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  #1  
Old 02-27-2006, 09:36 PM
FlyingRamenMonster FlyingRamenMonster is offline
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Is it legal to require art students to photograph themselves nude?

I'm asking for a friend of mine on deviantART. In her words:

Quote:
I just got an assignment for figure drawing class that says the following:

"Draw yourself nude, or with 1/3rd clothing if you like. Draw yourself doing something you would normally do naked, such as bathing, sleeping, taking a shower, brushing your hair after a shower, sitting on the toilet..the drawing should have the feeling of a candid camera" etc. He instructed us to draw from a photo of ourselves and to bring the photo to class for him to look at before we started.

I'm pretty insulted.. not only is drawing from a photo extremely unhelpful and takes a beginner level skill that we've long since surpassed, but I, a young and pretty shy girl with no modelling background, am being instructed to take a naked photo of myself ("or," he said, "you could put on your panties..") and give it to my male teacher, then draw myself in large scale so the picture can be on display for the entire department.

I'm pretty sure I don't remember signing anything saying I agreed to show off my goods. I do not understand what the point of this is. Most of us would have no problem drawing someone else, or even finding stock photos to draw... why the hell would he have us draw OURSELVES, and from a photo no less? I would complain, but this teacher is seriously not the type to care or listen... besides, I and several others in the class doubt his motives are 100% educational.

It just strikes me as pervy and gross to me... and that little part about "on the toilet" just confirmed that this is some creepy fetish for my teacher. I mean for god's sake, some of the people in the class are minors! He didn't even ask us if we were comfortable with this..
Needless to say, she's not too keen on doing it. This teacher is also really shitty in other ways, doing stuff like making students work on a piece and then ordering them to rip it up and failing them if they don't. Anyway, can he actually make his students do this?
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  #2  
Old 02-27-2006, 09:45 PM
Askance Askance is offline
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He's not requiring it in the sense that she will go to jail if she doesn't do it. He's not even requiring she be nude: "... or with 1/3rd clothing if you like".

She has many options: refusing entirely, doing it with 1/3 clothing, asking the teacher for an alternative assignment, asking college management to be put in another class, or changing schools, as examples. It doesn't sound like she even thinks he's a good teacher so this might be an opportunity to explore alternatives she'd prefer for this and other reasons.

Frankly I think she's being overdramatic, especially with the "pervy" and "creepy fetish" comments. If she says anything like that to others and they take it seriously, he could lose his job or worse.
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  #3  
Old 02-27-2006, 09:49 PM
garygnu garygnu is offline
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Hmmm... don't know. Definitely not the minors.
My advice would be to go over his head and/or transfer to another teacher if possible.
Complain to an administrator, go on record if possible. Even if it's legal, it's wrong, and a formal complaint could lead to a change.
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  #4  
Old 02-27-2006, 09:50 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is online now
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I think a nude self-portrait is a pretty common assignment for art majors, from what I gather.

Taking the photo though, that's kind of creepy. Or at least, to require that one do so is.

THAT part I would refuse.

And drawing a nude portrait, well, you can have a pose in such a way that nothing shows.
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  #5  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:07 PM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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1.) Nudity is not such a big deal. There are a lot worse things that can happen to a person than to have been seen nude.

2.) You probably should get out of "art" because, like it or not, nudity is not a big deal in art.

3.) The instructor may be a perv but so what, there are ways around it. Find out if he is legitimate. How long has he been teaching the class? Is he a respected art teacher?

4.) Take a picture of yourself sitting on the toilet with the seat down and all of your "goods" covered. On the two dimensional sheet, have nothing showing that would not be seen if you were on the beach in your bathing suit. You have satisfied the perv but have not compromised yourself.

5.) Distinguish between what is seen and what the artist wants you to imagine. For example, the whole method in movie making is to make the audience believe that they have seen a lot more than what actually appeared on the screen.

6.) Don't get angry, get smart.

7.) You don't owe your body to anyone. If the perv insists on seeing the "goods" then he can get busted. Remember that if you are learning art there is no way around doing life drawing. Someone is showing you their "goods". It's not sexual. It's part of the process. In photography art it is often an accepted practice that the students pose nude.

8.) A difficult hurdle in art is going from nude/sexual to nude/art. There is a tremendous difference and America is the worst place to try to make the differentiation.

