The nude is a deeply ingrained form of human expression — the oldest piece of ‘art’ is an abstract female nude, the Venus of Hohle Fels — and most recorded civilizations have tolerated, if not embraced the art nude. Yet, the nude is something that we, in the modern world, struggle to find comfort with, as a creative expression.
For the past two years, I've been traveling the country to interview artists of all sorts whose work focuses on the human figure. Dozens of photographers, models, painters, actors and mixed-media artists have spoken with me as I've explored this question of the societal reaction to the art nude and how those reactions impact the experiences and identities of those currently involved in creating and/or experiencing art through oral histories.
Bare: Conversations on Human Art was selected by the exhibition jury of The Carrack Modern Art - a non-commercial community-focused gallery space on historic Parrish Street, in downtown Durham, North Carolina. The installation, on public view August 12–23, 2014, will include:
- a display of my art nude photography (my first formal 'solo' exhibition),
- 4-6 multimedia installations playing different snippets from the interviews, discussing the role of nudity in contemporary art, society’s reaction to it, the male gaze, gender roles and the impact of sexuality on art and what impact that has on emerging and established artists, amongst other topics, and
- ‘Confessional’ – a chance for the audience members to contribute to the conversation, by recording 5 minutes of their own thoughts and reactions – perhaps to be displayed on its own video monitor, which fills as the exhibit continues.
In addition to the items on display, the Carrack will host interactive events, related to the displays, potentially including:
- ‘Panels’ – an informal setting, in which artists and a moderator, an ‘expert,’ etc, have a round-table conversation, along with the audience. The broad themes of the project may be discussed, but it should new ground, not retread what’s already on the wall. Scheduled for August 17.
- ‘Office hours’ – wherein a model, an artist, an historian, a social/cultural expert, an antipornography activist, a body image counselor, etc all will have the chance to hold sway, on their own, to provide a brief, prepared set of remarks and then have a conversation with the audience for 20-30 minutes.
- ‘Soliloquy’ — a chance for curators, artists, activists, models, audience members, etc, who were not formally interviewed the chance to speak, live, before an audience (for 5 mins), potentially on the final night of the show, August 23.
- ‘Nude photoshoot as performance art’— a real, live art nude shoot, using a tethered DSLR, so the audience not only gets the behind-the-scenes glimpse of the creative process, but also the “finished product.” Likely August 17, 2014.
Speak Up, Be Heard
Art is a participatory experience; even the act of simply observing a photograph, painting or sculpture is interacting… and a vital interaction, because, without the viewer, there is no purpose in making art.
Accordingly, though the artists' stories are vital to Bare: Conversations on Human Art, the participation of audience members is equally important to me, as this is truly a conversation.
How Will my Contribution Be Used?
A vast majority of the expenses of the exhibition (printing, mounting, framing, the technology to support the video displays and extensive travel costs) have already been borne, by me, out of pocket.
Support received through crowd funding will help to offset the costs of travel and lodging expenses for participating artists, developing and constructing the confessional and building an online video archive.
When the funding goal is met, prior to the conclusion of the campaign, stretch goals will be announced, including plans to share complete conversations with the world and continuing the project past the exhibition.
How will I be thanked?
Thank you rewards include photoshoots, postcards, my Canon 1D Mark III DSLR, and of course, prints, such as the ones below:
What's the Big Deal About the Nude, Anyway?
The body has been inspiring art since the dawn of humankind; it was the first artistic subject, yet, 40,000 years later, it still captivates and inspires us, all the same. It is nearly universal, having traversed the river of time, across social, cultural, linguistic and physical borders. If we gain a better understanding of why we, as a species, are compelled to make artwork inspired by the body and why we, as a society, react to that artwork the way we do, we might better understand humanity, as a whole.
Who's this Dan Smith guy?
Dan Smith is a photographer-turned-political scientist-turned-race car driver-turned-photographer, who has found himself inexplicably ensconced in academia while raising a family, in Durham, North Carolina.
When he has the time, his photographic subjects range from the art nude to motorsports, architecture to aviation and… a little bit of documenting the world in which he’s found himself.
Since 2007, he has served as Assistant Director for Programs at the Duke University Center for International Studies. This Fall, he will begin work on a Masters of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University, planning to complete his degree in Spring 2016.
Follow him on Twitter: @ImThePhotosmith
Visit his website and view his portfolio: thePhotosmith.com
Risks and challenges
The primary risk is failing to meet my own personal expectations. The videos have been shot, the technology and coding are being assembled and the artwork is being prepped for display.
Transport of the contributed artwork is a concern, but only in terms of securing the work in transit.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)