Naked… Nude… Pornography…

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(WARNING: Content for persons over 15 years old and may offend :-))

Naked… Nude… Pornography…

What’s the difference? Not a lot, and a matter of perception.

As I found out during a tour of the ‘Nude: from the Tate Collection’ exhibition, “naked” is merely without clothes and common and “nude” is an idealised artistic expression of nakedness. And “pornography” brings up the image of unacceptable nakedness and base.

Lord Kenneth Clark, one of the most respected art historians of the 20th century had this to say (in his classic book, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form),

“To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word ‘nude,’ on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled, defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body.”

So naked is vulnerable, nude is power?

What delineates one from the other? Is it a nude because it is deemed ‘art’ or is it ‘art’ because it has been idealised?

Does the classification as ‘naked’ or ‘nude’ make the subject or its message more or less powerful?

Here are some pieces of art (as they have been pronounced to be so and exhibited as such 🙂 ) from the exhibition.

The bath of Psyche (Frederic, Lord Deighton)

Nude, the art form as goddess (yes, usually female) and reverent beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude as a form of ‘style’. Naturalist, and gone is the marble-like skin. Real and vulnerable.

The knight errant

The knight errant (Sir John Everett Millais)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pieces from series in red (Louise Bourgeois)

 

 

Nude as body politics, and confronting.

 

 

 

 

 

Nude denoting distance or intimacy, pain or love. The power of the images speaks for itself.

The kiss (Rodin)

Job (Francis Gruber)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude as eroticism and love.

Etching L.16

Etching L.16 (Picasso)

Nude woman in a red armchair (Picasso)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Split nude (Fiona Banner)

What do these images say to you? Are you enticed, enliven, inspired, repulsed, embarassed,…? The intensity of your reactions to them is indicative of the power of their message, does it not?

 

And pornography? Well, pornography shall be invisible. It subsists in the underbelly of sexual desires, does it not?

Not quite.

Depictions of naked bodies and sexual acts have been around for centuries. But the concept of pornography didn’t really exist until the Victorian era when explicit sexual acts depicted in paintings were condemned for their licentiousness. Looking at sexual imagery became outlawed. Therefore, pornography is not a creation, rather a definition.

Society since then has prescribed acceptable ways for the display of our naked bodies and how to perform sex acts. As I see it, this does not make other ways “wrong” or “bad”, merely uncommon. And the stronger the “rejection” of this recent construct called ‘pornography’, the greater the attraction for its illicit ‘nature’. Fancy that?!

My opposition to sexually explicit images is their treatment of the subjects. Is it respectful? Is it exploitation – physical, mental, emotional or financial? Is it harmful as subjectively experienced (not “objectively defined”)?

So the dilemma is this: the human body, male or female, is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. A line is crossed when it symbolizes, or is in actuality, an ab-use of our bodies. What is that line? For you? Are we guided by societal norms or political agendas when we look at naked human forms – nude, pornography or just naked?

 

Art is conversation, so keep talking 😉
~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

#Haiku Challenge 131 @RonovanWrites

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RonovanWrites Haiku Challenge 131 with prompt words – Car, Coast

Winter Tale

Coast on, she presages
Life passes when unconscious
Looking straight ahead
In a car on the highway
Are you on merely a road?

~ FlorenceT

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

The Plight of Solitude

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I often do things alone. I tell everyone who asked ‘why’ that I love my own company, and I do. I enjoy the freedom of ‘not minding’ and ‘not caring’ of another. I enjoy the opportunity for introspection and contemplation, as if I don’t do it enough.

Why? These statements are simple enough, yet behind each of these simple statements is a world of meaning.

 

Solitude is companionable. I have done this since I was a teenager. A (loosely) self-labelled introvert, I never did have a crowd of friends, rather a few good friends. And like me, they are introverts and a serious bunch. We spoke of ‘things’, discussed ‘stuff’ and we had fun. Then we retreat to our own worlds for respite. I remember being entirely happy with this situation, despite others beyond my world looking at me with pity in their eyes because I was a “loner” and “friendless”. They would not comprehend why nor understand me.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’

 

Solitude is freedom. There is a certain independence and freedom being in my own company. The connection to my inner self, if you would call it that, or to my thoughts, feelings, senses… is heightened when I am alone. Perhaps I am conditioned to be more social that I am – that in the company of others, my attention is to them and about them; and for a long time, this attention was also worrying about how they were and how they perceived me. With a degree of hard-fought self-awareness and inevitable age and maturity, I am comfortable in my own skin now.

