Roberto Ferri is an Italian painter who was born in 1978. For someone so young Ferri has shown remarkable talent. His main inspiration has been quoted as being Caravaggio, a 16th century Baroque master, amongst others. He has very adeptly captured the style, and especially the tension inherent in Baroque art, with his realistic images in contorted positions.
We all face tension and drama in our everyday lives. Especially recently. Nudists can relate to this because there is usually a lot of drama and tension present whenever someone reveals themself as a practitioner of the lifestyle in certain circles. Sometimes the drama goes away with a little explanation about what REALLY goes on in a nudist household as opposed to the rumours and misconceptions most people have about nudism. Sometimes it doesn’t. We tend to take these things in stride, however, because for the most part the vast majority of nudists are pretty laid back. If the ‘movement’ wants to continue to move forward and gain widespread acceptance, we must keep drama and tension to a minimum. It’s only through calm behaviour that we will ever make anything change.
Vladimir Dubossarsky was born in Moscow in 1964 and Alexander Vinogradov was born a year earlier. Both live and work in Moscow today and have collaborated since 1994. Both studied at the Moscow Art College and the Surikov State Art Institute (aka Moscow State Art Institute) and have mounted many exhibitions since their collaboration began. They have a unique approach to art, not the least of which is that they work as a duet. In the early part of their career they took up the concept and style of ‘Socialist Realism’ and then, beginning in around 2001, they changed from socialist fantasy to mass media ideals. Their style incorporates everything from the aforementioned Socialist Realism and fantasy to a melding of ‘Sots Art, Socialist magazines from the 1950s, contemporary Russian advertising and international pop culture,’ according to the Louise Alexander Gallery. They take aspects of classical and avant-garde art and blend them together to create a style of their own. This painting from 1997 is a three-panel acrylic on canvas.
Nudism in Russia is almost commonplace. Family units gather at resorts throughout the country and even though they have a relatively short summer, the practice the lifestyle year-round. It is nothing for Russian nudists to take a roll in the snow after a rousing winter sauna. It’s a similar situation in many other countries in Europe – particularly in Eastern Europe. For a region that grew up with the strife of the Soviet era and Communism, they have a healthy attitude toward social nudity. This is a lesson that could be well-learned in America, where there is this puritanical attitude toward nudity, brought on in recent years in large part by the rise of evangelical Christianity. It is looked on as deviant behaviour in many circles. Nudists know it isn’t. Nudists know the health benefits of being out in the sun without a stitch of clothing and, as was stated in at least one place, the concept of a clammy, wet bathing suit is an undesirable one when the option of not wearing one at all presents itself. Family nudism is a big thing in Europe and especially in Russia. In America, it is looked at askance, most people believing that it is a perversion to walk around naked in front of your children. On the contrary, it is a teaching moment, whereby your children can learn that the human body is not a thing to be disgusted by but rather to be cherished and celebrated. Americans can learn a great lesson by looking to our European friends.
Also known by its German name, ‘Gäa,’ Otto Greiner was a master of figure drawing. He belonged to the German Symbolist movement and lived from 1869 to 1916. The largest collection of his work can be found in the Jack Daulton Collection in Los Altos Hills, California. He began as a lithography apprentice in his home town of Leipzig in 1884, took drawing lessons and studied at the Akadamie der Bildenden Kunste in Munich from 1888 to 1891 when he went to Florence and Rome. He lived in Munich and Leipzig from 1892 to 1898 when he moved to Rome until 1915 when he left to go back to Germany after Italy joined the Allies at the beginning of World War I. Greiner’s specialty was life drawing, calling on his love of the nude as imagery, believing it to be the epitome of beauty in nature and that it should be the basis for all stylistic formation (http://www.all-art.org/symbolism/5-germany01.htm). Nude imagery is the focus of his work and his love of the ‘fantastic’ makes up the bulk of his 112 paintings. In 1895 he created his only cycle, ‘On Woman,’ drawing on the eroticism of the late 19th century in Europe.
Gaia was an important goddess in the Greek pantheon. She is said to have arisen from The Chaos, giving birth to Uranus (Sky) to cover her, as well as Ourea (Hills) and Pontus (Deep of the Sea). She is also said to have given birth through parthenogenesis or, in other words, without a partner. She mated with Uranus to bring forth three Cyclops, three Hecatonchires and 12 Titans, including Cronus. As an Earth avatar, she is renowned in Wiccan circles, and is said to have saved Zeus when Cronus tried to swallow him when he was born.
