Carolyn Weltman Art Blog
by CarolynWeltman , March 27, 2010—12:05 PM
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi.
Throughout the history of art many of our greatest artists, those who painted from their souls, have been persecuted, thrown in jail, belittled and made outcasts for expressing their ideas and beliefs through their work. Some of the greatest works of art have been destroyed or denounced, nudity and erotic art being no exceptions to this. Egon Schiele, Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas (to name just three) were all thrown in jail for drawings and paintings that now appear in museums and galleries worldwide and are sold for millions of dollars apiece. Since the age of cave paintings, a majority of artists have depicted nudity and often erotica in their work.
A disturbing example of how such artwork is denied occurred in 2003 when the tapestry of Guernica hanging then in the United Nations was covered by a blue cloth when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered an historic speech about why America must go to war with Iraq.
Interestingly Pablo Picasso's exhibition of erotic work which toured the world during the late 1990's, was also banned in the United States although Picasso is a much collected and loved artist in this country. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is opening a large exhibition of his drawings and paintings in April this year. I'm excited to see if his erotic works are included in this exhibition.
America's fear of nudity was manifested by the covering in blue drapes of Majesty of Justice and Spirit of Justice in the Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC. Two statues that depict a partially nude man and a woman with one breast fully exposed. The two sculptures, in the building's famous Great Hall, were covered during the tenure of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a devout Christian.
This fear of nudity and erotic works is diminishing in America somewhat. New York City is currently hosting an exhibition of the work by British artist Antony Gormley which consists of 31 life-size figures of the artist__™s body cast in iron and glass fiber which have been installed on pathways, sidewalks and rooftops of buildings for an exhibit beginning March 26.
Marina Abramović is currently exhibiting at MOMA in New York City and much to the consternation of many visitors who have to walk through a doorway between two living mude figures. Marina has also used Pablo Picasso's, "Boy Leading a Horse" as one of her themes. In 2009, MOMA also exhibited Marlene Dumas' very powerful and highly sexual work. Also on display in 2009 were two of the five works by the artist Tom of Finland gifted to MOMA.
___First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.___ - Mahatma Ghandi
I know I could have chosen to make my life much easier by pimping my work and painting kittens and flowers and cutesy images that are "safe" and highly commercial. Nudes and erotica are still a hard sell in America (although welcomed in most other nations). Everyone likes to look, too many are still scared to buy. What will the neighbours say?
However, I've discovered in my journey as a fine artist who focuses on the nude and erotic that it is absolutely possible to encourage people to own up to their own thoughts and feelings about nudity and sex and to change their beliefs. This has been revealed to me in the hundreds of discussions and letters sent to me from my clients and fans.
To cite an example, there was the woman who visited my stand in Soho every day for six weeks and who, every time she visited, would shout at me to pack up and go home. Suddenly, one day she broke down at my table and in floods of tears and much to my amazement, bought three of my prints. I was able to talk to her then and asked her why she bought them. She told me of a sexually abused childhood and a fear of men. She told me she'd never dated. Several weeks later she came to visit again and told me how she was happily dating and that my pictures had helped her to overcome many of her fears and irrational thoughts on sex and men.
During the twelve years of being an artist, I have, on almost a daily basis, received letters of thanks from clients who tell me very similar stories about the power of an image. I truly put my heart into my work and those people who "get it" are my blessing and my inspiration. I have made friends all over the universe.
A few days ago I sent out a request for help with an event to support women in Haiti. I was overwhelmed with offers to help, so many that it made me cry. I think that endorses my view that the world (or my fan base anyway) is changing how it thinks and enough so to become involved despite an event's focus on erotic art. If shame for taking an interest is in retreat, dare I suggest that we're inching closer to endorsing art for its erotic elements specifically?"
Some people believe we can't change the world. I truly believe we can.
"To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest." - Mahatma Ghandi