Hansen: Nude art exposes Laguna

July 11, 2012|By David Hansen

I had Playboy. My boys have Laguna Beach art.

It's OK. It relieves me of my fatherly duties, which, let's face it, are sometimes painfully awkward. Besides, my boys cringe whenever I play dad anyway.

Like Saturday night and the opening of the Pageant of the Masters. They hate it when I don't tell them where we are going. When I say it's a "surprise," they know it's going to be "some stupid art thing."


"But it will have naked women," I said, trying to find parking. They mumbled something from the back seat, then chuckled.

Walking around the Festival of the Arts, killing time before the show, I tried spying displays that I knew would appeal to them. I wondered if they were the same things that appeal to me.

With nude art, the trick with boys is timing and location. In other words, if it's too formal and quiet — like in the Laguna Art Museum with a lot of "old people" around — no way. They will stand stiffly and give me "the look."

However, if they have room to breathe and talk among themselves, then they might stick around longer.

It's like my fort with the Playboys. Men need caves.

But more importantly, cities need nude art. It gives people something to argue about. And we know exactly who is on one side and who is on the other.

They are the same sides that were around when Michelangelo created the "Tomb of Giuliano de Medici," which is re-created at the Pageant. In Michelangelo's day, there were people with pursed lips and strange bonnets; they took rules way too seriously. On the other side, there were suspiciously single cafe dwellers who read and drank too much.

These same people were around at the turn of the 20th century in America when Henri Matisse's "Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra," was burned in effigy at the Art Institute of Chicago. Not only that, all nude statues were removed or dismantled at the Institute because of public pressure.

And if the nude statutes at the Laguna College of Art & Design are ever banned, by the way, I want the second woman on the left. Called it.

What is happening in Laguna — and I saw it at the Pageant — is a subtle watering down of nude art. It's as if we are self-censoring ourselves and turning the original art into PG versions.

Do an image search of Auguste Rodin's "Eternal Springtime" and then think back on how much was not shown at the Pageant. Or look at Georges Seurat's "Les Poseuses" and notice what is missing.

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