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Solitude is nourishing. Cultural, gender and familial norms dictated my presence – to be attentive to others and to serve. I do care, I do serve, I do for others and only to the extent I can and in the circumstance within my control. Beyond this I am merely fretting and worrying, over-managing and to be frank, somewhat of a pain to be around. It also taxed my sense of self, of not giving myself permission to do what I desired and what I would. I have learnt that being selfish is not a bad thing. All things in moderation and to each their own.

“I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it. … the decision to be alone for any length of time is dangerous, threatening, a sign of rejection. … Having never felt the need to be alone themselves, having always lived happily in relationships, they looked upon my need as eccentric, even somewhat mad. But more than that, they saw it as fraudulent, an excuse to be rid of them rather than a desperate need to explore myself.” ~ Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’

 

Solitude is growth. Those who know me will attest that I think a lot, some may even claim that I over-think. Being a lawyer and educator, academic and intellectual pursuits are part and parcel of my life, one that I am comfortably familiar and cherish. All this ‘head-y’ stuff can sometimes be overwhelming, or strangely addictive. Either way, solitude is my step away from the mentalising and cognizing, away from boundaried explorations to experiencing varied possibilities, where I can broaden my sphere of seeing, and to draw a thread through the many systems and structures in my world. Most importantly, it allows me to just be. And it is only in these emotional and spiritual states that I am once again reconnected to the inner me which gets forgotten or ignored.

We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real…and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 

I am practicing this often – to be at peace with my desire for solitude, no matter the consternation of the outside world. The “motivation” to be alone are many – because one has to, because one must, because one has something to prove, because one was forced to by circumstances…

Regardless of the cause, should you ever find yourself alone, revel in it. Take a deep breath, listen to the voice within, observe your self in this place, and allow yourself the joy (however tiny or great) of being your own companion for a while. There is always time to make friends with your self.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self-Reliance’

 

In solitude,
~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

And time marches on…

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It takes time for hurts to be forgiven, for a heart to heal. It takes time for a house to be a home, for a connection to be a commitment.

I was always aware of time, keeping close watch on deadlines, setting time frames, being on time. This ‘trait’ of being punctual and fulfilling obligations in time is a motivator for many of the things I did. In some ways, it was a blessing as I have achieved many things in life driven by this elusive concept of time. And it had also placed many pressures on me, some in hindsight so needless.

Watching children grow, and having certain expectations of how they ought to be “by this time” – whether they are 5, 10 or 15 years old – is laughable. Setting time frames on natural development of a life has come about in the last century – with books on the developmental milestones of little persons taken as gospel truths. A guide is not a standard. And these so-called “standards” get worse as they grow, from how mature a child ought to be by a certain age, to what experiences they ought to have encountered, what behaviour they ought or ought not exhibit… in order to be an ‘enough’ person.

Time marches on regardless of a person’s progress. What does a woman in her 40s ought to possess, to have done, to behave, to be considered successful in life? Or fulfilled in life? Looking at the years past, there have been paths not taken, wrong turns, joyous rides, proud moments, accidental encounters, courageous retreats… and they happen with time. They were not events to which time is the driver, quite the contrary. Yet they are the still life which are most remembered or cherished.

I have learnt patience, of letting time runs its course. Heck, I have no control over it! I have also learnt to take care of myself, to do what I desire, what I will, what I must in the best way possible without the spectre of time on me.

Life has been slow and fast at various points of this life but none as the last 12 months (that I can remember :-)).

It has been slow as I had only been able to present on each moment at a time, taking one step after the next without looking too far as that future had been overwhelming. In that I learnt a valuable lesson in mindfulness, in finally knowing time waits for no one nor does it rush. Enough is being the best I can be in that moment. Finally, I realise the fallacy of “missing out” if we don’t rush on, if we don’t grab every opportunity presented “just in case”. What is right is only right if it is right with me.

The past 12 months have also been fast. Measuring by the magnitude of accomplishments, the height of joy, the depth of sadness, the immensity of feelings and degree of resolute focus needed, I have lived more years in the last one year than I thought possible for me. What a lesson in the enormity of human capacity, because we are not that different, you and I.

We experience time in its passing through our lives – growing, maturing, aging and death, focus and intention, love and loss, happiness and sorrow; through the cycles of the natural world; and the decay of human-made objects. We don’t see time, it is not concrete.

