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Tucson 12-12-2013 03:26 PM

Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Many of the sculptors who participate in this forum (including me) take the female nude as their subject. These pieces usually look a lot like the luscious, realistic nudes of the 16th through the 19th centuries. But art museums haven’t bought or displayed this type of artwork for nearly a century; art critics seldom bother to review such creations; and “top” galleries don’t show these sculptures. Instead, contemporary “fine artists” use the body to raise social and political issues and to comment on gender, race, age, etc.* So, the natural question for the sculptors of nudes who come to this forum is, “What are your artistic goals? Are they the same as those of past centuries: to represent young, beautiful bodies (with more than a little dose of unspoken sensuality)?” Or are your goals something other than either ideal beauty or social commentary? Please don’t waste your time knocking the current art establishment. Instead, I’d like to ask you, if you sculpt female (or male) nudes, “What, specifically, are you aiming for in your work?” These are questions that I’ve been asking myself, and I look forward to learning from you.
*Frances Borzello, The Naked Nude, 2012.

raspero 12-12-2013 06:20 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
If I had to state my principal interest in making a sculpture, I would say it is to create beauty. My subjects have varied widely; the female figure is among them. Political correctness does not enter into my work. I neither react to it, fly in the face of it, nor accommodate it. I do what lights my fire and I let them say what they will.

Several well known quotes come to mind:

"If God had intended for man to wear clothes we would be born with them."

"If the human body offends you, don't tell me; complain to its creator."

My work is also a subtle laugh at the world, at how seriously we take ourselves. The inability to laugh at ourselves may be the most dangerous threat facing mankind.

My life is a moveable feast of beauty. I love beautiful women, beautiful automobiles, beautiful boats, buildings, landscapes. I both celebrate it, and add to it.


rika 12-20-2013 11:13 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Interesting (and intriguing) questions that indeed are useful if not essential to ask ourselves from time to time. I will give it some thought and report back with my findings. I am very attached to the figure but not the traditional kind.

RWJR 12-24-2013 12:13 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
To me there is a familiarity with the figure that helps demonstrate the technique of carving steel with o/a torch, the control of the flame carving especially. The figure is universally understood and therefore the figure as subject matter become less important or curious than the technique. I do make abstract pieces but have always felt the figure captures the strength of the method best. Also I feel there is some gravitational pull in the direction of the figure that is probably in my genetic make up, I don't need to investigate this feeling, it is just satisfying to participate and make! Everything else (related to the figure) may be non-sense, such as metaphors, symbolism and narratives , I love non-sense!

allenmautz 01-01-2014 01:40 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
A great topic! Over the past few years this has subject has been increasingly on my mind as my work has developed. I became somewhat bored with the typical sit, stand, recline poses so began working with movement. Although beauty and sensuality are integral parts of the pieces, I am attempting to create a moment in time, an emotion, a memory the viewer might identify with. It is my opinion that the human form offers both timeless and endless sources for creative expression in spite of what the current trends may be....

raspero 01-01-2014 06:24 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture

I have a book called Rodin—On Art and Artists which is a series of conversations had by Rodin and Paul Gsell. One chapter is on movement in figurative sculpture. It was a revelation to me. Rodin said as how most sculptors make a snapshot of a figure, a pose that represents the position of a figure at a particular instant in time. He said this is wrong. It make the figure look frozen, not fluid. He spoke in depth about how the viewer's eye moves along the sculpture through time, and how the figure should change through time as well. For instance, if the natural flow on the eye is from the head down to the feet, then the feet should be in a later position than the head, later by the amount of time it takes the eye to move through the sculpture, or drawing.


allenmautz 01-11-2014 12:25 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Thanks Richard for sharing this insight... I would love to read that work and will have to see if I can locate the book. Some poses are simply static in that they have reached the apex of the movement. I have been tending away from these. I have found it to be a constant challenge to find ways to express motion. Careful use of cloth and hair has been sometimes helpful for me as long as it is integral to the formal structure of the piece, or at least compliments it. But it is no substitute for the lines and forms and space that portray movement. I will have to study your insights here and see how I can possibly incorporate it.

raspero 01-11-2014 07:32 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
I bought it here

GlennT 03-16-2014 09:34 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
If and when I sculpt the nude figure, it is to express beauty, grace, and spirit.
"Political correctness" means leftism, which is about as appealing to me as using motor oil for salad dressing. And that's just as a topic. To apply that to art is even worse, in my opinion.
To worry about the market is to not have faith in one's work. If the work is inspired and can communicate the inspiration clearly, it should create its own market.

rika 05-12-2014 05:36 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Great to read through your answers!

Last year I was interviewed by a magazine, and the interviewer saw a curious mix of grotesque and vulnerability in my figures and saw this as a contradiction. I will copy my thoughts here on that because I think it's still a good summary of my artistic intentions when it comes to the figure, though I seem to move in a direction that is more process/material oriented, concerned more with form than meaning.

