Issues of Gender and the Body in Modern Art (1) It is quite impossible to talk about how the idea of body and gender is represented in the works of contemporary art, without understanding that arts trends correspond to socio-political reality. The reason why peoples bodies served as the objects of artistic portrayal, throughout the history, is that artists had good reasons to associate them with the ideals of beauty. In fact, our metaphysical ability of distinguishing between beautiful and ugly can be traced back to ancient Greeks and Romans, who used to link bodies physical functionality with their esthetical appeal. Back then, it was understood that beauty, intelligence and physical strength derive out of each other, which is why there was no abstract art in ancient times. The era of Renaissance was nothing but a return to the ancient ideals of beauty. This was the reason why Renaissance artists used to promote the idea that human bodys beauty corresponds to its functionality, in the social sense of this word.
This is why Renaissance artists, for example, used to portray naked female body as being slightly plump. Apparently, they were well aware of the fact that such type of female body eases the process of childbirth to a considerable degree. The majority of contemporary artists view human body as something that allows them to exploit peoples fears and anxiety, in order to create an artistic effect. Primitivists, cubists, avangardists and expressionalists concentrate on physical manifestations of human imperfection in their works, because it guarantees their masterpieces to be regarded as progressive by numerous experts who try hard to convince viewers not to rely on their own judgment, when it comes to evaluating the works of art. The beginning of twentieth century was being marked with emergence of the concept of degenerative art, which celebrates metaphysical negativity. Therefore, we can define degenerative art as such that uses physical and mental depravity as the object of artistic portrayal. In this paper, we will analyze how decadent artists view human body, within a context of its gender affiliation and provide readers with understanding of what might constitute an alternative vision.
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(2) Emil Nolde was one of German most prominent expressionalists. His painting St. Mary of Egypt among Sinners depicts half-naked woman, surrounded by three drunken mongrels, which extend their hands towards her, while being apparently driven by purely animalistic instincts. This Noldes painting can be described as the ultimate expression of celebration of diversity, which is being showed up peoples throats by the hawks of political correctness. St.Mary reminds us one of those Mexican women, who are being preoccupied with giving birth to as many children as possible, simply because it qualifies her for bigger welfare checks. She is absolutely deprived of any feminine beauty whatsoever, even though her naked breasts leave no doubt as to her gender affiliation. It is quite impossible to imagine her being able to engage in intellectual activities; however, the fact that her physical ugliness probably makes St. Mary to be angry at the world, allows us to conclude that she could have gained a social prominence in contemporary Western societies, while speaking on behalf of womens rights or exposing the dangers of male sexism.
In his work, Nolde portrays female nakedness as the object of disgust, rather then the object of admiration. This can also be said about the paintings of other progressive artists, which are being sold for millions of dollars at auctions, despite the fact that these works do not contain any artistic value. (3) Egon Schiele is another famous expressionalist of 20th century, who used to celebrate physical ugliness in his paintings. Schiele gained notoriety by his graphic depictions of Paris prostitutes. Although his sexual realism is often being discussed nowadays as the mean that allowed artist to expose social injustices of his era, it appears that the attraction to physical depravity was an essential part of Schiele as individual. His Self Portrait proves the validity of this statement better than anything else. It is natural for the normal individual to try to conceal the imperfections of its body. However, it is not the case with Egon Schiele.
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Apparently, the fact of his affiliation with chosen people made him to think that it is quite appropriate to expose his nakedness to the whole world, despite many people becoming sick on the stomach, while looking at his masterpiece. We can refer to Self Portrait as the artistic expression of authors existential inferiority. While lacking physical health and normal bodily proportions, Schiele could not come up with anything better than suggesting that his inadequateness should become an esthetic standard for the future generations of artists. Overextended hands, disproportionally large head, underdeveloped genitals this ideal of male beauty might be politically correct, but it will never become popular with people who are not being totally deprived of their ability to think logically, despite never ending process of brainwashing. (4) It is wrong to suggest that every historical period is associated with peoples different perception of bodily esthetics. The ideals of health, beauty and intelligence have never ceased to appeal to humanity.
Despite the fact that spiritual poisoning associated with Christianity and with modern Liberalism produced its own concepts of art, these concepts lacked the vitality, which is why artists continuously return to the ancient ideals of beauty, when it comes to depiction of naked body. The art of Arno Breker is the best example. His famous sculpture Guard is nothing but the physical embodiment of male virtues, with which we associate cultural and scientific progress. The male body, depicted in Guard, is proportionally developed. It corresponds well to the overall aura of decisiveness and non-conformity, emanated by the sculpture. The man, according to Breker, is not just a stud, who does not have any other metaphysical purpose then impregnating women he is also a protector and someone who maintains civilization.
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It is simply impossible for us to imagine Brekers Guard snorting cocaine or molesting children, whereas thinking about these activities comes naturally, when we look at creations of previously mentioned artists. Thus, apart from purely esthetical, art also has a social function. It is only when these two functions correlate with each other that allow us to suggest that the particular piece of art has an objective value.
Degenerate Art & Artists. 2006. Angelfire.
[Online] Available at: http://www.angelfire.com/nj4/cosmo/degenerate.html Egon Schiele. 2007. Wikipedia. [Online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egon_Schiele The Art of Arno Breker. 1999. Hitler Historical Museum.
[Online] Available at: http://www.hitler.org/art/breker/ Outline: Introduction Emil Nolde Egon Schiele Arno Breker.