9.) Good luck!
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  #6  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:13 PM
FlyingRamenMonster FlyingRamenMonster is offline
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Nude models may be showing you the goods but it's in their contract. Art students don't sign a contract that says they need to take nude photos of themselves and give them to the teacher. I'm wondering about that too.
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  #7  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:29 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Quote:
You probably should get out of "art" because, like it or not, nudity is not a big deal in art.
She's an artist not a model. Artists don't work usually in the nude and have no reason to work in the nude. This "assignment" makes not more educational sense then if a teacher had instructed the students in a music or chemistry class to send him nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

Quote:
And drawing a nude portrait, well, you can have a pose in such a way that nothing shows.
A problem is that if this teacher has a history of failing students for trivial reasons ("making students work on a piece and then ordering them to rip it up and failing them if they don't") and is collecting nude pictures of his students for ulterior reasons, then he'll probably react to this by giving a failing grade to any picture that doesn't show "the goods".
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  #8  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:35 PM
even sven even sven is online now
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I dunno. Despite talking about NUDE over and over again, the actual assignment is to do this in 1/3 clothing- perfectly acceptable for beach wear, in other words. I think this assignment is about discovering and pushing your own boundaries and making art that is deeply and publicly personal. Good artists know how to reveal parts of themselves that may make everyone involved uncomfortable, and always have to be ready to push their limits. This is a ham-handed approach to cultivating that, but I think it's probably as good as you are going to get with a one-size-fits all assignment. If your friend is a real artist, she'll find a way to turn the assignment on it's head- choosing a very unflattering angle, or something.
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  #9  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:40 PM
Zabali_Clawbane Zabali_Clawbane is offline
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Ask her to look over the course's description, and the sign-up forms. I'm assuming no one under the age of 18 is allowed to take the course, correct? If under 18s are being asked to do the assignment, there are definite problems, (if you are in the US, not sure of the laws elsewhere) and this should be brought up to college authorities. (Not sure of the ladder/process.) Does she have the assignment in writing or recorded so she can prove she's not just having a hysterical reaction and misunderstanding? He just wants to "look at" the photo, not have it turned over to him though, so maybe he is on the up and up with this. Still skates the line though. Maybe he's trying to give the students empathy for the models?
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  #10  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:46 PM
JustAnotherGeek JustAnotherGeek is offline
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I would also ask a couple of questions.

1.) You call him a "teacher." Is this a college course or a high school one. (I am assuming and praying the former...)

2.) Is this project the part of a unit? (e.g. has your friend been working on portraits, nudes, or what?)

3.) Does your friend have another instructor in whom she could trust? (Maybe a favorite from last semester?) Could your friend tactfully ask the other instructor about this project?

My one and only piece of advice:
If your friend is still not sanguine about the prospect of showing her body, I do see a way out. Instructor specifically mentioned things you would do naked, like brushing your hair after a shower. Last time I checked, my bathroom mirror gets pretty darn foggy. I can easily see a good picture for use as a starting point for a sketch like this:

Subject leaning over sink, staring into a mostly foggy mirror, applying make-up. The picture is taken from behind and through a door frame. The frame covers the posterior; the position of the leg obscures the "lower naughty bits" , and the bend of the arm obscures the "upper naughty bits."

Ought to be interesting enough to warrent a sketch, without being, well, ... sketchy.
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  #11  
Old 02-27-2006, 10:49 PM
PurpleKat PurpleKat is offline
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I want to start by saying that I registered specifically to reply to this question, because I'm not really sure about where most of the other replies I read came from.

Now, I'm not an artist, nor do I play one on TV (but wouldn't that be cool if I did?) but I'm dating a man who just graduated from a fine arts school in California, and he was never once asked to draw himself in the nude, or even with "1/3 clothing". He did do some self-portraits, but they were mostly of his face. He also did a lot of life drawing of live, nude models, and he didn't have a problem with that, but I think he might have had a problem with drawing himself in the nude and displaying the finished product.

So the fact that your friend doesn't feel like showing the teacher a nude photograph of herself (or one of her "in her panties") or putting a huge nude drawing of herself on display doesn't mean she should drop out of art school.

That being said, my boyfriend did have some teachers who were a little bit off-kilter in terms of what they thought it was acceptable to say and assign to students. So I asked him what he thought of the situation, and what he said was that she can probably work around it and not have her grade penalized. He advised that she do the picture while in her bathing suit, using a modest one-piece, or while wearing a towel (which is generally what I'm wearing when I brush my hair after getting out of the shower, anyway, so a "candid" shot of that sort of thing, at least for me, would include a big fluffy towel) or something of that nature. Other options might include a big tee shirt of the sort that are for sleeping in.

If the teacher has a problem with that, and it's the sort of problem that's likely to reflect on her grade, then she should go to the dean or whatever oversight administration there is for the school to raise her concerns. I wouldn't phrase it in terms of "this teacher is such a perv!", because that's not likely to be taken seriously (in my experience dealing with school administration, anyway) but more in terms of "he asked me to show him a picture of myself in my panties for this assignment and I wasn't comfortable with that, so I tried to compromise with a bathing suit, and he's told me that he's going to give me a lower grade because of it. I'm worried about this having a negative effect on my grade." The administration might just tell him to back off, they might do more, who knows.

The important thing is that she be above reproach in terms of doing the best job that she can do, so that the teacher can't claim to be giving her a low grade because of a shoddy finished product.

