Dear 100 Hour Board,
Why do the BYU figure drawing classes have their models wear swimsuits while anatomy students study completely naked bodies all the time? I don't understand what's the difference.
-A merman hey
Dear hey you,
I see your point that both disciplines require a good understanding of anatomy to succeed in their fields. If I'm not mistaken, art majors are also taught off of cadavers for certain classes. But I'll leave it to Ardilla to explain the art side of this.
From the medical and general science standpoint, it is deemed necessary to expose students to the entire human body. I think that is obvious to you already. Imagine going to medical school, or heaven forbid, into surgery and only knowing the reproductive system from illustrations. Excluding the study of certain body systems would put BYU graduates at an extreme disadvantage in post-graduate studies and jobs, not to mention possibly harming patients in the future.
The Art Department, on the other hand, does not deem it necessary for their student's careers to require models to be completely naked. They are erring on the side of upholding the university standards of modesty to the degree that is reasonable in their field. Perhaps some art majors see this as a disadvantage once they enter their field, but I'll leave that decision to people who are actually artists, and that's not me (though I did draw a pretty nice sketch of Elder Holland today during conference, if I do say so myself).
This is my last point. When working with a cadaver, you only uncover what you need to work on. Sometimes that's the entire body. Sometimes it's just one limb. This is mainly to keep the cadaver hydrated and in good condition, but I personally see it as a form of respect for whoever donated their body. Perhaps this is me being overly sentimental, but I feel like it's good practice for how I want to treat my patients in the future. Whether alive or dead, a human body is a human body and deserves to be treated with the respect it inherently deserves. On that strain, I feel that every profession has an obligation to respect the human body in a way that is conducive with the job they must perform.
The Lone Musketeer
They don't want to give the art students any ideas.
I mean, there is a difference between observing a naked corpse and observing a naked breathing human in front of you who has to just stand there as people scan their bodies intently.
Ardilla Feroz also pointed out that he's pretty sure that BYU actually had Church approval for their figure drawing models to pose naked, but apparently they decided against it. Probably a big factor in that decision was the fact that a lot of the figure drawing models are BYU students, and I think they would have had a hard time finding students willing to pose naked for a class.