Gallery 1448 on East Baltimore Street presented its storytelling event “Speaking of Art — Au Naturale” on Sunday, Feb. 9. In the span of an hour and a half, Baltimore artists gathered in this intimate gallery to share stories on the theme of the “Au Naturale.”
Even with such a telling title, I was pleasantly surprised that the event was comprised of select artists each spending five to seven minutes telling stories from their own experiences with the “au naturale” — in other words, nudity.
Members of the audience in attendance were also given the opportunity to share their stories. A few minutes after arrival, even I was asked if I wanted to tell a story about being nude, which sent me into a nervous, exhilarated frenzy. I instinctively declined.
One by one, artists came up and told stories about their experiences with nudity and what it means to them and their art. Often these stories were poignantly humorous and commonly expressed a very profound message — that the raw exposure of one’s body is capable of opening up an immense freedom of both the human mind and spirit. While nudity is initially surprising, it is also fascinating and, at its core, incredibly liberating. Hearing artists talk about a commonly vulnerable topic was refreshing.
A nude resort in Baltimore was mentioned multiple times, with several artists having gone there for creative excursions. Several artists also mentioned their experiences posing nude during their own art school days as well as for art schools. The casual and colloquial storytelling style facilitated a candid discussion of human nakedness and created a welcoming space of mutual understanding and shared feelings of humility.
LuAnn Zubak, curator of the show and member of the Artist Housing Inc. at Gallery 1448, chose the theme of Au Naturale.
Betsy Heeney, the producer and host of the Elder and Wiser podcast, had coordinated the storytelling event in collaboration with her husband Joseph Germershausen, an abstract painter and member of Artist Housing, to bring attention to this Erotica show. The show itself runs through the month of February, officially ending on Feb. 23. Meanwhile, the Gallery is open on the weekends for the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In an email to The News-Letter, Heeney explained the history of Artist Housing Incorporated (AHI).
“AHI is the oldest artist coop in Baltimore and has 25 artists living in studios within the 1400 block of E. Baltimore Street. Gallery 1448 is the exhibit space for the Coop. Many of the Coop artists did have work in the show, but it was also open by invitation to other artists living in Baltimore,” Heeney wrote.
Additionally, this storytelling event was taped and will be edited to be incorporated into a later episode of Heeney’s podcast, which sheds light on “creative aging and storytelling as a creative experience for people of all ages.”
Heeney elaborated on the creative liberty that such an artistic avenue grants. “Finding one's voice is a creative act no matter what creative medium you choose,” she wrote. “It can be visual, musical, the written word or the spoken word. All creative arts are created through the spirit of the creator. Storytelling at its best is sharing what it means to be human and finding universal connection with shared experience. This is why I started my podcast, and this is why I helped create this event. The meetups that I host, as well as producing the podcast, is a way to connect with people of all ages to find creative purpose in their lives.”
All in all, this art event was full of laughs and joy and was truly a celebration of the human body and human life. We should not only all embrace our naked bodies more (perhaps by drawing ourselves nude) but also learn more about what it’s like to exist without the layers of clothes that shield us.