Time is a relative concept, as physicists can attest. It is always moving and always static. Always forward, irreversible and parallel to our human living.

What motivates us ought to be more than a concept, don’t you think?

So as we approach the new year, for us I wish a year of timeless soul-deep intention, passionate being and meaningful doing.

Namaste.
FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Once a mother…

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“One day someone calls her “Mother”. That is what she remains for the rest of her life.”
Cao XueQin

Chinese-mother-baby

What a profound quote. And one which is open to many interpretations.

What does it mean to you? You women who are mothers, and who are not? Men who have known Mothers in your life?  What feelings rise to the fore as you read these words – joy, sadness, fear, resentment, uncertainty…?

My initial reaction was one of cynicism and somewhat scornful. So, this statement of popular sentiment became a subject for reflection. 

I don’t think Cao’s statement was intended to be limiting or denigrating to women. Here’s the context:

Cao was an 18th century Chinese writer whose novel “A Dream of Red Mansions” is considered a literary gem and was pronounced one of the Four Great Works of Chinese literature. The book was a romance novel on its face but represented a social commentary on family and social life within the Qing Dynasty. His book was, as Cao stated, “a memorial to the women he knew”, and the female protagonist though rebellious was a representation of aristocratic women of the times, restrained and fragile, and their unfortunate fate in feudal society. Cao’s awareness of the plight of women in a patriarchal and largely mysogynistic society suggests his sympathy.

So back to my less than enthusiastic reaction to this quote.

Like Cao, I am of Chinese origin. Unlike Cao, I am a modern woman and one who straddles two worlds – a woman who has lived in and thus familiar with a reserved collectivist Chinese culture and who now lives in a liberal individualistic ‘Western’ culture. I am a working mother of two, and myself a daughter who has experienced a version of ‘mother’.

Therefore, Cao’s statement is bittersweet.

The ‘bitter’ part of Cao’s statement is a suggestion on its face – that once a woman becomes a mother, that’s all she’ll ever be for the rest of her days. Her identity is entrenched in the role of ‘Mother’ and obliterating the other facets of ‘Woman’.

It brings forth the perceived universal ideals of ‘Mother’ – loving, caring, nurturing, protective, giving, selfless. But is it? These ideals have served to homogenise varied experiences of being a mother; they bind women in their expression of mothering. What of the mother who struggles to love her children, what of the mother who does not care or nurture according to societal expectations, what of the mother who ‘fails’ to protect, what of the mother who also takes?

Do these ideals give space for the “good enough” mother? I certainly prefer to operate on the ‘good enough’ principle, though my actions are informed in part by these ideals and will continue to do so, I’d imagine. I choose not to be bound by these ideals, and to celebrate the uniqueness of my individual children, my relationship with each of them and thus my mothering.

Cao’s reference to “Mother” may of course be intended to embrace the many faces of a mother. Of this, I will not know. Suffice to say, the ideals of ‘Mother’ are likely to be barriers to women’s social, economic and political empowerment. But only if we allow them to.

Am I a mother for the rest of my life? Yes, and with a joyous heart, I accepted this role many moons ago. I cannot unlearn what is within me nor do I want to. My children will always know me as mother and for that, I am grateful.

Am I the ‘Mother’? I don’t think so, and I am pleased.

Am I more than ‘mother’? Yes. As my children grow, they journey with me and experience me as a woman, whether they would be prescient to know this. They experience the mother as I am, and I fervently hope, a good enough mother.

Perhaps one day my children will see me as ‘Woman’ first, notwithstanding my mothering role – a woman who loves, who provides, who supports, who fights for those she loves and for her beliefs, who retreats to create peace, who forgives, who challenges, who celebrates her achievements, who creates. Perhaps one day, they may also forgive the woman who criticises, who gets angry because she was in a mood, who prefers to read instead of talking to them, who says ‘no’ without reason or explanation, who makes decisions without discussion. One day, they will see the complexity of the human experience, and that which I embody.

Woman is a ray of God: she is not the earthly beloved.
She is creative: you might say she is not created.
Rumi

– FlorenceT

[Edited 25 Nov 2016]

 

References:
Chineseculture.org, ‘Cao Xueqin’ at http://www1.chinaculture.org/library/2008-02/08/content_23134.htm
Wikipedia, ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_of_the_Red_Chamber

 

© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.