The question surfaced again, today. Someone stopped by my office and looked around my office environs. He asked if I was an artist. I am not a trained artist but I would say I am one. As a designer, I’m an artist. As a hobbyist, art in various forms is my delight. The conversation turned to art pieces and what I’d done. I gave a quick sweep to the two framed figure gestures I had propped on my desk.
“I don’t have more up because some of them are figure drawings that might offend some people if I have them in my office,” I said. “Do you think it’s OK to hang them in my office?”
“Well, I didn’t even notice them when I came in.”
Suffice to say, I didn’t get a direct answer to my question despite some more chatter about it. It is a touchy one. I wondered if I had posed an uncomfortable question to my office visitor. I came home, thought about the question and wondered about the implications of posing that question. Lightweight research reveals these findings:
1. An Admissions Office in a university had refused to hang such an art piece.
2. It appears to be a controversial issue. At first glance, it seems to divide the art folks from the non-art folks. By that, I don’t mean to marginalize or be divisive. I regard nude artwork as tasteful because of my own frame of reference. But other people might be offended because uncovering the human body in public is alien to most cultures, including mine.
3. There is no right answer. It depends. The question raises more questions about difference — respect for difference in upbringing, definitions about what is considered beautiful, artistic, tasteful, degrees of realism in the nude artwork (the more realistic, the more uncomfortable some folks might be when confronted in public about it), sensitization to the nude human form (are the models in the nude or “naked”), some people’s pretentiousness, etc.
I had asked a question that challenged an individual to think about his/her assumptions. It is provocative I admit. But people’s response to whether it is OK to hang a nude artwork in a higher ed office setting that doesn’t have high traffic volume helps me to learn quite a bit more about the respondent in a short time. And it is not information that puts anyone down.
P.S. I’d add that sometimes, we need to deploy some humor when confronted with these sorts of questions.