the question of genitalia in art‏

by richibi

"Nudes"- Walter Battiss


Walter Battiss


genitalia, of course, had become overt,
even flagrant, by the start of the 20th
Century, the many reclining Venuses,
the Olympias, had led to Courbet‘s still
notorious The Origin of the World
open, I warn you, at your own risk –
and by 1911 Egon Schiele in Vienna
had exhibited his self-portrait
, entitled, appropriately,
Masturbation – open again at your
own risk, though once again the work
is brilliant

I have ceded to courtesy and proprieties
in not reproducing here these potentially
offensive renderings, though modesty at
this point doesn’t stand a chance, the
world is determinedly uninhibited, fig
leaves are a thing of the very remote
indeed past

but I’ll tell of my mom and I, partners
in unflappable artistic appreciation,
visiting the Leopold Museum in Vienna
and having never even heard of Schiele,
whose work is supremely represented

moments after our arrival and turning
innocently a corner, we came upon one
of his overt pudenda
brazenly exposed,
I hadn’t ever experienced such stuff,
and there was nowhere in the stark
white hall to hide

my mom stood beside me not saying
a word, nor expecting me to comment
this time, what do you say about an
unadorned vagina anyway, I ask, even
one admirably exposed, to anyone,
never mind to your mom

we cleared our throats, probably
harrumphed, and discreetly moved

later we saw some of his more
conservative piece
s, idiosyncratic
and marvellous, and had to revise
our impressions, declare Schiele
categorically glowing, a master
at his art, and eventually a very
favourite, right up there with the
equally sublime Courbet, man,
can these guys colour

though I still prefer to view their
pubic stuff, however publicly,
on my own