For the record, I agree with her that anyone who feels that this sort of assignment is okay has a screw loose.
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  #12  
Old 02-27-2006, 11:10 PM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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Sounds bogus to me. I'm married to an artist, who studied at New York's School of Visual Arts as well as a couple of colleges, and who has taught art and it sounded bogus to him, too. His first thought: Here is an art department too cheap to hire a model.

Some friends of mine have taken life drawing classes at the local Art Students League where they were, in fact, too cheap to pay a model, and used volunteers from the class. Emphasis here on volunteers.

Now the OP's friend will, in fact, reveal herself big-time to anyone who sees her work if she's any kind of an artist, but plenty of people have gotten through art school without doing nude portraits of themselves--although self-portraits are pretty routine and it's certainly not unheard of for the artist to choose to do the portrait undraped. (In fact a friend of mine has a pretty cool self-portrait from his college days, where he painted his own self-portrait, but also reflected in the mirror was a girl in his class who was doing her own portrait in the studio that same day and she did have her shirt off. So he put her in there, too.)

So there might be a bona fide reason for the portrait itself but I can't think of any reason at all to require that it be done from a photo, or for that matter to produce the photo. As she noted, it's more of a challenge to work from a live model--at least more challenging from the point of view of actual technique.

Oh, and one-third clothed? What is that, one out of three erotic points?
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  #13  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:41 AM
tim314 tim314 is offline
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Professor asking students to provide him with nude (or nearly nude) photographs of themselves? Completely out of line -- and even more so if they weren't offered an alternative assignment, and weren't forewarned about this before signing up for the class. And what could the students learn from this that they couldn't learn from drawing from a nude photo of someone else?

I would recommend complaining to the school administrators. But she should first talk to some of the other students, to see if any found this similarly objectionable (and I'd be very surprised if they didn't.) Then they could go to the administration as a group, which might lead to their concerns being taken more seriously.
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  #14  
Old 02-28-2006, 04:43 AM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is online now
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My guess would be that requiring nude photos would be illegal, but given that the option to just wear a swimming outfit is there I doubt you could get any court to say anything but "Meh."

Now, if the guy is actually abusive, treats his students demeaningly, or engages in sexual harrasment then you could bring up charges against him, but that's an issue with a pattern of conduct not of this particular assignment.

Your friend should either wear a bikini and turn the assignment in or, if the guy truly is worthy, report the teacher to the administration and try to get him fired. I suspect the latter will be rather difficult though without evidence of specific no-noes (fondling, etc.) Or just accept an F on the particular assignment and live with that or, again, take it to the administration and have them overturn the F for asking for something she feels is inappropriate to ask for. If your friend has a legitimate beef and particularly if her parents also call the school to complain, I doubt she couldn't get the F overturned.
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  #15  
Old 02-28-2006, 05:21 AM
irishgirl irishgirl is offline
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There has to be a way around this.
If a student had a religious or cultural objection to stripping off themselves the school would surely have to accommodate them.

Hell, my medical school accommodates female students who won't physically examine males and vice versa (they get their examination techniques tested on lifelike models of the opposite gender and on real patients of their own gender). I can't see why an art school should have an issue adapting the project for students with objections.

Talk to the teacher, then talk to the head of department, then to whoever deals with equality/harassment/bullying issues.
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  #16  
Old 02-28-2006, 05:33 AM
scotandrsn scotandrsn is offline
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MHO:

Your friend needs to inform two people immediately of the existence of this assignment (I'm assuming a college setting here): The Art Department Chair and the Provost (Dean of Faculty) of the school. Both should take great notice of the existence of such an assignment. If they don't, take it straight to the main Dean's office, being sure to inquire whether such an assignement fits in with the guidelines for accreditation of the department or the school. The listener's eyes should get really big at that point. It does not need to be explicitly illegal to be something that the school at large should not want going on under their roof. By no means should she do any such assignment that makes her feel uncomfortable, nor should she be forced to endure a bad grade, even temporarily for refusing to do so.

As a former instructor in the arts myself, I say regardless of whatever unconventional merit there might be in creating a nude study of onesself, any illusion of benefit to the student's professional develpment ends when the work is required for general display and the photos required for submission for the instructor's private use. These steps, without question in my mind, cross the line from instruction to harassment. An immediate end needs to be put to such "assignments" for the good of the students as well as the school. There is no legitimate excuse for its existence.
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  #17  
Old 02-28-2006, 05:44 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Askance
He's not requiring it in the sense that she will go to jail if she doesn't do it. He's not even requiring she be nude: "... or with 1/3rd clothing if you like".

She has many options: refusing entirely, doing it with 1/3 clothing, asking the teacher for an alternative assignment, asking college management to be put in another class, or changing schools, as examples. It doesn't sound like she even thinks he's a good teacher so this might be an opportunity to explore alternatives she'd prefer for this and other reasons.

