A bare arm, a tangle of legs, a shadowy silhouette: all will be on display tonight at the fourth annual Naked Art Show.
The exhibit is a celebration of the human form as expressed by the exhibition's mission statement, which devotes the show to the "exploration of, experimentation with, and expression of the bodies that influence our world and lived reality."
The show has changed considerably since its inception in 2006. Originally titled "Corpus," it began by featuring classical, predominantly black and white, photographs of student models.
According to Elsbeth Paige-Jeffers '10, who organized this year's show with Sydney Miller '12 and Katy Dissinger '11, "Corpus" emphasized "nudity" as opposed to "nakedness."
In 2007, however, the show took a slightly different turn. Students enrolled in an upper-level art course titled "Public Art" organized the show with the intent of highlighting a diversity of bodies.
According to Paige-Jeffers, by drawing attention to the race, gender, weight, and height of the models the artwork was no longer about nudity, but now about nakedness.
The exhibit, then titled "Exposure," shifted from reliance on anonymity to a "fun, playful, and intriguing" positing of identity.
Last year Paige-Jeffers, along with Alanna Beroiza '09, touched upon themes of sex, sexuality, and identity.
Paige-Jeffers explained that the title "Exhibition" was chosen for its "subtext of agency, activism, and sex."
The show has expanded to include all media, now including photographs, paintings, drawings, installations and performance pieces.
This year's show is predominantly composed of photographs, however all works interpret the topic "nakedness" differently.
For Allie Foradas '10, who will be exhibiting work in the show, her fascination with the classical nude evolved into thematic research into the meaning of "nakedness."
Foradas' experience with figure drawing prior to Bowdoin dealt with the charcoal representation of the tone, shadow, and shape of the human form. Her exhibition of nude portraits, a culmination of work from her printmaking class last semester, is a continuation of this study.
However, the themes that Foradas identifies make her work more "naked" than "nude."
Foradas said that Bowdoin classes led her to view the body, especially that of the female, from an art history perspective. Her studies led her to question traditional understandings and representations of the body.
"In my work for the show, I explore the beauty of the female body, and the culturally perceived dichotomy between its erotic and maternal potential," said Foradas.
According to Foradas, studying and exploring the body in this way has removed the stigma that the term "nudity" carries
"I think spending time nude, comfortable in one's own body, and not naked for any particular reason other than to get used to how your body looks and feels unclothed, removes the 'extremeness' of being naked," she said. "Then, your body isn't split between being capable of erotic and maternal activity; those are just two of the many things of which it's capable."
Former organizer, Beroiza, expands the definition of nakedness to include the dimension of naked emotion.
In an e-mail to the Orient, she wrote, "There are so many ways to be naked that don't involve physically disrobing oneself, and sometimes being without clothes is less revealing than being in a different kind of state of vulnerability with one's clothes on."
It is precisely due to the breadth and ambiguity of the terms nudity and nakedness that the show comes alive.
Beroiza characterized it as, "art that really does more than just hang on the wall."
She adds, "Whenever there's sex, gender or sexuality involved...there will always be more to deal with than just art. There's politics and privacy and decency and audacity which must be taken into account."
"Exhibition" allows participation at a multiplicity of levels whether one chooses to be an artist, model, or spectator.
"Exhibition" opens tonight in Fort Andross at 7 p.m.