by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

It was an excuse to buy a Kindle.

Why was I finding it so difficult to pick up a book and read…a seemingly simple task…and meant to be pleasurable…yet draining in the mere thought.

My weekly schedule is filled with invitations, visits to galleries, requests for theatre and food reviews, interviews, art openings, fashion events, and writing about them or curating the material.  You’d think I’d have nothing to complain about with that sort of daily variety.  But, in truth, I don’t always get the full “personal” enjoyment of the moment. I have to cram my learning into the audience at large experience. And everything has to end up in small bites.  Studying fine art?  “Who has THAT kind of time?” [I laughed]  That’s what I told myself as I read the email offering a view of a new book, Art and Scandal: the Naked Truth.

But the “scandal” really piqued my curiosity and I was suddenly dying to know the juicy details behind that story.  So I took the full plunge and dived into the new eBook Art and Scandal: The Naked Truth by author Sally Whitman Coleman, Ph.D., a specialist in Renaissance art, the recipient of a Fulbright grant, and the author of The ArtMinute: Short Lessons in Art History, as she illuminated the intriguing and salacious stories behind the masterful artworks that we all know and love.

Dedicated reading time: 1.5 hours!!! (and I’m pretty slow about it…) flew by as I swiped page by page, blazing through each vignette that gave me a better understanding and some very juicy insights from international thefts to mere heated disagreements and more, that prompted the fame of some of the greatest paintings in history from artists such as Michaelangelo, Van Gogh and Jackson Pollack. Reaching the end of the book almost put me into a state of shock…it wasn’t just scandalous…it was incredibly fun, easy to read – the time flew by – and I learned… a lot!

A highly recommended 5 star experience. *****

To make things juicier, I asked Sally to give us a sample of a really salacious piece of art in ancient history, just to see what she’d come up with.  The lady has a sense of humor to be sure along with a brilliant mind:

Prehistoric Porn

Venus of Willendorf, c. 28,000 – 25,000 BCE, limestone, 4⅓” high, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, Photo by Matthias Kabel via Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License.

Look at this hot momma!  This is the Venus of Willendorf and she is one of the oldest artifacts in existence, having been carved from limestone around 25,000 BCE.   That is seriously old.  In fact, she’s so old that we really don’t know why she exists.  We know so little about the circumstances of her production and the culture from which she derives, we are forced to rely simply upon our powers of observations if we want to know more about her, and that is actually a very good thing.  When thinking about art, it’s always best to look first and ask questions later.

Artists from the Paleolithic era knew how to make sculptures of animals that were realistic (or naturalistic), but for some reason they chose to exaggerate certain forms when carving women.  In this sculpture, the woman’s breasts, stomach, and thighs are quite large and her genitals are somewhat exaggerated.  Given this, we can hypothesize that this small artifact is a charm for fertility or childbirth.  It’s also possible she represents the concept of fertility itself.  Or perhaps there are erotic connotations here.  She’s well fed and her naughty bits are exaggerated – there is no reason not to put her in a centerfold context.

“Yeah, it’s sexy.”

It looks like those prehistoric fellas loved their ladies full-figured, rolling and swelling with reproductive power.  Fantastic.

Currently on view at the LACMA, is an exhibition entitled, Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and The Broad Art Foundation, that features works of art produced in the 1980s that were the seeds of the Contemporary art movement that would come to be known as the Pictures Generation.  Among the works of art in the exhibition is Barbara Kruger’s powerful, Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground) from 1989.

Kruger, who once was a magazine editor, uses preexisting images upon which she superimposed text that brings attention to constructions of gender and sexism in society and so her art and the Venus of Willendorf don’t appear to have anything at all in common; nevertheless, Kruger’s work of art and the ancient sculpture do come together in my mind in the constant public attacks and media scrutiny of women’s weight – especially those who are either pregnant or who have recently given birth.

What’s sexy?  What’s beautiful?  Consider a stroll around your local museum to find out.

Sally Whitman Coleman is the creator and author of The Art Minute ( and Art & Scandal: The Naked Truth, an eBook available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.