Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Century Project

via Facebook

The Century Project is an artistic and conceptual exhibit by Frank Cordelle. It shows women from ages 0-100 nude. This week, it is on exhibit at the Muscarelle Museum at my college (William and Mary). It has received some criticism and negative sentiments because some people think it is wrong to show women under the age of 18 naked, classifying that as 'child porn'. However, the photographer had full permission from parents (who were at the shoots). Therefore, it is perfectly legal. Other people are uncomfortable with nudity at all and especially so because the photographer was male.

The purpose of the exhibit is to show women not as objects but as people, as they are bare and natural. It is meant to separate nudity from sex, as the pictures are not at all sexual and not arousing. Each picture includes a description, usually written by the model herself. These statements are incredibly powerful. Many of the women have been abused, raped, have eating disorders, or have various body image issues. Some embrace their beauty, no matter their size, shape, or age. It is clear that the exhibit is therapeutic for both the models and the people viewing the pictures. In fact, in the exhibit there are strategically placed tissue boxes, since it is so moving.

I found the exhibit moving, powerful, and brilliant. I am already quite comfortable with nudity and happy and proud of my body. Even so, in considering whether I should sign up to participate, I'm a little hesitant. That extra step, of actually getting in front of the camera nude, may or may not be a little frightening. Also, I'm not sure if people proud of their bodies or 21-year-olds are needed. Anyway, I have to think about it - it might be good for me.

Anyway, seeing the developing body of a woman was quite interesting. Women come in so many shapes and sizes. But the most powerful part was the personal statements. They were variously happy, sad, despairing, and hopeful. There were women with all kinds of scars, all kinds of stories. Women we'd consider overweight who found themselves beautiful. Teens who'd been abused, or who had eating disorders. Older women who were unashamed of their bodies. Women of all ethnicities and backgrounds. It was instructive, how each age group and ethnicity was or was not more often proud of their body. I learned that African-American women are more comfortable with imperfections, while white women undergo much more scrutiny in the media. The pressures of culture were very evident in the statements of beautiful women who didn't like the way they looked.

Overall, this is an important and amazing project. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. There was one student protesting, who has apparently not seen it. I would suggest if you are initially against it you should look at some of the examples on the website, and you will see that it is not about sex, and it is not exploitation. See it if you can!

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