An essay I wrote in March, 2011.
As an artist who specializes in figurative sculpture, I have spent countless hours in the studio working with nude models. It is a time-honored practice in the Classical tradition, employed by artists throughout the centuries. Depictions of the nude are an important aspect in understanding the history of art in the West. The Department of Art at Gordon College states that the study of the “nude has much more in common with medical knowledge than with popular sexualization of images in advertising and movies. An art studio with students or artists surrounding a model is akin to the operating theater. Knowledge is being gained and a professional activity is being practiced.”
Many of those who oppose the use of nude models for Christian artists do not draw a proper distinction between pornography and fine art, between naked and nude. Pornography seeks to tear body from spirit, rendering flesh disembodied, and exploiting that which was made in the image of God. Pornographers reduce humanity, usually women, from temples of flesh to tools of debased pleasure in exchange for money. The nude in art celebrates the beauty, the mystery and the delight of God’s creation. The artist marvels at the complexity of the human form, the perfection of original design, even as it is broken, marred by sin. Exposing Christian eyes to redemptive images of humanity can work as an antidote to the damage done by pornography.
God created the heavens and the earth, the sky and the moon, the sea, the fishes, birds, land and all that inhabit it, plants and animals alike. When He was finished at the end of each day, He was pleased with His work and called it “good.” On the sixth day, He created male and female in His own image. Satisfied with His work, He called it “very good.” Humans, made in the image of God, are the crowning glory of His creation.
That we are fallen and that sin has entered the world does not negate the “very good-ness” of God’s creation. He sent His only begotten Son—incarnate, that is “in flesh,” like us— to live among us, to die, and resurrect, destroying death and the grave. As we look forward to the Heavenly Jerusalem, we groan in this fallen world. Some of us are called to create artwork that hopes for and imagines that glory to come. When we receive garments in the world to come, they will not be to hide our nakedness, for there will be no shame in the Heavenly City. Rather, we will receive robes as adornment.
To be a Christian artist, redeemed by the Son of God, is to have a holy imagination, celebrating the very handiwork of God, and bringing glory to the astonishing creativity and goodness of our Creator.
I highly recommend going to Gordon College’s website and reading their statement on nude models at a Christian college.