"As a figurative sculptor I am entranced with the human form, male, female, young or old.”
created for Best of Artists and Artisans web site
By Bridgette Mongeon © 2007
Recently the editors of this column wrote me concerned that people were shying away from sending in nudes to the Best of Artists and Artisans art competitions. Are nudes a controversial subject to submit? As an artist I would certainly have to evaluate each competition carefully, before entering a nude. I posted this same topic on the sculpture community forum and received some enlightening responses.
Here are some of my own experiences with nude/naked art.
The human form is an important element of focus for any artist. My husband, who is also an artist, and I are always telling art students, “Draw from life, and make sure you can draw the human form.”
Working with nude models and creating paintings and sculptures of nudes are all part of the learning process. There was a time when there were more nudes in my repertoire of art. Although I rarely sculpt a nude these days, it is not because I have outgrown them. It is because of my very busy schedule, working with a live model would be a luxury; working from a live nude model would be a way to relax. All my work is through commission and I keep very busy doing just that. Unless someone commissioned me to create a nude, and I have had a few of those, then you won’t see many nudes coming out of my studio.
By far the piece that gets the most attention and always initiates comments from those who enter my studio is “Ethel” – a nude. It is also one of my favorites, and if I crave to do other nudes, it is because I have fallen in love with “Ethel” and want to see more of her, no pun intended. The Ethel sculpture startles individuals, but at the same time seems to make them secure within their own body.
Before the time of digital cameras, I would take pictures of the nude model, with their permission of course, and when they were not at the studio I could continue to work on the sculpture. There was a time when I was banned from coming to the local pharmacy photographic processing center, until they learned more about what I do, but even then they suggested I take these “type” of photographs to a professional lab.
The most controversial of nudes is the child nude. During the creation of “Le petit pollison,” individuals were concerned that you could tell the sex of the baby. It infuriated me that I should change my art to appease what others thought, but in the end I compromised by pushing down the child’s rear end.
I love sculpting children. I long to study that tiny little form, watch the process of the growth of the skull and bones, and yes I desire to sculpt nude children. To be perfectly honest I long to sculpt every human form. I’d love to find another Ethel, and would also love to sculpt a very old person as a nude. The thought of it immediately brings to mind the science behind what I am doing, how does the muscle and skeleton change over the years? But more than that, what emotion is exhibited from each form? The young child with his/her plump cheeks and swayed back, rear end sticking out and chin down initiates a feeling of innocence. On the contrary the frail form of the elderly, stature bent over with time, skin hanging, exhibits the ravages of life and in that wisdom. As a figurative sculptor I am entranced with the human form, male, female, young or old. When that longing is transmitted to the clay, accompanied by the emotion and the artistic passion, it can become an award-winning piece of art, one that, with the proper competition, could be submitted to without hesitation!