Wednesday, May 31, 2006

No Nudity Is Not A Bad Thing

Is nudity profanity? The fine art of perception

Dennis McNally was carrying some of his paintings to his office at St. Joseph's University when a top administrator stopped him and asked to see them.

McNally, a Jesuit priest who chairs the department of fine and performing arts, demurred, knowing the man had objected before to his use of nude models. The administrator, no longer on staff, insisted.

"That looks like Jesus," McNally recalled the man telling him. "And he's naked... . That's a terrible sin, painting Jesus naked."

McNally didn't think so. But he concedes that when it comes to nudity, the line between the sacred and profane, the pornographic and the artistic, is not at all obvious.

After passing through corridors packed with student paintings and sculptures, I met McNally in his small office in the Tudor-style building that houses the art department at the university.

He told me people relate to nude figures in paintings because we connect to their humanity. And it takes skill for an artist to learn to paint the whole human body. He likes to start his art students drawing from live nude models right away, leaving the fruits and flowers for later. "It's a way of getting in touch with yourself," he said.

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