It can be said that she could be considered the patron goddess of naturists, who ‘worship’ all things natural, believing that the lifestyle promotes harmony with nature, bringing physical, mental and emotional health through interaction with others in a social, nonsexual nude collaboration. A St. Petersburg journalist once noted that Naturism is ‘the idea of freedom – Free people on Free earth. Of course, this means a clean environment. How can anyone lie back, relax, and get a good sunburn in the midst of a rubbish heap? The dame goes for the social aspect of freedom-the pleasure of honest and unfettered communication with others.’ An American writer, Theodore Roszak, said ‘The task before [us] is to remind us of the joy and nobility that come from honoring our bond with the earth.’ The ancient peoples of Rus (from whence the term Russian is derived) believed strongly in communing with nature in their own natural state, i.e., nude. The pre-Christian society believed strongly in social nudity and accepted it as a part of life.
The unnamed Russian journalist quoted above also said, ‘Naked people on clean sand: this is the solution. This is where we, as humans, absorb the forces of the Earth, when we swim in the clear water and give ourselves up to our immersion in it. Such contact with the water can never be achieved wearing a swimsuit, or even a wristwatch, since all our material possessions encumber us and restrict our ability to absorb Nature.
Therefore, it is important to relax our concerns about ethics and social responsibility, even as we embrace them. The same with our environment concerns.’
We are now in the middle of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and as we seek our time in the sun and sand, nudists and naturists (nudism is a subset of Naturism) seek out places where communing with nature, the Earth and all of her infinite gifts to our finite existence becomes almost necessary to peace of mind, especially in the trying times we live in – particularly here in America, where violence and hatred have become almost the norm. Getting away to a place where people can peacefully coexist, nude and natural, becomes a highly desirable way to pass the time, far from the maddening crowd and stresses of the day when, it seems, all we hear is bad news. Get out, get nude and get free.
Oregon’s Adam Miller was born in 1979 and developed a love of Baroque and Renaissance art at a young age. At 16 he was accepted and studied at Italy’s Florence Academy of Art and, from 1999-2000 studied Flemish art in Antwerp. He has successfully and masterfully been able to meld the two styles to create his sometimes haunting images. As has been stated here before, Baroque art uses tension and distorted positioning of the subjects to create high drama, whilst Renaissance art is generally characterised by focusing on Christian religious imagery using classical influences of ancient Greek and Roman art. In today’s example, Miller has integrated both Christian and ancient mythological memes to create a disturbing piece.
In the nudist community, it is well established that melding lifestyles is a common thread. Lawyers, doctors and other professionals have been amongst the practitioners of nudism and naturism since the early 20th century in the United States, alongside blue collar workers who have completely different lifestyles and social circles. Inclusion is the name of the game in the clothes-free society of today which, unfortunately for all of us, is not an inherent way of life in so-called ‘normal’ society. When you remove your clothes, as I have said on many occasions, you also remove the caste system that defines life in America from the late 20th century and into the 21st. Unless the practitioner wears expensive jewelry and nothing else, you don’t know if that person is a lawyer or an auto mechanic in most cases. The rest of society could learn a valuable lesson from nudist/naturist society.
It should come as no surprise to any mature consumer of art that a degree of contrivance is involved in depicting any scene, particularly a mythological one. Whether the presence of a tiger in Greece, or the use of a modern violin by an ancient musician, inconsistencies and anachronisms will tend to crop up, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes not. Perhaps the most famous sort of contrivance involves the use of drapery. Long favored by masters of the brush as a chance to show off their rendering skills, soft folds of fabric have a tendency to appear in places that can look artificial. Long, rich robes adorned aristocracy for decades and even centuries when they were either out of fashion or the noble so depicted could not actually afford such finery. Long ribbons and sheets of rippling linen and satin flutter artistically behind fleeing (or pursuing) figures, even if those figures are otherwise undraped. Most famously, drabs and strips of cloth magically cling to breasts and pretty parts to lend a bourgeois air of modesty to otherwise completely naked humans (animals do not tend to be so favored). Any student of art worth her pigment can relate the sad tale of Daniele da Volterra, who in 1565 was commissioned to censor the phallic offenses committed by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. “Il Braghettone (“breeches painter”), as Daniele came to be known, covered any offending nakedness with fabric and fig leaves, even chiseling out and repainting portions of the great master’s work. The irony of such contrived modesty is to draw attention to the covered part and cause the viewer to wonder how those little bits of cloth can manage to cling so tightly to otherwise naked skin.
