Nudity: Art or Pornography

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Nudity: Art or Pornography

People often end up on the opposite sides of the argument concerning the fine line between art and pornography. Artists sometimes include nude depictions or descriptions of the human form in their work. The artists and many other liberals and citizens of the art world argue that it is important for artists to feel the freedom to express themselves in any way that they wish. The problem with this liberty is that many people find the nude body offensive and believe that these images should not be considered art but pornography instead. This is a valid and important dilemma, but as Dennis Barrie describes art in a speech that was published in Art Journal, “…sometimes art is not beautiful, and sometimes it’s challenging, and sometimes it’s even offensive, and yet it can be art, even if it’s all those things” (Barrie 30). Artists should always be allowed to express themselves fully and not fear public reprimand despite the risk they may run of offending people who cannot appreciate their work.

The United States has always prided itself on being a free country that values its first amendment. Many people agree that the most important right in the United States constitution is a citizen’s right to freely express him or herself. The problem in this situation is that people also value living in a country without fear of being offended. Our laws are created to protect one’s self as well as others. So, it is important to attempt to meet everyone’s needs as much as is possible in a free society. Dennis Barrie, director of Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, was indicted and eventually acquitted for the exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, depicting nudity and human bondage. In 1991 Barrie spoke of the events surrounding the situation at the seventy-ninth annual convocation of the College Art Association in a speech called “The Scene of the Crime”. When Barrie described the day that the police entered the museum to remove the photographs he makes an important point, “More than anything, that image—that image of policeman in uniforms pushing patrons out of a museum because of what is on the walls—is the image that’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life. Because that isn’t our country, or it shouldn’t be our country” (Barrie 30).
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