I’m writing in response to a letter entitled “Art?” printed in Thursday’s paper. First off, let me say I enjoy reading the editorials because they remind me BYU is made up of individuals who have differing thoughts and opinions from one another. Usually, I understand, or at least respect, others’ viewpoints. However, this letter really bothered me. Its writer claimed there was basically no difference at all between nude art and pornography, and that, as such, nude art had no place at BYU, the Lord’s university.
I agree our dress code is important, modesty is and should be valued highly and I don’t believe we should all run around naked. But I do not see all nude art as pornography. I probably would have agreed with this letter last semester, before I had taken my current Art History class and actually learned something about art. As a result of my new knowledge on the subject, I’ve come to appreciate art in a way I never did before. I believe we should strive to learn about subjects we condemn so we know why we condemn them, and if we’re truly right or just closed-minded and ignorant.
The letter asks, “How can a university that professes to have an Honor Code and enforce it, allow students to engage in such activities?” (i.e. nude modeling, painting) Yes, the Honor Code dictates what we can and cannot wear, as well as where our standards of integrity and honesty should be. But it does not require that we never subject ourselves to things that might be construed as offensive. If our consciences and values were never tried, our learning would be severely limited. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to learn all I can. From my experience with art, I’ve come to see censorship as a personal thing. Yes, you can choose what you see, and you can choose what is offensive for you. But it may not be the same for everyone else, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
However, it is your responsibility to understand why you feel that way — why things offend you, what you’re feeling, etc. Make it a learning experience, not just a judgment call. I was a little shocked to discover nude art is no longer as offensive to me as it once was. I admit not all nude art is good, and I am still offended by some pieces of art. Nude art can be pornography, but that depends entirely on the intent of its viewer. If he or she sees it as such, that is what it will be.
As for me, my eyes have really been opened to God’s power of creation, as a result of this experience. I mean, anatomy books used to be offensive to me. I can better see the awesome beauty with which God creates, because artists can only try to emulate it. God’s works cannot be duplicated. But they can be appreciated. I love attending the Lord’s university, and I appreciate the Honor Code. I’m also grateful for the opportunity I have to learn and grow from my experiences here. I believe we would all do well to learn about a subject before condemning it in ignorance and to choose at least to respect the choices of others, even if we do not agree with them. The judgments of condemnation are not ours to make.