October 3, 2016

Female Nude and the Male Artist

Nzekwe Phillips Lexie Okai; clay and fiberglass on wood which is evolved using traditional Benin methods.

This is an absolutely gorgeous piece!*

The unclothed human form, male and female, is beautiful. I am comfortable with it as an art form, in many instances enjoy the works. I'm not even bothered too much by the ones that border on porn, except when the artist tries to pretend it is high art rather than a titillation piece. In those cases, artistic dishonesty is a turn-off more than the artwork itself.

Personally, I don't question expression of the body and actually believe that the unclothed form is more natural than covered, just as pre-colonial societies demonstrate.

That said, we live in different times. And as much as I respect the nude form, I am, many times, torn between appreciating a particular artist's nude female work and struggling with his entrenched, patriarchal stance as expressed by the artist. When engaging the work of male artists that are new to me the question is in the back of my mind: "Sure, he states how much he appreciates the nude female form, but who is he really?"

How does the artist's patriarchy inform his work and selection of subject matter? At the foundation of patriarchy is objectification and silencing of females.

To me the question is: Can a patriarchal male inhabit another dimension in his work with the female nude such that she, in that instance alone (no other areas of his life), becomes a full human equal to him in intelligence, maturity, creativity, sexual choice, and spirituality?

The male artist-female nude is a complex domain.

*NOTE: This discussion of patriarchy and art has no reference to artist Nzekwe Phillips Lexie Okai or his masterful art. The image of his piece is shared solely because it is exquisite and exhibits tasteful representation of the nude female form.


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