Several MVNU students have attended art sessions at Kenyon College this fall in order to practice sketching nude models.
Senior Kevin Beery first began attending drawing classes at Kenyon in early October as part of a Drawing II directed study. Beery excels at cartooning, so he wanted to practice drawing human figures and focus on the human body.
“Professor Hendrixson mentioned Kenyon as an option, but he did not mention [the class] was NNA (not Naz appropriate),” Beery said.
MVNU art students practice sketching and painting the human body from live models, but they do not practice with nudes.
Soon after Beery tried out the session at Kenyon, word began to spread among other students.
One of those students is sophomore fine arts and psychology double major Rachel Lingenhoel, who says drawing the human form is “a staple in the world of art” and “so different from anything else.”
The atmosphere at the Kenyon sessions is positive and professional, Lingenhoel said. In some ways, MVNU makes a “bigger deal” about models in leotards and bike shorts than Kenyon does about nudes, she said.
Students said the focus during the sessions is on practicing a skill set and “getting down” the figure, not on the model’s nudity.
It’s a valuable exercise, and one common to art majors everywhere, students pointed out.
Beery said the exercise was a lot different than the sketches he did of an MVNU student model wearing
a leotard. A nude model is a “whole different ballgame with how the light falls,” he said.
Freshman art and graphic design double major Edward Steffanni, who has attended two sessions at Kenyon, said that while the model in MVNU’s Drawing I course “gives you a pretty good idea,” you only get about half the body with the female figure.
“You miss the abdomen and a lot of highlights and value changes,” Steffanni said. “Having a leotard breaks up the figure; at Kenyon you are drawing the whole person.”
Much like medical students study human anatomy and treat the body as a complex scientific organism, art students said it’s easy for them to treat the human form as a work of art, not a piece of pornography.
Lingenhoel said she is interested in the morality of nudity in art and recently wrote a paper on pornography versus nude art.
She said she knows the struggles with pornography are real in today’s sexualized culture, but “nudes are not the same.”
Lingenhoel expressed concern that “the Christian world disqualifies God’s creation” just because it is naked.
She says it is as though sin in the world makes what she calls “God’s most glorious masterpiece” no longer good.
“This is almost like body shaming,” Lingenhoel said. “I don’t think fleeing nude models will strengthen our faith.”
Even the church “has a very unhealthy view of sexuality and the human body,” she said.
Still, Lingenhoel said she understands and respects MVNU’s choice to protect students who may be caused to stumble by nude models.
She says purpose matters a lot, acknowledging that “we have to choose not to sexualize them [the models].”
Ultimately, however, her professors and peers are professionals, she said.
MVNU art professors helped critique her sketches of the nude model just the same as they would any other drawing.