Art historians assert that nudes speak a universal language, an ageless, primal and empathetic tongue that confirms the inherent and symbolic nakedness inside of creation.
The nude often transcends base physicality, suggesting deeper complexities, such as pureness of being or sensuality. Not to be mistaken for vulgarity, nude art often evokes reactions of unsettlement or surprise. In many societies, prudish values have socialized the public's responses to this natural state of being.
Regardless as to why, nudity moves us profoundly. And it continues to inspire inside OpticalReverb Gallery.
"We were toying with themes for celebrating the birth of 2006," says curator Jason Zacharias, "and a nude show seemed like an interesting route to welcoming a new year."
The result is Gardenuous, a show featuring more than 20 Colorado artists in media varying from sculpture and charcoal to oils and photography.
Participating Boulder artist Britt Basel has been working in traditional 35 mm photography for years, and cites her love of the nude's "simplicity, beauty and complexity of human form" as inspiration.
"My goal is to blend surrealism and allegory with nudity," she explains. "The images I like to share are ones that hopefully elicit some sort of reaction. I don't want to just give people a pretty picture. I want to challenge their perspective."
Basel relates two challenges in bringing nude subjects to life through the lens: Some people tend to shyly close down in the buff, while others express feelings that stray from the artist's intent.
Local photographer and Gardenuous contributor Aaron Graves confirms those sentiments, adding, "Lighting is key, in addition to making sure that your model is comfortable."
Graves is fairly new to nude work. He likes the form "because people come in so many heights, shapes and sizes," he says. "I know that sounds clichd, but I've found that you really have to tailor everything around the difference in subjects."
Graves likes to work in black and white, as well as duotone, and shoots in both film and digital media.
Contributor Alberto Leopizzi shoots in digital, and likes to pair the human form with landscapes.
"To achieve an artistic nude," he says, "you need a model with stage presence."
Leopizzi works with professional actors as much as possible "because they can change and adapt to the different expressions needed for the shoot. They know how to be intense."
Many nude works do more than simply capture the naked body. They add to the form through the chosen environment and usage of props.
"I like to play with textures, like mud or shooting through a thin fabric," adds Basel. "I just try and avoid the norm as much as possible."
-- Matthew Schniper
OpticalReverb Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave.
Through Wednesday, Feb. 1
Free; call 210-9799 for more information.