After hearing that Australian arts and culture magazine Vault decided to place large yellow stickers over the nipples on the breasts of the nude painting which was chosen to be their cover art for the August issue, I had to start thinking. According to the editor, there were
“fears stockists would refuse to display the cover” Guardian
When we create an image of a person, in art form, we no longer have the person but a work of art which uses a model. I can understand photography being on the borderline, as It captures the true image of the individual, but with painting, sculpture, or any other form of depiction, the end result is nothing personal to the individual model.
The idea behind the breast and nakedness taboo is that perhaps this person doesn't want to be seen naked by the world, and this is understandable. We see this image and we feel empathy for the person and think “oh no”, then cover them. This is a natural and very human thing. However when a person agrees to be depicted in a naked image, then it is not our concern to empathise from our own standpoint.
Erotic, and insensitive depictions of people can be included in the need to know basis section, and I am all for the protection of easily influenced minds from harmful media. Having said this, a painting of a woman with her breasts uncovered, is a brave choice for a cover image on a popular magazine. It took courage to make a stand for women and show that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to our natural body. And it goes to show that art can be a celebration of a real and beautiful thing.
Making the decision to sanitize the images for display was perhaps a little cowardly, after the brave decision to release the image as the cover. But, maybe still, this demonstrates another point, in an act of self preservation against a judgmental society, does this not highlight the folly that binds us to our hardships?
You can visit the artist's website - Lisa Yuskavage
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