Get Naked with the Art Bank

Get Naked with the Art Bank

Posted 14 April 2015 by Victoria Henry
Donigan Cumming: Untitled Work (April 10, 1992) Donigan Cumming, Untitled Work (April 10, 1992)

Nudity in art is not new. It goes all the way back to the shapely stone carving of the Venus of Willendorf in 25,000 BCE. Still, even today Canadian organizations shy away from showcasing nudes in public venues – at least until now…

Getting Naked is an exhibition of 104 paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture on view at the THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, Ontario until May 31, 2015. All the works are on loan from the Canada Council Art Bank, and all have nudity as content. 

Far from providing a titillating experience for the voyeur, Getting Naked is a serious look at the very personal work of many of Canada’s most important artists including Donigan Cumming, Ohito Ashoona, Ivan Eyre, Gregory Payce, William Thomson, Evergon and Jane Martin.

Nudity in all its shapes and sizes is exposed in Getting Naked. Janice Newton, in a letter to THEMUSEUM curator Virginia Eichhorn, wrote, “I was also struck by the unexpected form of nakedness, in the range of beautiful, banal and truly ugly/scary. In the end, I felt that the exhibit had left me naked and exposed for my own assumptions about bodies, including my own body, which I thought had long passed the conventional window of female beauty.” 

Do most of us fail to see the beauty in our own – less than perfect – bodies?

Contemporary Canadian artists featured in the collection of the Canada Council Art Bank provide a window to ourselves. Not just in terms of showcasing what we look like – clothed or naked; but in an interpretation of our thoughts, longings, and environmental and political concerns. The most challenging content, so we thought, bare breasts and exaggerated phallic images, have elicited a thoughtful response, as exemplified by another comment from Janice: “I was blown away by the kinds of questions it posed… Seldom has an art exhibit left my head so spinning.”

The exhibition captured the attention of mainstream, national media (including the Globe and Mail, CBC Radio (As it Happens, and Q), and Macleans), and generated a fascinating conversation about whether or not Canadians are prudish about nudity.

And it’s true that we haven’t often exhibited – or rented these works. Now, maybe things have changed. We are open for business!
Victoria Henry

About the Author: Victoria Henry

Victoria Henry has been Director of the Canada Council Art Bank since 1999. She is responsible for the management and promotion of this national collection of over 17,000 works by some 3000 Canadian artists. She will be retiring on September 11, 2015

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