Art has always been a part of culture. It is the way humans express themselves, whether it is in the form of a painting, a piece of music, or literature. Art has always been the greatest outlet for expression and the easiest way to get an idea across to a large group of people. The problem that arises with this outlet for expression is that others will always want to criticize the form of expression and label it. Some critics will be offended by a work of art while others will praise it. But most of all, people will want to label art. This is especially true in the field of visual art. For as long as visual art has been around so has the controversy of defining the difference between art and pornography. This is a very important issue because of the fine line between fine art and morality. It is important to understand where this line is and how to determine if an artwork is a piece of art or pornography.

Where there have been nudes depicted in the field of visual art, there has been someone ready to criticize and label these depictions as pornographic. However, there is a definite difference between pornography and a nude piece of art. According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, art is the "decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter". Pornography, on the other hand is "the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement". By these definitions, there is a clear line between the two genres. Pornography is anything that falls into the category of causing sexual excitement. The best way to determine the difference between art and pornography is to consider the intent of the artist.

There are many people that will argue that any nudity is pornography, but I believe that the artist determines whether something is pornography or not. Even great painters such as Michelangelo Buonarroti were censored. Michelangelo is famous for painting the Sistine chapel, in Rome, Italy, but even that had to be censored because church officials believed that the Michelangelo’s paintings. Artists were brought into the Chapel to paint clothes on the nude figures depicted in the painting of the rapture that Michelangelo decorated the house of worship with. Michelangelo’s paintings should not have been painted over because there was nothing wrong with it. The problem is that society is too quick to label something as pornographic and the slightest glimpse of the human body. It is the way the subject is presented and the intent of the artist that makes something pornographic.

Some of the greatest works of art are labeled as obscene because naked people are depicted in the subject matter. What keeps pieces, such as Boticelli’s "The Birth of Venus" and Rodin’s "The Kiss", from being pornographic is that the artist did not show the subject matter nude to create sexual excitement. The artists found beauty in the human body and were trying to share this beauty with their viewers. The human body is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to admire and enjoy, but within the correct context.

Pornographers do not believe that the body is a thing of beauty. They see it only as something to exploit and cheapen. It is a way to create sexual desire and arousal within the audience, but it is an ornery way to do so. Jeri Massi wrote an article about an unnamed artist who started a scandal within American society through an art exhibit of his in the 1980’s. Massi concentrates on one of the artist’s works in particular: It was a "photograph of a type of orchid, but the way he had positioned the flower to the camera, the suggestion of the lighting, the shaping that he has achieved by using the curve of the flower in the way it faced the camera lens: I realized almost instantly that he has used a flower to represent a woman’s anatomy." As Massi goes on to write the "effect was a pornographic portrayal by means of a flower".

I agree with Massi on this issue. Although the flower is not what most people would consider to be pornography, the picture was taken with the intent to arouse the viewer. There can be no question as to the intent of the artist; therefore the picture is pornographic.

All too often, society is overly ready to label something depicting part of the human anatomy as pornographic. However, there is more to it than that. The motives of the artist must be determined, and then a decision can be made. The difference between art and pornography is that art is created with the intent to express one’s self and give beauty to the world, even if that beauty is not universal. Pornography, on the other hand, is created with the intent to sexually arouse the audience. There is a definite line between the world of art and pornography.

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