Kim Kardashian is naked again.
W magazine produces yearly an art issue, a favorite of mine. This year’s cover features Miss K, nude and wind-blown, red text boxes artfully censoring what would push the cover into Playboy territory.
And apparently, no one reporting this on the internet has any idea who Barbara Kruger is. She’s featured in the magazine, after all; the research is already pre-determined and self-evident!
Here at Famous For Bad Reasons we take pride in two things: 1.) the fact that we successfully graduated from college without getting arrested for rioting and/or breaking Draconian rules at a small women’s college, and 2.) the fact that we have developed a finer understanding of celebrity culture and fame without being starfuckers (well, sorta).
Meaning, you can be intelligent, well-read, self-educated (obviously, if you look at Kanye, you don’t need college to be educated), and still have a critical eye turned towards supporting fame and celebrity.
When I took “Feminism and Contemporary Art” in college, taught by a stylish Libra of utmost class and delight, I learned all about Barbara Kruger, in addition to many other women who paved the way for experimental work that dealt with what consumes, and is consumed by, women. Her work challenged notions of consumerism and consumption, often pairing photography with bright red and bold text. These stark images were almost painful to look at, and they were downright sassy.
I knew immediately the cover was not only “tastefully” hiding what hardly needs to be hidden, but it was a nod to Barbara Kruger. Whether or not Kim is a target of feminist critique, or simply a symbol of the complexities of femaleness and consumption in American culture, is hardly the matter. What matters is poor journalism skills in reporting what should be obvious: there doesn’t have to be a separation between art and pop culture.
I don’t care if the inside spread shows Kim covered in silver paint, leaving “little to the imagination,” as is often reported. Fashion photography has a history of drawing on contemporary art, as well as classical art, in evoking a visceral reaction in the viewer. Roland Barthes describes this feeling in Camera Lucida as punctum, the part of the photograph that “pierces the viewer.” Decide for yourself if a work is a piece of art without any regard to who it is who’s naked.
If Kim is naked, covered in silver paint, her glossy lips parted slightly, her curled hair soft around her face, that doesn’t make her a participant soft porn. It doesn’t mean she did a nude spread. It means she’s a celebrity who made the “mistake” of participating in a rich history of nude spreads– the mistake being thinking she could be in an “art” issue without “journalists” turning her into a naked sideshow.
Just because you’re a jerk doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a book on art and learn to read.