"It is an inner drive to walk on the edge, on the periphery of a dividing grey area between credible and false, art versus pseudo-art. It is a dangerous but thrilling state to be in, attempting to fly, yet always susceptible to a fall as if I am walking on a tightrope. I find the grotesque exciting as being one such challenge. If mishandled, it can quickly slide into something ridiculous and commonplace. The antidote to that is to find the human element and bring it forward. This human element is present in my sculptures in the form of vulnerability, humbleness and fragility. If administered with just the right dose of sensibility, they can give the work depth and a credibility that translates into a memorable presence, and a sense of accomplishment for me, the creator."

raspero 05-12-2014 07:30 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture

"It is an inner drive to walk on the edge, on the periphery of a dividing grey area between credible and false, art versus pseudo-art."
I love what you said. I think of your work: The Probe. I have it on disk and look at it frequently. It catapults me out of my tiny self every time I look at it.

I have a friend who is a painter. He has a studio next to my shop in California. (I haven't been up there for a year now. The older I get the less I can tolerate those God awful airplanes. Most of you are too young to remember our luxurious Pullman trains.) He and I discuss the question: What is art? (Or more often: Is that art?) We mostly question our own work. Opining about what other people do is usually only vicious entertainment thinly disguised as intellectual discussion.

But back to the subject of this thread:

For most of my life my work as a sculptor has been repressed. You could blame it on whatever; the most likely culprit is the protestant reformation and its suppression of not only sex, but most other forms of human exuberance. I find that I am doing work that expresses sexuality. Sex is as natural as breathing.

Here is something from The Mother Daughter Revolution that applies not only to girls—it's different for boys, but it's equally disastrous:

" girls, we are forced to separate ourselves from our sexuality. At adolescence, girls dis-integrate as they realize it is not safe to live fully in their bodies. The absence of desire squashes passion for life and an ability to know one's heart's desire. Things become flat, colorless, confused...We want to reclaim the word desire..."

My current work is towards that—to reclaim the word desire.


rika 05-13-2014 09:24 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Wow, thanks so much for your appreciation of my work! made my day. I just like the human form, gesture and movement in a non-photographic way. I admire those artists, sculptors and painters that dared to not copy, but re-make the human body. Like a god. Michelangelo, El Greco, Rodin, Matisse, Schiele and Giacometti comes to mind.

Dries 05-14-2014 02:05 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Well put Rika.

Blake 05-15-2014 05:21 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
1 Attachment(s)
Hi Great to see everyone
I've been away for awhile, busy you know how it goes!

Rika I think that your comments are very appropriate and I agree with you, walk that tight rope.
(also think that the use of colour in your work is something that you do well)

To find the edge and then stay on it, is what I am looking for in my work with the nude these days; to produce figurative sculpture that is unique, that is pushing my limits and the limits of the figure, yet has a message.

So I use the nude to search for beauty as well as to present the figure in a different way, and to comment on us and our society...
As for the message, that depends on what you have to say.

Somewhere I read a quote that said something like:
For artists, it is dangerous when they are convinced that they knows what beauty is.

Cheers Blake

Dries 05-16-2014 02:03 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture

Your work is beautiful and very unique and I just love looking at it. The contrast of the darker outside and the golden inner colour is working well for me.

rika 05-17-2014 09:08 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Blake, I hope to see your work in person, hopefully in the near future. I discovered it while contacting galleries and looking at their online pages.

I came upon this interesting thought regarding beauty, and made me think.

"For me a work must first have a vitality of its own. I do not mean a reflection of the vitality of life, of movement, physical action, frisking, dancing, figures and so on, but that a work can have in it a pent-up energy, an intense life of its own, independent of the object it may represent. When a work has this powerful vitality we do not connect the word Beauty with it." Henry Moore, On Being a Sculptor

Blake 05-18-2014 05:22 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Hi Rika
Thanks for your thoughts on the piece-Sky.

Great quote from a great artist; Henry Moore
An artist that walked on the edge.

This "walk" is a difficult thing to do, whether it is following a personal path to reclaim a "desire" as raspero has stated in his comment, or find a new way to represent the figure.... they are both valuable goals to seek.
In many ways just to "seek" something is a valuable goal for the nude.

My goal to to make the nude figure in a way that "No one" has made the figure before.
Not that anything is new, everything seems to have been done before.
Yet I can say that it will never be done the same way as I/you/they will do it. So there is some originality within our work.

The galleries want you to make the nude figure in a way that is unique and easily identifiable by their clients... so this becomes an artistic goal for me; to create a strong style that is easily identifiable as mine.

The art critic wants you to create the nude in this same manner, new, original, with conceptual content, and changing work that shows the evolution of your artistic style. (They need something new and deep to think/write about.)

Most important to me is to make the figure so that there is some sort of conceptual content, if the viewer is interested in searching for a message.
However on the other hand, if the viewer only wants to look and does not want to think, then there must be something there to satisfy that viewer as well.