Frankly I think she's being overdramatic, especially with the "pervy" and "creepy fetish" comments. If she says anything like that to others and they take it seriously, he could lose his job or worse.
Actually, I think he is being creepy, especially since the quote in the op mentions that there are underage people in class ...

as to the one third clothing, jerk the guys chain - he didnt specify what third clothing. Borrow a sca member's chemise [long undergarm,ent that appears to be like a modern nightgown] as women in the middle ages frequently wore a chemise, an under gown and an over gown ... and in the photo she could have both the under gown and over gown VISIBLY hanging next to her ready to put on.

Frankly, I agree with going to the schools admin and complaining. I dont see why the teacher needs a nude or mostly nude picture of a student.
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  #18  
Old 02-28-2006, 05:49 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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There's real merit in pushing your students to explore areas they would not explore on their own. That's one of the reasons people take courses, especially high-level college courses (which this may or may not be.) Especially art courses, where one of the most valuable things you can acquire is a mentality that feels okay exploring ideas that seemed very weird or uncomfortable at first. It's not, I presume, a class 100% devoted to technical matters (using a palette knive correctly, arranging the lighting on a still-life, etc.) but a good art course is a course in learning how to think like an artist. To do this, you need to be confronted by ideas, which you're free to reject after the course is over.

Even if his idea is dumb or pervy, you're a better artist and a better person if you see what happens when you explore his ideas fully. You may well, as I say, end up unhappy or angry with the result of going where he suggests you go, but so what? It's a flippin' college course. You take it, you do it, you experience it and sometimes you hate it, but when it's over it's over and sometimes, not always, you've learned something valuable. That's the deal.
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:04 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo
if this teacher has a history of failing students for trivial reasons ("making students work on a piece and then ordering them to rip it up and failing them if they don't") and is collecting nude pictures of his students for ulterior reasons, then he'll probably react to this by giving a failing grade to any picture that doesn't show "the goods".
Let me suggest another reason for his "rip or fail" policy: it's a valuable lesson for artists to know that some of their efforts beliong in the trash bin. Students with the mentality that tells them that they'll get a souvenir (finished drawing, painting, poem, whatever) out of every effort they make are students who belong in an arts-and-crafts class ("Look, Mommy, I made an ashtray!")--art students sometime neeed to understand that most fine artists end up throwing out, or giving up on, project after project before they work out a problem successfully. It may well be this lesson that the teacher is trying to impart.

It's not the teacher's job to be a nice person, or to make your experience a pleasant one. It's to teach you something. It's not called "course play," folks-- it's called "course work" for a reason.
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  #20  
Old 02-28-2006, 06:09 AM
Pushkin Pushkin is offline
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How big a part of the art world is devoted to nude minors defecating?
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  #21  
Old 02-28-2006, 06:17 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pushkin
How big a part of the art world is devoted to nude minors defecating?
You have a problem with that? You believe that nude minors defecating is a subject unsuitable for art? Or for art studies? Please tell me why.
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  #22  
Old 02-28-2006, 06:23 AM
Pushkin Pushkin is offline
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Originally Posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber
You believe that nude minors defecating is a subject unsuitable for art? Or for art studies? Please tell me why.
Um, where did you get all that from? I just asked what proportions of works of art were of minors defecating.
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  #23  
Old 02-28-2006, 06:29 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pushkin
Um, where did you get all that from? I just asked what proportions of works of art were of minors defecating.
A very small part.

Of course, "nude minors defecating" is a minuscule part of this assignment. It's only part of the assignment if that's the pose the art student herself chooses, out of an almost infinite array of possiblities.
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  #24  
Old 02-28-2006, 07:09 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tim314
Professor asking students to provide him with nude (or nearly nude) photographs of themselves? Completely out of line -- and even more so if they weren't offered an alternative assignment, and weren't forewarned about this before signing up for the class. And what could the students learn from this that they couldn't learn from drawing from a nude photo of someone else?
This was my reaction. I am not an artist, and it's IMHO (which is where this thread may end up), but the art teacher set off my perv meter.

I mean, c'mon! As a teacher (though not of art), my inner perv would love to have nude or scantily clad photos of some of my female students, but I would never dream that I could get away with requiring them to give them to me.
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Old 02-28-2006, 07:21 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink
This was my reaction. I am not an artist, and it's IMHO (which is where this thread may end up), but the art teacher set off my perv meter.

