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Students observe the photography of FNAR 591

It’s not every class at Penn that encourages its members to get naked.

As part of the fine arts class, FNAR 283: The Body and Photography, students showcased art examining the self, the nude and the body. The exhibit, run in collaboration with PennDesign and the Philomathean Society, was called XXY: This is Not Pornography. It was a compilation of work over the semester, exploring the gender of the subjects — male, female and transgender — as well as the nature of nudity in art.

According to Penn professor Gabriel Martinez, the art ranged “from mild to wild.”

Martinez explained that he wanted his students to explore the magnificence of the human body and its contours more deeply. He emphasized that the exhibit, which runs through Dec. 11, is about the beauty of the body and that provocation was not his intent.

Clare Din, a student in the class and a 1991 Penn graduate who does performance art under the pseudonym Kalina Isato, said she found the assignments particularly meaningful.

“The art exhibit allowed us to take an educational look at the body,” she said. “It is something that more schools should do because there is a lot of censorship.”

Din also expressed appreciation for the assignment’s “reverence to the body.”

College senior Olivia Coffey exhibited a series of photographs called “Faith,” which she said held a special significance.

Using a projector to superimpose scanned images of cancerous breast cells over her own nude body, Coffey used the assignment to reflect on her mother’s struggle with breast cancer.

“It was a moment to meditate about my mother and how lucky I am that she’s better now,” she said.

In addition to the photographs, the event also featured a performance that represented an additional exhibitionist approach to photography of the body. While guests were viewing the exhibit, Nichols photographed Isato posing in various scandalous costumes, including a witch outfit and a very short kimono.

College sophomore Thadeus Dowad said he enjoyed the performance in particular.

“It works well in relation to the other photos because you actually get to see the process of photography,” he said. “It was a cherry on top of a great show.”

At the end of the day, the event was a celebration of expressions of the body in art. Despite the stigma against bareness in photographs, photographer Kristin Nichols said, “Some people associate nudity with vulgarity, but it’s not. It’s art.”

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