So my artistic goals of the nude are; originality, content, and presenting an "interesting" and "original" representation of the figure.
That is to say I am seeking some sort of quality, be it beauty or an ugliness, a character or sort of personality, a "vitality" or "energy" of some sort as Mr. Moore sought.

We will not always find it, nor will we always be able to infuse our work with it, but we should always try, and we should also be sensitive to seeing it in the art that we actually take the time to look at.

Fun to be here discussing this, great question.

rika 05-18-2014 11:48 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture

Originally Posted by Blake (Post 105841)
My goal to to make the nude figure in a way that "No one" has made the figure before.
Not that anything is new, everything seems to have been done before.
Yet I can say that it will never be done the same way as I/you/they will do it. So there is some originality within our work.

Agree 100 %. Very similar to my thinking.

raspero 05-18-2014 06:34 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
This conversation has me thinking. What Henry Moore said kind of rubs it in your face. Either I'm making art, or I'm representing something. Such representation may be abstract—a representation of a thought or a mood or an idea, but it's still a mere representation. It's difficult to talk about, or really even think about, what he said.


rika 05-18-2014 09:01 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Blake, I just noticed now that the underlined words were links to your sculpture, I think you have found those things you are talking about. The figures defined as "ugliness" and "personality" reflect that vitality from within, even on these small images. I applaud your persistence and struggles to extract the best of you. Wow, I am blown away.

Richard, please keep reading and thinking about what he says, it is not as simple as it seems, and he definitely was not the type to rub anything in anybody's face. To me it speaks like this: the artwork, regardless what represents or what it is, it has to have a life of its own, a reality of its own, radiating from inside. A magnetic power it is, that you respond to so strongly, instinctively, that you cannot call it beauty, because it is beyond beauty. Of course, any words can be interpreted in a million ways, but he is very serious what he talks about here, and he loved to teach.

Blake 05-20-2014 01:54 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Dries I meant to thank you for your comments.
After all the effort and strain that we put into our work it is this type of recognition that makes it all worth while. Thank you

Ultimately I think what we are seeking is to stir an emotion in the viewer, and that is why we create any form of art, music, dance...

As rika said:
"it has to have a life of its own, a reality of its own, radiating from inside. A magnetic power it is, that you respond to so strongly, instinctively"

Cheers Blake

Tucson 06-01-2014 12:09 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Thanks for the insightful and heartfelt replies to my original post. They’ve helped me think through my own goals and beliefs. I’ll try to express some of these as concretely as possible, without using terms like “beauty” or “expressive” that are so open to interpretation.

Realism and the Perfect Figure. In magazines, movies, and other media we see so many beautiful bodies that they are far less shocking and also less interesting than they were 100 years ago. I am still wowed by the craftsmanship that can produce a highly realistic reproduction of a living body, but accuracy even combined with an ideal, naked body, is not enough to sustain my interest.

Beyond Realistic Reproduction. The art I enjoy seeing and hope to create adds something beyond accuracy. This something extra can come in many forms: surface treatment; unusual, and even awkward, poses; distortion of proportions; representation of emotion or personality. These elements create a degree of surprise and engage us cognitively and/or emotionally by departing from the perfect naked bodies that have become so familiar. However, not all variations of the human form are equally engaging. In painting, at least, it seems that many artists today focus on the ugly or weird. They get my attention, but only briefly, and I have no wish to look at their paintings for long.

Why the Nude? Is anything more central to our lives that our own bodies? We learn to distinguish thousands of faces; we are instantly aware of unusual proportions; and our culture has taught us to associate the body with sensuality and with a wide range of feelings (sadness, joy, anger, rejection, etc.). Since the body is so loaded with associations and because we are so sensitive to any variations from the norm, an imaginative nude sculpture—unless it is a clichéd pose that we have seen hundreds of time—is likely to attract and hold our attention. If the attributes that distinguish it from the ideal or the everyday are creative and intellectually or emotionally engaging, it is, for me, a successful work of art.

raspero 06-02-2014 07:11 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
What you said is valuable.

I have been working on something new—new for me. It is inspired by a painter I have admired for years who does the most feminine of women. Here is one of his works:

There are problems. You can get away with things on canvas that just won't work using three dimensional clay. But it does point out a new way.


cheesepaws 10-09-2014 10:52 AM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture
Author, art historian, trained painter and critic James Elkins has been pretty up front on nude models and the nude as a subject of contemporary art. He supports the notion that the nude is never devoid of erotic meaning - no matter what you pretend you are doing in the name of connecting with classical practices or notion of ideal beauty.

Is working from nude models or focusing on making nude sculptures without acknowledging the erotic dishonest?

raspero 10-09-2014 06:57 PM

Re: Artistic goals of nude sculpture

He supports the notion that the nude is never devoid of erotic meaning
I would suggest that no human contact is devoid of erotic meaning; it's an integral part of life. But at some point the Judea/Christian societies divorced sex from the rest of life and made it something to be ashamed of. And here we are, sneaking around to have sex and covering up certain parts of our bodies so we won't be arrested and thrown in jail.


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