I mean, c'mon! As a teacher (though not of art), my inner perv would love to have nude or scantily clad photos of some of my female students, but I would never dream that I could get away with requiring them to give them to me.
If I were teaching such a course, and had chosen such an assignment for the reasons I'm suggesting above, I'd probably have an (undisclosed) policy of a backup assignment: if a student really expressed abhorrence at complying with my request, flatout refused to do it, after several reminders that it was a requirement of the course, I'd ask for a paper (taking up approximately the same amount of time and effort if the original assignment were done conscientiously) of justifying such a refusal, with footnotes to various sources on contemporary artistic morals, and a warning that I was not looking for an opinion essay but rather a thoroughly researched essay on aesthetic philosophy, conventional morality, etc. that accounted for various points of view not shared by the student.
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  #26  
Old 02-28-2006, 08:08 AM
Pushkin Pushkin is offline
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Originally Posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber
I'd ask for a paper (taking up approximately the same amount of time and effort if the original assignment were done conscientiously) of justifying such a refusal, with footnotes to various sources on contemporary artistic morals, and a warning that I was not looking for an opinion essay but rather a thoroughly researched essay on aesthetic philosophy, conventional morality, etc. that accounted for various points of view not shared by the student.
Of course, you could just buy what we in the UK call a "top shelf" magazine instead

I'm not an artist either (though strangely the one bit of art at school I was both genuinely proud of and was quite good was my self portrait) but the teacher seems to be at least going about things in an odd manner.
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  #27  
Old 02-28-2006, 08:58 AM
Amazon Floozy Goddess Amazon Floozy Goddess is offline
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Nude drawings are common assignments in an art class....having to draw oneself nude is not.

I've had a lot of art training and never once did an instructor assign a project such as this. Bringing in a professional nude model, yes. If you want to draw yourself nude as your own choice, normal. But an assignment requiring the entire class to draw themselves nude/skimpily clothed?....that's weird.
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  #28  
Old 02-28-2006, 10:22 AM
Caricci Caricci is offline
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I work at one of the top art schools in the US and I have never heard of such an assignment. I've been here 8 years and it's not like I'm the lunch lady or something - I'm in a position where I would have heard about something like this. Furthermore current students are not allowed to work as models. Faculty are not allowed to hire current students as models for their own work. There are even guidelines regarding the professional models and models can refuse to do poses if they are uncomfortable. There are many protections in place regarding students, faculty, models and nudity.

Is this assignment legal? I don't know. It is not ethical, I can tell you that.

Some students will voluntarily be nude for an assignment of their own. It's allowed, but often the student finds that there are unforeseen consequences and they wish they had not done it.
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  #29  
Old 02-28-2006, 10:24 AM
Caricci Caricci is offline
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Re: my above post. Students can be nude in their own projects, not assignments. I wanted to clarify that they aren't posing nude during class time, but for themselves in their studios. Even so, it's not common.
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  #30  
Old 02-28-2006, 10:32 AM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is offline
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"Doing something you would normally do naked": Sleeping, under the covers; no body parts showing, clothed or otherwise. Showering, behind the shower curtain.

Granted, he gets to veto the picture ahead of time, but these two satisfy the specific examples stated in his assignment. See if he has the stones to say, "No, actually, I wanted you to bring in a nude picture of you for me to look at; if you're squeamish about that, you can wear lingerie."
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  #31  
Old 02-28-2006, 11:27 AM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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Originally Posted by irishgirl
, my medical school accommodates female students who won't physically examine males and vice versa (they get their examination techniques tested on lifelike models of the opposite gender and on real patients of their own gender).
sorry for the hijack, but I'm way,way confused here: doctors refuse to treat half the population? Huh? Didnt the Taliban have rules like that?

If you refuse to look at naked bodies, maybe you shouldnt choose a career in medicine. ???
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  #32  
Old 02-28-2006, 11:30 AM
saoirse saoirse is offline
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I would say havinfg the students draw themselves nude is probably an OK exercise. It's the photograph part that icks me out. I can't see at all what the teacher needs that for. Not only is it pervy, but as a State-School shitkicker, my first thought was, "Did he say in the course description that a camera was required?"
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  #33  
Old 02-28-2006, 11:52 AM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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The whole assignment just sounds like some perv's scheme to get students bring him nudie "voyeur" photos of themselves for his own gratification. I guess it's probably not illegal to make the request but it's inappropriate and creepy as hell. Aking for drawings is one thing (if still borderline, IMO) but demanding to see photographs is another. And I am not assuaged by the ":ant pant:: It's ok, you can wear your panties." Defense.
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  #34  
Old 02-28-2006, 11:54 AM
drachillix drachillix is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chappachula
sorry for the hijack, but I'm way,way confused here: doctors refuse to treat half the population? Huh? Didnt the Taliban have rules like that?

If you refuse to look at naked bodies, maybe you shouldnt choose a career in medicine. ???
Well, a female obstetrician won't see many penii at work, only the result of their work

To the OP, IANAAM but I do feel there is some relevance to the ideas presented with regards to pushing ones personal comfort zone a bit as well as exploring your own perceptions of your own body. One thing i did notice was the op stated bring the photo to "show him" not keep for his private collection. Could this be akin to getting approval for the assignment akin to many other self selected writing assignments. With the partial covering guidelines most modesty issues can be handled IMO. At the same time is there a specified style of work. Does this have to be a detailed pencil sketch down to every last pore and hair or would more broad stroke or impressionistic painting techniques that lack accurate detail or may even subdue or exaggerate certain body parts be acceptable as well.