Anyone who has driven two hundred miles for the chance to skinnydip in a muddy, shallow river knows that nudism can occasionally seem a bit artificial. As populations grow and wilderness shrinks, locations to get pleasantly naked are harder to find. As the nudists are driven inside by crowds, real estate development, and bad weather, some drift away from the lifestyle, unenthused by naked bowling or nude wine tastings. Like so much in our commerce-driven, over-urbanized world, getting naked in the great outdoors often has to be scheduled, planned, organized, and vetted until it seems more like a bowl of bland oatmeal than a sprightly spring salad. It behooves the urban nudist to strive to create nudist venues that are not just safe and legal, but commonsense and fun. Sure, playing basketball in the nude in an old warehouse is fun at first, but after the second fall onto the concrete one starts to wish for knee pads, a sports bra, and even a helmet. As we contrive to exercise our right to exercise naked, we need to work to create a natural opportunity for urban nudism for the mass of modern naturists.
When many people hear the word “art”, the image that comes to their mind is of large, formal pieces such as a painting or statue by a famous artist. Far more common, however, and not less important are those casual, domestic bits of art we see daily without much thought. Whether the design of a chair, the ornaments on a car, the design on a hairclip, or the colorful illustration on the box of cereal, art is with us all day long. It has almost always been so, at least for the wealthier class, as we can see from preserved items. For upper class women especially, items for grooming were often decorated and show the prevailing trends in the art of the era. An ancient latrine can be an archaeologist’s delight, since people brought all sorts of decorated items with them to the latrine just as a matter of course, and once it was dropped in no one was going in after it. Burial goods also have preserved domestic art from long ago. Just one class of such items were personal mirrors found in Etruscan graves, which were made of polished bronze and often had art engraved on the reverse. Even the lower class could have art, whether a child’s doll or a religious shrine. Whether as an image engraved into the back of a bronze mirror, a simple but elegant comb, or an elaborate funeral mask, these items show that for millenia we have been surrounded by art, from waking until sleep, and from birth until death.
It is not hard to find advertisements online for elegant (and expensive) all-inclusive nude resorts sited in lush tropical settings, and many folks think of these options when it comes to practicing nudism. There is a far more common sort of nudism, however, and that is the casual domestic nudism practiced in private homes around the world between family and friends. When it comes to social, non-sexual, mixed-gender nudity, all it takes is three people not of the same sex who choose to be chastely naked in each other’s company, and you now have a nudist gathering. Whether as artists using each other as models (or canvas), or for a quiet walk through a private wood, or even just a nice evening soak in a hot tub, gathering with friends of like mind can be an excellent way to practice nudism. It need not require large sums of money either … just hosting a co-operative figure drawing event is sufficient, and all that is required is a room, some paper, an open mind, and a few pencils. Gatherings like this are more common by far than expensive and lavish resorts, and can happen anytime and almost anywhere. We are all born naked, but no one is ever born alone. Why be alone today?
For a casual art enthusiast, an examination of European paintings of the seventeenth century can be a pleasant and entertaining diversion from the cacophony of ideas and styles that exist in the world of fine art painting. Compared to the bold colors of Mondrian, the brain-twisting imagery of Dali, the harsh realism of Freud, or the pop of Lichtenstein, the nymphs and fauns of the French Baroque or the meticulous drapery of the French Classicist art can seem calm and non-controversial. In the seventeenth century, however, a debate raged over the relative merits of the exaggerated poses and simpler exposition of the Baroque or the more ordered lines and republican themes of the Classical works. To us this may seem like a tempest in a delicate French teacup, but a careful observer will realize that this debate continues today, as shown by the contrasting styles of Michael Parkes and Roberto Ferri, two modern artists whose styles and ideas are as radical in their own way today as Poussin’s or Georges de La Tour’s was in the seventeenth century. There will always be those who prefer the clean simplicity of a bare idea to the rich complexity of fully developed scene. The debate between the simple and the complex will remain as long as humans exist, and we casual art enthusiasts will continue to stroll by and appreciate the results of the argument.
