The naked truth about nudity

There was some discussion about whether the story coming out of the National Gallery of Australia concerning the naked tours of James Turrell: A Retrospective was actually a hoax, particularly given they'll take place on April 1.

There was some discussion too about who would actually attend such an event, given we're such a prudish middle-class lot here in the nation's capital. Who will be lining up with Melbourne-based artist Stuart Ringholt, their view unrestricted by clothes as he puts it (but perhaps restricted by other things?), seeing Turrell in a completely new light. 

Artist Stuart Ringholt leads a naked tour through the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
Artist Stuart Ringholt leads a naked tour through the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.  Photo: Christo Crocker

Well, I too will put it all out there and say not me. Philistine that I am, Turrell doesn't interest me at all. Naked or clothed. Now give me a good Post-Impressionists exhibition and I'd consider  happily channelling my inner half-naked Tahitian princess.

Mind you, I have been known to get my gear off. Well, perhaps a slight exaggeration. It was the '80s. We didn't have to pay university fees. There was lots of cheap beer. And New Romanticism music was terribly conducive to the occasional nude night.

But it was the '80s. And while our morals might have been a little looser, our thighs and bellies and backsides were a little tighter.

I wonder what it would take now for me to nude up? A little more than an art exhibition I would think.


Nudity. Why does it have such a stigma attached to it? We come into the world butt naked, but leave it dead in our best suit, or nice frock. Dressed up to go out for the final time.

In between times we're naked for some portion of it I would guess. Bathing, sleeping perhaps, and the fun bits, making out with the ones that you love. But it's not for the every day.

Yet some people are much more comfortable with it. I remember one neighbourhood family, growing up, a lovely family, with two daughters a similar age to my sister and me, who would appreciate a firm knock on the door and a yell out from outside, giving Vince and Pam, the parents, time to slip back to their room to get their gear on. It was the '70s. Life was groovy. Mind you, I never saw Vince or Pam naked, not that I can remember. All I really noticed were the girls rolling their eyes when you were eventually allowed inside. I recognise that eye-rolling myself now, that teenage affliction brought on by severe embarrassment caused by parents.

And speaking of my children, one thing I do miss is not being allowed to revel in their nudity any more. Bits are covered, bathroom doors locked, even warm summer night skinny dips are becoming rarer as they become more aware of their own changing bodies and cover up.

I loved their little naked bodies, not in any weird way of course, but that's how they came out of my naked body and there was something unexplainable about that reconnection. Skin on skin. Bathtime, cuddles, just feeling for a moment, wishing even, there was a way I could indeed return them to my womb and make them mine, all mine, just one last time.

Thinking about it, I can't remember the last time I got naked in front of someone who wasn't a member of my immediate family. On a recent hockey trip away, sharing a room with two other middle-aged ladies, we'd politely take turns in dressing and using bathrooms to give each other privacy. Ridiculous really, given the amount of personal details we'd be happy to bare in conversations..

Indeed, I remember one of the first times I saw another girl, who wasn't my sister, naked was on a hockey trip in high school. She was from the local boarding school and she had no qualms about stripping off in front of us all. I guess that's what you had to do, roomed, as she was with a dozen or so other girls for the best part of her day. No privacy there. 

But no, the rest of us would twist and contort behind bath towels, under blankets, locked in the toilet if we dare, so our teammates would not see an inch of flesh.

And now that there are more inches to see, what do I think of my naked body? It wobbles and is dimpled, hangs loose in places, it's scarred and aches and sags. But I look at my body and I am proud of her in a way. Proud that she has given me the strength to keep going, given me two gorgeous babies, given me hours of activity, given me pleasure, and given me pain, a reminder that she still works and is willing to move for me, even if it's not as easy as it once was.

I look at her in the mirror and think there I am, for all my faults and fears, there I am. Love me as you will, world, for this body is me. She's not perfect but she means well. She is open and kind and strong and soft at the same time. The naked truth.