1st Annual NUDE
An exhibit of works exploring the
uncovered human form in current art.

Curatorial statement


It’s one of the defining characteristics of human life, and something we’re all born with - a miraculous assembly of living matter that we all too quickly adjust to, and take for granted – the human body.

It is the only thing that is ever truly ours throughout our lifetimes. Without it we would cease to exist. As such, like the Earth with its geographical boundaries, it is something we all share in common, regardless of the variables we make so much fuss about.

Look at how focused we become, upon the realization of a new life conceived, at the belly of a woman with child, at the sonogram-window into the tiny universe of the equally tiny human. The parents look for fingers, the diameter of the head, the legs that are kicking back at the buzzing ‘imperceptible’ sound waves. We rejoice at the heartbeat, the sign of a soon-to-be autonomous human life - limbs, brain and body ready to go!

How mesmerizing this is, the fascination with the in-progress human form. How utterly surreal that it occupies the same space as another human form – its mother, and represents the zippering together of DNA from two distinct sources… who it will inevitably resemble in some combination of mixed and matched characteristics in various stages throughout its life, extending the chain onwards.

And we’ve only just begun. For our entire lifetimes are about the in-progress human form.

Whether it is the event of conception and birth, the fight for the right to decide the fate of the unborn, the rearing, cuddling, soothing, swatting, hugging, swinging, chasing, and letting go of our children; or our concern about genetic manipulation, cloning, and the fate of our definable species; or fear of violence, to our children, to ourselves, in an ever-changing social landscape; or the recognition of our own mortality at middle-age, when we finally and all too soon realize our bodies are on the downswing, aging towards decay and death; or our perseverance into old age, when as my four year old daughter says people are ‘melted down’ (hunched or shrunken) and ‘have the bumps on their faces’ (wrinkles), and we’re staring the ending of this thing full in the face, backed by a massive database of lifetime marking our way and pushing us onward. It is through our bodies that we experience it all. All human life is by definition corporeal. The body is the lens through which we experience every living instant. If the body is, as someone wise once said, a temple, then it is a temple to life and time.

Having been an artist working with the subject of the human form for my entire career, and a professor of life drawing for much of it, I am sensitized to the imagery that results from such practice. Art history, after all, is supported by a core thread that is imagery (or objects) focusing on the human body. Much of contemporary figure-related art has its origins in the Renaissance, when the practice of medicine became a bit more rational and empirical. The study of the parts through dissection provided a precedent for artists to truly understand anatomy. Even if some of their learning had to be covert it lead to a new paradigm for the body in art.

So it takes me aback when the first thought of the nude in art is that its subtext is sexual, eroticism or pornography, and somehow shameful. It suggests the influence of the self-fulfilling myth of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Old Testament… the dangerous whisper of a serpentine paranoia (“fear this and reject it, because it is you”). Modern society perpetuates a nastiness about our bodies that is in ironic contradiction to that celebration of life described above.

I have often explained that when artists study the nude human model in a drawing class they are doing nothing differently than a medical student studying a patient. It is a deeply respectful process, one of shared time and trust between all the participants (students, professor, model, and space). The dignity that envelops this practice represents a celebration of that notion that the body, regardless of specifics, is indeed a temple. Those who strive to understand it do so out of reverence for the subject, for life, and for the considerable skill with which it demands to be described. There are a number of excellent examples presented in this exhibit of such works.

It is precisely because it is something so fundamentally us that artists choose to utilize imagery of the body. And it is often because of the initial reaction it elicits that some artists opt to use the nude body. Few subjects come prepackaged with so much conceptual energy as the human nude. And it comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors – both appealing and repulsing. The nude is utterly honest, direct, and potent. What better way to punctuate one’s content, at the outset, than with a nude? Art’s job is to document, inform, and define us, and the us is represented by the archetypical nude divisible by two (male/female).

It is fitting that Manifest has adopted NUDE as a permanent annual presentation in its seasonal lineup. The core offering at Manifest's other aspect, the Drawing Center Studio, is a series of weekly ‘open figure’ drawing sessions, where students, professionals, and the creative public can pursue the study of drawing from the live nude model for up to six hours a week, all year long. This exhibit sets the studio and gallery programs into complementary balance, featuring the full spectrum of process-to-product in a fascinating continuum of creativity.

This exhibit celebrates our commonality, and our openness to examine that part of us that is unquestionable, and exquisitely flawed.


Jason Franz
Executive Director
August, 2009



 Josephine S. Russell
Charitable Trust

Manifest is supported by sustainability funding from the Ohio Arts Council, and through the generous direct contributions of individual supporters and private foundations who care deeply about Manifest's mission for the visual arts.

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tues-fri 12-7pm, sat noon-5pm
closed on sun-mon

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2727 woodburn avenue
cincinnati, ohio 45206

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3464 Central Parkway
cincinnati, ohio 45223



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