In ways a little voice inside me keeps saying, hell, cops get maced and tasered in their training, why should an artist fear a semi-nude self portrait.
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  #35  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:14 PM
Caricci Caricci is offline
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Oh, and I asked around here at work and was told "a good art school wouldn't have you draw from a photo". How true that is, I don't now. I believe it's not a common practice here though whether it's a nude self-portrait or a still life. I vote for perv.
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  #36  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:16 PM
Caricci Caricci is offline
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I really must apologize for all this consecutive posting, but I had another thought. What is the benefit to a nude self-portrait vs. drawing the model anyway?
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  #37  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:17 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is offline
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In response to those wondering what value it is to draw a picture of yourself--self portraiture is included in fine arts curricula for a reason. It forces the student to confront a subject with whom he or she is intimately involved. It can be immensely challenging and immensely rewarding.

Similarly, fine arts curricula frequently force students to reveal themselves in uncomfortable ways. Being an artist often means laying your inner self out for all to see. Students have to explore their own boundaries. An arts class should allow, or even force, a student to break through those boundaries, while still remaining in a "safe" environment.

Consider acting classes, where a (stereo)typical activity has the students crawling around and barking like dogs. The fact that it is a class means that the teacher has far more coercive power than some random person who might tell you to get down on all fours and bark like a dog. The teacher can make you do it. But the class setting also means that the behavior is acceptable. Your peers aren't going disdain you for doing it, because they're doing it too (or maybe they're next in line). If some outsider sees you doing it and questions your sanity, the teacher can just explain it's a class exercise. In contrast, if you were to get down on all fours and bark like a dog in some public place like a subway platform, you're likely to be hauled away to the funny farm.

Clearly, I believe that a certain amount of coercion and discomfort is necessary and useful in high-level fine arts training. The teacher in the OP, however, is WAY out of line.

A good arts class will force a student to get comfortable with nudity by drawing nude models. Some students will take it further and draw themselves nude. That's fine.

A good arts class will force a student to show parts of himself or herself that they'd normally keep private. But that doesn't mean physical parts! It means thoughts and ideas and even fantasies.*

If the assignment were to draw yourself doing something that you'd normally only do in private, that would be acceptable. There's something to be said for putting something you're ashamed of out on display. The students could draw themselves nude if they wanted, or picking their noses, or engaging in their secret hobby of playing with Barbie dolls. To make the students push their own limits is a good thing.

But having an assignment that forces the students to give nakey photos to the teacher? Totally pervy.


* One of my best friend's freshman projects at her top-rated fine arts school was a self portrait. I think it was supposed to show a private fantasy version of herself or something. In pastels. On 24" x 36" paper. So she drew herself facing forward, clothed, looking typically demure. Just over her shoulder, is this totally ravishing big-haired vixen version of herself, head thrown back in inherent ecstasy. So why do I remember this freshman project from 15 years ago? Because her mother loooved it, had it framed, and has it hanging in the most prominent spot in her house. She refuses to move it or take it down. How would you like to have your 18-year-old fantasy version of yourself, larger than life and in living color, displayed for all to see? There's really no question about what it depicts either. Everybody who sees it is like "K thinks of herself that way? Wow." Poor K.
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  #38  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:24 PM
35340 35340 is offline
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if it's a self-portrait of oneself in a 'candid' moment, it's a bit hard to pose and be candid, hence the photo to work from. I can barely see the 'reasoning' that could be used for requiring a photograph to make this assignment.

That said, it does squee me out a bit; I'd consider asking for an optional assignment or just go totally TMI - nose picking after a steamy shower with steam obscuring the reflection of my front and a strategically placed towel obscuring the back (what a trick of timer, tripod, and camera that would be, assuming that as an art student I owned or could borrow those).

Or swap classes, citing the assignment and lack of an option as a reason.
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  #39  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:26 PM
Revtim Revtim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilarity N. Suze
Oh, and one-third clothed? What is that, one out of three erotic points?
Yeah, I could use an elaboration on that phrase, never heard it before. If the girl's in a bathing suit, with neither breasts nor lower naughty bits exposed, does that count?
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  #40  
Old 02-28-2006, 12:31 PM
Caricci Caricci is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Green Bean
* One of my best friend's freshman projects at her top-rated fine arts school was a self portrait. I think it was supposed to show a private fantasy version of herself or something. In pastels. On 24" x 36" paper. So she drew herself facing forward, clothed, looking typically demure. Just over her shoulder, is this totally ravishing big-haired vixen version of herself, head thrown back in inherent ecstasy. So why do I remember this freshman project from 15 years ago? Because her mother loooved it, had it framed, and has it hanging in the most prominent spot in her house. She refuses to move it or take it down. How would you like to have your 18-year-old fantasy version of yourself, larger than life and in living color, displayed for all to see? There's really no question about what it depicts either. Everybody who sees it is like "K thinks of herself that way? Wow." Poor K.
I love this story and just know that, in my declining years, I am going to start telling it about one of our students and be convinced it's really about that person.
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  #41  
Old 02-28-2006, 04:10 PM
Phantom Dennis Phantom Dennis is offline
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I had a similar experience in a freshman figure drawing class a few years back. On the first day of class, the professor warned us that the final project would be a nude self-portrait, and if we didn't like it, we should drop the class.

