygmalion and Galatea
Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan: Atlas
Paul Manship: Prometheus
Robert Laurent: Girl and Goose
Peter Paul Rubens: The Drunken Silenius
Sandro Botticelli: Birth of Venus
John Collier: Lady Godiva