Dear 100 Hour Board,
What are your thoughts on nudity in art?
Actually, I'll go a bit deeper.
Let's say an LDS artist (of either gender) does one of the following:
-creates a painting with a nude subject (either using a model or from their own imagination)
-takes a nude photograph
-films a partially nude scene for a movie
-films a fully nude scene for a movie
-films a sex scene (partially obscured/less graphic)
-films a graphic sex scene
-acts as a model/actor in any of the above scenarios
Would said LDS artist face excommunication or other discipline for being involved in any one of these acts? Would the gender of the artist or subject make any difference in this decision?
And, in general, what are your thoughts on nudity in art? Should it be more accepted? Is it wrong to create nude art as a Latter-day Saint?
Your mileage may vary. This is true in two senses. The intent of the art will be a huge factor in the decision to put someone under church discipline. For example, a nude painting in a classical style or a nude photograph showing the wonder of the human body or as a piece of a larger art work depicting the grandeur of nature would be treated very differently than one that is explicitly for sexual titillation. A partially nude sex scene as an incidental part of a larger story would be treated differently than a softcore porn shot expressly for that purpose.
Different ecclesiastical leaders will have different thresholds for what they consider an offense that would require discipline. I feel comfortable saying that few ecclesiastical leaders will be comfortable "giving permission" for any of the above activities, but if they were informed after the fact they would only act on those that were expressly for sexual gratification or that created a negative image for the church. While I would hope a leader would look on the above actions as equal irrespective of gender, your mileage may vary here, too (unfortunately).
When it comes to daily life and the standards at BYU the counsel is clear: none of the above would be "permitted" and in the specific case of BYU unless you are a life model employed by the campus*, you would be in violation of the Dress and Grooming Standards as entailed in the Honor Code. As for the church at large, there isn't any specific guidance I am aware of other than the guidance given to members when they receive the endowment regarding the wearing of the garment, and ultimately it is the individual member who answers to their bishop if they are in compliance with that counsel.
My own opinion matters little in this, but for what it's worth - bodies are beautiful and God-given. I believe they can be shown respectfully in the nude, and shown fully clothed in a conversely disrespectful manner. What matters to me is the intent and the context.
Have fun storming the castle,
*I have held this job. It's actually a pretty cool one.
Speaking on behalf of all Board writers past and present, I can confidently state that we all believe that everybody should be naked all the time, always.
I don't have a lot to add, but I really liked the article about the difference between art and entertainment in the most recent issue of BYU's Humanities magazine, called "The Arts as a Lens to 'See Whole Life'" by Travis Anderson, former International Cinema director. (It's a adapted from his devotional given to the college of humanities.)