How often do you get an invitation to strip in public and call it art? So when my local nudist club suggested to artist George Krause that we attend the wine and cheese opening of his life-size nude photographs and strip naked while we do it, he jumped at the chance. Performance art. We were making history, people stripping at a public art opening! Well, NYC and LA eat your heart out, come to Austin if you want weird.
“Viewing the Nudes Nude” is what members of our Hill Country Nudists Club called it. I had butterflies all day about my performance. I was excited about attending the show and reserved the right to change my mind about stripping, ha!, just like I teach intimacy students, “You’re allowed to change your mind.”
Unfamiliar with George’s work, I was amazed upon entering the exhibition how the beauty of his life-size photos effected me. Dozens of photos, tastefully hung in a maze pattern, allowed you to view the photos
in a random pattern, connecting eye-to-eye with human nakedness. The free hanging, suspended nudes looked right into you, though your clothes and into your soul. George photographed all kinds of models–tattooed, transgendered, sensual, young, old, scarred–and some with missing parts.
At the appointed time, about eighteen of us ceremoniously took off our clothes while standing eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart and genital-to-genital in front of our chosen nude photograph. I picked a saucy, sexy, tattooed girl to strip in front of; I knew she would approve. I left on my high heels though, the cement floor was just too cold.
I was out there. Exposed. What happens next? I gingerly glanced around and sensed some ‘textiled’ folks with a hint of a smile. I read camaraderie and approval into their polite, striving-to-be-natural faces. This was no time to sit down and hide. Naked and tall, I initiated conversation with folks about the show and how it bared the human soul. I found that Austinites don’t blush easily, and they step up to new experiences with a sensitive curiosity. The Clothed and the Naked viewed the nudes together, circulating and conversing with ease. I love this town.
A fully dressed woman approached me, “Oh, I love your shoes!” she exclaimed. I looked all the way down my naked body to my feet, and we shared a good laugh! One particular photo captured me. It was an older woman with only one breast and a scar where the other had been removed. Her expression exhibited such dignity and acceptance for the remnants of life we courageously hold together.
“That’s me,” I heard a small voice from behind. I turned to see the same woman as in the photograph, now clothed and in real life. “I wanted to give others the courage to be who they are, whoever that is. Do you think it works that way?” her eyes begged an honest response. “Yes,” I said without hesitation, and we hugged.
When we offer small acts of courage–who knows how they may land. Who knows, by being brave and taking a risk, we may encourage another to do the same.