You Drew What in Art Class?

by Michele Walsky

Assistant Editor

I was typing alone in the newsroom when the S.O.S arrived.

“Save me,” the text dinged. It was my daughter. “We have a nude male in drawing class!”

Amy’s discomfort was obvious and my mind immediately flew into Mom Mode. My baby has been subjected to male nudity; call the authorities!

How can a man pose nude for a class in this techno-age when sexting is illegal? How does this get a pass when we are hyper-sensitive about sexual harassment?

My initial reflex was to protect her. When my reaction calmed down, I did what I usually do when pondering an issue. I walked around it from all angles, throwing logic at it.  A) This is college. B) She is 18 years-old. C) She is an art major. D) The human form is art. E) The art department has female models too. F) The students are supervised. G) The models do not approach the students.  These reasons settled my mind.

My dad was an artist and I come from a creative family. I appreciate originality and imagination plus I have always been fascinated with the human body. Having studied Anatomy and Physiology, I love the intricate cogs ticking inside us.

After class, we talked about it on the drive home. Amy was less intimidated when the woman modeled. Why? I suspected familiarity played a role, and what I hoped was a positive connection stemming from a healthy mother-daughter relationship.

“The female would chat while the male scratched himself and stared at us,” she replied.

So then I was back to my initial alarm. The woman seemingly gave off a friendly, more natural vibe while the man’s alleged behavior bordered on perverted. Maybe the model had an itch, or was just the quiet type. The students were in a safe environment with the instructor in the room. Was this my daughter’s perception based on her uncomfortable view of men? Was the issue of modeling safer when it was a woman? A nude is a nude, except for dangling parts.

When I don’t understand something, nervousness takes over. The unknown is an abyss and until I fill it with knowledge, I am reluctant to explore its depths. So I do research. As a journalism student, I interviewed Art Professor Tom Matsuda to help unmurk the waters. As a parent, we could all do the same. A discussion clears up a muddled mind.

“Nude modeling has been accepted in all college level art curriculums,” Matsuda assured. “Drawing the body has been accepted in history, all the way back to the Renaissance.”

I was relieved when he told me the college does background checks when hiring the models, just like any potential employee. He also said he excuses students who are opposed for religious or personal reasons only if they are not art majors. For anyone obtaining an art degree, he explains the necessity of nudes.

“It helps students overcome the stigma of trying to be perfect. It frees the artists more,” Matsuda said. “The human figure is the most exciting, but hardest to draw. Any change in the pose, a movement in the muscle, changes the whole drawing. If you can draw a human figure, you can draw just about anything.

I knew the body was admired for beauty in the art world. Just stroll through a museum or the internet. We are all born naked, so there should not be shame. We do not have to assign sexuality to it. Just as medical students see the body as a remarkable machine, art students draw it for its beautiful complexity.

Amy understands this, yet from the first day the male model showed up, she considered bolting from class. But she took the professional route. Now that she has had several sessions with nudes, if it is the male’s day, she draws fast.