He spent a good deal of time explaining his reasons -- e.g. the nude body is wrongfully associated with sexual connotations in our society, the nude is a major theme in the visual arts, the human body is beautiful in all its forms, and too many young people are obsessed with body image and need to confront their fears.

I thought he made a valid point, but that didn't stop me from dropping the class the next day. I was overweight and very insecure at the time, and I couldn't imagine myself turning in a nude self-portrait for the professor (and the rest of the class) to see. The decision effectively ended my career as an art major. Sometimes I regret the path I took, but I still have no doubt it was the right thing to do at the time. I wonder how many other students dropped the the class after the first day.

In reference to the OP, I don't think the assignment is fair, especially since you weren't warned in advance. Your professor's intentions may be perfectly innocent, but the fact that he's asking for photos rings a few alarm bells. In your position I would either request an alternate assignment or accept a failing grade.
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  #42  
Old 02-28-2006, 05:02 PM
Cervaise Cervaise is offline
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I have a fine-arts degree from an arts college and this assignment does not sound legitimate to me. The self-drawn portrait is fairly reasonable, in the context of June's story above, but the photograph is entirely out of bounds.
Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven
If your friend is a real artist, she'll find a way to turn the assignment on it's head
My suggestion: The photograph should show the woman in her shower stall, her back to the camera, so nothing private is on display. The accompanying sketch should be dominated by an exterior window, with the woman-in-the-shower image visible through it, and in the foreground, outside the window, the instructor, oily and unshaven, is pressing his nose against the glass.
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  #43  
Old 02-28-2006, 06:45 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amazon Floozy Goddess
Nude drawings are common assignments in an art class....having to draw oneself nude is not.

I've had a lot of art training and never once did an instructor assign a project such as this. Bringing in a professional nude model, yes. If you want to draw yourself nude as your own choice, normal. But an assignment requiring the entire class to draw themselves nude/skimpily clothed?....that's weird.
Sorry, I just remember my art teacher from high school relating what a former student told her-that he had been assigned this in college-nude self-portrait, I mean. I don't think anything about photographs was mentioned.

The photograph part, that's the real kicker.
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  #44  
Old 02-28-2006, 07:21 PM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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I really think more information is needed to make any reasonable judgment here. If this is a low-level course for non-Art majors (which it probably isn't, since the OP notes that the student is at some advanced stage of study), then all of these moralizing comments about how bad and wrong it is to push students into confronting nudity may hold some water. I disagree with it, but in the spirit of the OP's question ("Is it legal?") I'd have to say, "Maybe not."

But it seems to me manifestly clear that if we're talking about any kind of truly advanced course in Art, the professor may ask the students to do some things (not all things, of course) that they don't like doing, that disgust them, that offend them, that they object to, etc. and that such challenges may be (in this professor's mind, and in the court's) perfectly legal.

Let me illustrate: when I taught a course in journalism a few decades back, one assignment was for students to write their own obituaries. Obit-writing is a standard assignment (every journalist should know how to write one, and often obits are assigned to the newest hires on a paper). Some students didn't like the assignment--they claimed it was creepy. I answered, "Why? You are going to die someday, right? Do you think you're not? Give yourself the most pleasant way of dying you can think of, speculate how you're not going to die until you're 105 years old [they were allowed to include future details if they wanted to have themselves dying at future dates] and have it in by Tuesday evening."

One student said she wouldn't write it. It creeped her out too much. I said, "Fine." She asked what she could write instead. I said "Nothing. You get a zero on this assignment." She complained to my chairman, who asked me why I refused to give her a makeup assignment. I explained that, not only was the obit assignment an important skill to have in any journalist's repetoire, it was even more important that reporters don't apply moral scruples to covering stories. It was a bad habit to get into for a beginning reporter to say that an assignment creeped her out, or bored her, or was over her head. Pull that crap on any paper I ever worked on, and you're not long for the job. The lesson I was teaching was "Suck it up. You dislike the assignment? Fine. Do it anyway." I stood my ground, the student took the zero (and ended up failing my course, though not for this one small demerit) and now she teaches in my department and thanks me for helping her learn something important about doing what you're asked to do.

