Live Nude Artist’s References

We are really grateful to Nipnic, because we can now see the photographs we blogged about as “the pictures we can’t see.” They are by Akira Gomi, a Japanese photographer, who has apparently done similar series with Japanese, Chinese, and American women, and with Japanese men. You can see a large selection of the American women’s photographs here. Unsurprisingly, the women’s photographs can be found on the web, while the photographs of men seem to be much more elusive.

The photographs show a limited range of young women whose individuality shows, despite the dehumanizing context of the pictures. Gomi uses a repetitive set of poses which simplifies, minimizes differences, and create a false similarity. The women probably represent no more than a ten-year age range and while some could not be models, virtually all of them would be considered conventionally attractive. The repetition gives the feeling of a medical textbook or an artists’ reference, and in fact, the photographs are shown on the web as resources for artists. These photographs are more interesting as a structured project than as individual images: Muybridge without motion.

While portraits of nudes often reveal more about the person than clothed portraits, Gomi’s work is exactly the opposite, because the women’s bodies are all depersonalized by the rigidity of the poses. Thus, their clothed bodies (which may or may not be their own street clothes) appear to tell us more about them than the nudes.

Where Laurie’s portraits are about people’s personal body language and what’s written on their bodies, Gomi’s work is about variations on a theme.

7 thoughts on “Live Nude Artist’s References

  1. The problem is the link is munged. It reads:
    and should read:
    — the second “http” and the following slashes need to be removed.

    Yeah, the pictures are pretty amazing, devoid of any kind of person-hood … which is interesting, because I’ve very rarely seen nudes that managed that. Even porn, selling pixes of bodies as commodity, manages to convey more personality than these.

    (Well, okay, there may be porn that doesn’t: I’m no expert on the subject. I should say “the porn I’ve seen,” an admittedly fairly-limited range.)

    reffing back to the “The Pics We Can’t See” post, a belated thought regarding this:

    “No one ever asked either of us what any of the women in Women En Large did for a living; no audience has ever failed to ask that question about Familiar Men.”

    That’s the kind of thing that evolutionary psychology would seem to predict … reproductive success would drive men to be more interested in women as bodies (i.e., ability to produce & raise offspring) while women would be more interested in men as providers. And, yes, I recognize that you didn’t specify the gender of those who did/didn’t ask that question: one of the results is that men/women compete on the playing field on which the other sex judges when choosing mates. I don’t suppose it necessary to list stereotyped/cliched/normative behaviors in each gender that illustrate this tendency…

    (H’mmm…. and to forestall any of the obvious reactions, let me reiterate that my interest in evolutionary psych is because it explains, not justifies, our behavior. We remain free to decide what to do with the tendencies, urges, etc., we inherit.)

  2. “… that evolutionary psychology would seem to predict …” “… it explains, not justifies …”

    Aye, there’s the rub. I actually like evolutionary psychology too, but I tend to distrust evolutionary psychologists, because so many of them, in the public discourse at least, do both. When Ev Psych is used to generate interesting hypotheses to test, I’m happy. When it’s used to justify the status quo, I’m bored. I liked Kipling’s ‘Just So’ stories, but he was a good writer.

    Not that this is a hot-button issue with me, or anything … ;-)

    Seriously, Dan’l, when we’ve done FM events, or even talked to people at gallery openings, we’ve asked people about this, and the answer is consistent. None of the important things that “women do” (nurture, screw, bear children) are primarily signified in their clothing. Several of the things that “men do” – notably work and holding rank – are signified in their clothing.

    So when people see Laurie’s naked women, they have enough information to construct an adequate story in their minds, and are not anxious, at least on that account. They don’t have enough to do that for the male nudes, which induces anxiety, however trivial. This is true of both men and women audience members.

    Laurie didn’t set out to do this, but the reactions came in almost immediately, with the earliest showings of the male nudes. So the exclusion of work cues continued as a deliberate policy. I don’t know if Laurie had to enforce this policy in any particular case, but I note that the only two male portraits with signifying objects are of disabled men. In those instances, the models asked specifically to have their apparatuses included in their portraits.

    As I recall, the translation of Occam’s Razor from the latin is something like “do not multiply entities unnecessarily.” People have told us why they ask about men’s occupations and not about women’s, and it maps to Psychology 101 and Sociology 101. I don’t need an Ev Psych explanation, any more than I need a biblical or a confucian one (not that one or more of them might not be true, for some value of true …).

  3. I personally like Akira Gomi’s work. I like it due to the fact that it is unusual. I have to respectfully disagree that porn shows more personality. My personal opinion is that porn shows women as more of a sexual object. While, Akira Gomi’s work shows the beauty of the female form. His work was never about showcasing their personalities…it was always about their beauty. I have 3 of his books, and they are truly beautiful books. They also show that beauty goes across ethnic lines. Whether the women are chinese, japanese or american, they are all beautiful, each in their own way.

  4. why are there no “studies” the nude male form then? Im all for showing the natural variation of natural bodies, I always find it curious and touching to look at all these different forms, it’s like having a good cup of coffee or something, it gives me a cozy and altruistic, and safe, feeling. :) But Im so annoyed with the fact that men arent represented in the media. both for the fact that the objectification of women is silly and unfair and the fact that the male form is interesting variated and pretty too.

  5. also, I wonder what the reactions would be if someone made a “scientific attractionn study” of 1000 male objects. like what is the golden ratio in the triangular muscle shape, what’s the ratio between thigh and calf, a macho chin and a macho nose etc. who’s not up to shape, who’s loins are to broad, who’s private parts are best, who’s got an “unmanly” symmetry etc..or a library of just “symmetrical well-developed macho men with broad chins” and the small differences between them. well..

  6. Yokoa,

    In my experience, reason that we don’t see more (non- pornographic) male nudes in the US (or Japan) is that male nudity is far more taboo then female. And therefore the opportunities to exhibit or have an audience for the work involve overcoming serious barriers, while the showing of female nudes is usually societally encouraged.

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