One of my favorite art-centric films, The Agony and the Ecstasy, tells the story of Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As the fresco progresses, many people are disturbed by the nudity portrayed and insist on bowdlerization. The artist vehemently defends his work, saying that he would “paint man as God made him—in the glory of his nakedness!”
If we can remove the stigma of lust and embrace the beauty of a body as God made it, admiring His handiwork, then the body becomes a person. Too often, we fail to recognize the respect demanded by creation, choosing instead to project our own selfish desires onto a work of art which is already perfect in its entity. Creation was pronounced “good” and was only later corrupted by mankind.
It breaks my heart how often what was created in purity and perfection becomes spoiled. People should appreciate each other as people, not as objects. The celebration of humanity is often denounced by censors as merely a carnal pollutant. Movies, sculptures, songs, dances… all the muses of art are in danger of repression from well-intentioned, but narrow-minded people who can’t see past their own temptation.
The Venus de Milo shouldn’t be excluded from art books because she’s enticingly naked, but should be included because she’s beautifully nude. There is no better inoculation for a sinful temptation than a healthy respect for its object. What better way to honor an artist than to rejoice in his masterpiece? A love of art flows from an admiration for the creative genius from which all mankind continues to benefit.