In 1903 when Richard Ungewitter wrote his naturist manifesto entitled “Wieder nacktgewordene Menschen (People naked again)”, nudism was a health movement. Written against a backdrop of a disease-ridden, polluted, puritanical society, his pamphlet was an introduction to what Ungewitter hoped would be a simpler, healthier, happier new culture, nudism. Nudists of that era emphasized clean air, clean water, pure (and even raw) foods, exercise, an abandonment of vice such as smoking and alcohol, and a return to nature. Fast forward 100 years and the naturist movement still has such adherents, but the focus has changed to be more on personal freedom and the sensual enjoyment of clothes-free liberty. To the outside world all naturists probably look alike — folks that like to get their kit off and run around naked — but the motivation for nudism can vary quite a bit from one practitioner to the next. The challenges nudists face are often the same, however, and it is through unified action that we can preserve and promote our lifestyle. Let us focus on our common cause more than our differences, and our movement will remain healthy and free for another hundred years.
Have you ever noticed that a lot of popular music is about making music? Similarly, one of the most popular themes in art is the process of making art. Before the advent of photography and inexpensive advertising, artists would paint elaborate pictures that showed themselves at work in their own studio as a way to show potential patrons what it was the artist did. These pictures are invaluable as they show us today how many things were done in antiquity, such as grinding pigment and posing models. As a sub-theme, the idea of the artist and the model at work is also very popular, starting as far back as the myth of Pygmalion. Drawing the nude from life is one of the classes many art students take early in their training, to disabuse them of many of the unhelpful habits of the untrained artist, and that experience can be very formative. There is both an intimacy and a formality in life drawing that can teach the artist both admiration and respect for her subjects and her models, a respect that can serve her well as she makes art for many years to come.
It was as a student at a fundamentalist religious university in Texas, USA that I first was introduced to one of the basic ideas of naturism. I discovered in the university’s library a section on art, and in the books of art were many depictions, examples, and descriptions of the process of life drawing. Knowing that the university could choose what books to purchase for their library, I realized that even in their social conservatism, this Christian college implicitly recognized the legitimacy of social, mixed-gender, non-sexual nudity for the purpose of making art. That was one of my first steps into the world of nudism. Just so, many potential nudists can receive their first introduction to the world of naturism through the internationally recognized and respected art of nude life drawing. And if the model can be nude, why not the artist as well? If you have never tried nude life drawing before, I recommend it heartily. Just as musicians sing about making music and artists draw people making art, so nudists can demonstrate the lifestyle best by participating in it.
The idea of visual drama is a subtle one, in some ways, but very important. Related to the idea of visual movement, and certainly incorporating it, visual drama is the idea that an image conveys the impression that the image has captured a moment of an event occurring. Not all art is actually intended to be narrative; landscapes, still life, abstract, and portraits are all genres that need not carry a significant narrative content. That art that does strive for narrative content can either explicitly tell a story by clearly depicting a scene in a story, such as a battle, a well-known historical event, or a myth, or the art can strive for a more subtle approach, depicting meaningful glances, objects poised for motion, postures that seem out of place, or juxtapositions that beg a question. Today’s art uses careful placement of the figures and deliberate expressions and postures to suggest and imply a story without explicitly declaring what that story is, leaving the drama with no particular resolution.
Many people come to the naturist movement with an expectation, an idea in their mind of what they will find. Often that idea is not entirely satisfied, and this is to be expected. Every club, every park, every person or organization is at some point in its lifecycle. Beginnings and endings can be particularly dramatic, and mark a time when a person or organization may state what their purpose is but may not always be able to satisfy the demands of that purpose. This can lead to drama. To avoid unnecessary drama, it is best to have patience. We as a movement are changing with the times, and some of us are changing faster than others. There will be a blend of good, bad, imperfect, and sublime. Seek the sublime, but do not disrespect the new and unfinished or old and fading; the one is trying, and the other has served for a long time and needs a chance to refresh. Pitch in and spread the word, if you are unsatisfied, or just wait. Either way, our story continues, and you can be a part of it, if you want to be.