Through Georgia O’Keefe, however, the association of the female form at its most intimate when it is revealed through the aspects of nature allows for a sense of desire to be viewed without overtones of violence or degradation. As the discussion turns to the public sphere, the idea of the female in the work place, the concept of domination becomes more acutely visible, the vulnerability of the nude replaced by the idea of male domination over female office workers whose existence is dependent upon their beauty and sexual appeal. Within the span between the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century, the vulnerability of the female form turned from the willingness to accept those chains to the tension of patriarchal subjugation in the public sphere. The female nude has been a subject for art for centuries. The nude form reveals human beings at their most vulnerable. One of the best examples of this type of vulnerability can be seen in the sculpture titled The Dying Gaul (Figure 1). In order to understand the human belief in the idea of the nude it is interesting to examine this expressive piece of sculpture from the Hellenistic period. While the original does not exist, antiquity has saved the Roman copy of this piece in order to give to posterity an example of the human view of nudity as it relates to vulnerability. The warrior is nude in order to humiliate him and his homeland, unclothed to denote his weakness without weapons or armor on the field of battle (Perry, 1882). His death is not complete; he lives in the state between life and death as he leans against his hand contemplating the wound that will take his life. He is vulnerable to all things at this point, his strength waning as his body is without protection. In looking at this nude, the viewer can begin to see how the female nude can be understood in relationship to her environment. Figure 1 They Dying Gaul (Ancient Encyclopedia History, 2012) The female nude, on the other hand, is in a conflicted state for the viewer. The female nude has the power of her sexuality to move those who view her. Being nude leaves the female in a state of vulnerability, an essential violence on the fringes of how she is viewed. The nude and the romanticized idea of rape are never far from one another as she is represented in a form that evokes fear and sometimes anger. Anger can be found through the fear that her sexuality can motivate, manipulate, and make men violate their own principles in order to get near her in that state. It was, after all, the desire for a woman that launched a thousand ships against the city of Troy. The female nude is in a state of vulnerability, but she also has power and creates a conflict upon the viewer. This element of vulnerability and the conflict of sexual power that is held by women has been a resource for artistic creation throughout history. In the history of American art, however, the female nude has been a resource from which to identify the changing roles of the female gender as it has been reflected through
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The binding and control of the female form within the masculine gaze The idea of the female body as an object of art has been the subject of work done by artists throughout history. The female form represents a great many ideas within the context of American society and has been expressed in ways that define it as both human and object in order to create order in the chaos that males experience in trying to understand the meaning of the female body as it creates an effect upon them…
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