If this is a true Art course, where students are being taught more fundamental things than how to draw flowers or hands, both important skills, and are taught "What is Art?", "Is Art always about Beauty?", "Is Art ever Disturbing or Painful?" andd other truly vital questions, then it's important that students get creeped out and confronted by these issues.
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  #45  
Old 02-28-2006, 07:37 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is online now
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Yeah but just because you're a hard-ass doesn't mean that the teacher in the OP is one as well.

Do you think that the editter of a newspaper would ever be able to get away with forcing one of his journalists to submit a nude picture of himself for publication with an article?
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  #46  
Old 02-28-2006, 07:59 PM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat
Do you think that the editter of a newspaper would ever be able to get away with forcing one of his journalists to submit a nude picture of himself for publication with an article?
No more than I'd expect an art teacher to demand that his students submit an obit about themselves.

Art is about one's vision of the world. Artists must learn to expand their vision (and to reject some of it, after exploring some of the more troubling possibilities). If all artists did was draw and paint things they're comfortable about on the first day of Art class, they might learn a lot about painting still-lifes or sunsets or children with big eyes, but that's not why we have courses in art, at least not on the university level. We're trying to help students see the world, all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly as well as what they first conceive as the beautiful.

Now maybe this guy is a pervert. That's entirely possible. But if he is, sooner or later, he'll do something that is unambiguously illegal. This isn't. I wonder if many of the respondents who object to his pedagogy here (if that's what it is) aren't (because they're not interested in becoming artists themselves) imposing their own morals on what may be an unusually challenging but perfectly legitimate course in art.
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  #47  
Old 02-28-2006, 08:37 PM
tim314 tim314 is offline
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This isn't unambiguously illegal, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it violates the school's sexual harrassment policies. At least if this is at a major university as opposed to an art school -- I don't have any idea what the rules are usually like if it's the latter. But at a typical university, the definition of sexual harrassment includes any conduct of a sexual nature (including verbal conduct) that has the effect of creating an offensive or intimidating environment, or for which submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of someone's education or employment.

The teacher could argue that this doesn't constitute "conduct of a sexual nature" -- however, it is clearly the sexual aspect of the assignment that is making the student uncomfortable, and it doesn't in general have to be the teacher's intent to create an intimidating environment for it to be viewed as harrassment, so long as that is the effect of his actions. And if the teacher claims he was deliberately trying to create uncomfortable sexual feelings in the students, whether to get them past those feelings or make them better artists or whatever, that's more of an admission of guilt than it is a defense. You cannot put students in a position where a reasonable person could feel uncomfortable sexually, and be in compliance with university sexual harrassment policies as they are typically stated.

So, I suspect the school administration would give the teacher a fairly short leash on this, even if they believe his aims were pedagogical. If for no other reason than to protect themselves from liability.

Bottom line, even if the teacher's intentions are entirely appropriate (which frankly isn't the feeling I get from this), he's being a fool to handle it this way. He should have offered the students an alternative assigment, or at least made more of an effort to explain the reasoning behind this assignment than he apparently did. As it stands, I suspect he's exposing himself to the possibility of disciplinary action -- at least some sort of official reprimand.
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  #48  
Old 02-28-2006, 08:39 PM
Amazon Floozy Goddess Amazon Floozy Goddess is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinastasia
Sorry, I just remember my art teacher from high school relating what a former student told her-that he had been assigned this in college-nude self-portrait, I mean. I don't think anything about photographs was mentioned.

The photograph part, that's the real kicker.
I didn't dispute what you'd said. I said it's very unusual to assign an entire class to do a nude self-portrait. I've had 10+ years of professional art training, both in Fine Art and Graphic Design (I have a Graphic Design diploma with honours in Fine Arts) and never had this done or saw this done. I've done and seen lots of work with nude models, either freelance or professional people that the instructor hires to pose for the class. They don't know the students, the students don't know them, so there's no discomfort with the assignment. A student should not be required to do a nude self-portrait unless it's expressly their choice.
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  #49  
Old 02-28-2006, 08:43 PM
tim314 tim314 is offline
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As for the comparison to requiring students to write an obit, I think that's quite different, for one key reason. Universities dont typically have policies that say "instructors can't make students feel uncomfortable." They do have explicit policies forbidding instructors from forcing their students into a situation where they feel uncomfortable sexually.
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  #50  
Old 02-28-2006, 08:56 PM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tim314
As for the comparison to requiring students to write an obit, I think that's quite different, for one key reason. Universities dont typically have policies that say "instructors can't make students feel uncomfortable." They do have explicit policies forbidding instructors from forcing their students into a situation where they feel uncomfortable sexually.

But art is traditionally about depictions of the human body. Even if you're squeamish or prudish or bored by the subject, there's no getting around its centrality to art, and you need to articulate your position better than "It squicks me out." If you're an artist who says, "I've never reallly thought about the human body, its sexual and aesthetic nature, its beauty and ugliness," etc. then you're not much of an artist. It's a big part of the subject this guy's trying to teach.
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