Martha Cooper Shoots Nudes n' Prudes in Rochester and Atlanta
This summer I was privileged to photograph two of the most respected street artists in the world at work: Faith47 from South Africa at Wall Therapy in Rochester and Hyuro from Argentina via Valencia at Living Walls in Atlanta. Both painted huge murals over long hours in the blazing sun. Sadly a few, but by no means all, members of their wall’s respective communities objected to the content of the murals. Why? Prudery! Faith’s wall contains one artistically draped bare breast and Hyuro’s an animated series of drawings of a woman undressing, donning and then shedding a fur wolf suit. The animation is posted on Vandalog.
In Sweden or Germany or probably most of Europe, neither mural would be controversial. But in Rochester and Atlanta the walls happened to be located near religious institutions and their leaders were most vocal in condemning the art.
I can empathize with people who don’t feel they had a voice in deciding what they will have to look at every day—whether art, architecture or advertising. On the other hand, artists need the freedom to paint whatever they feel would best fit a particular wall and the neighborhood. This is obviously a difficult balance to strike and one that the organizers of street art festivals have to grapple with to retain funding and procure suitable walls to paint. Aesthetics are subjective and no mural will appeal to everyone. Personally, I would like to see artists pushing the envelope a bit and giving people something to ponder and discuss as in the case of both of these walls.
Street art is ephemeral. Paint fades and buildings are torn down. Photography almost always lasts longer than the art. I am especially happy to be able to post these photos and also, for comparison, a few examples of nude women in art from centuries past when apparently people were more accepting of the female figure.
Text and Photo: Martha Cooper