I believe as educated people we always seek for meaning and purpose in any and everything touched, heard, and seen. As a major in philosophy I use logic and reasoning to explain and justify the concepts I am surrounded by. Art is meaning, a message, dressed and delivered in creative ways whether they be conventional or abstract.
You used the imagery of a patriotic dildo being used on our hypothetical buxom blond with the words "The World" sprawled across her midriff. If that symbolism were not there, what would be the meaning of her nudity? If our blond was simply pictured there as she was with her vibrator what would be the purpose of that image? A priest as absorbed within Western religion as he is can understand the meaning of the patriotic vibe and the blond though he finds it crass and it will be labeled as art. Can a nude female (no matter how many lights are involved ^_^) playing with herself with no symbolism or theme attached still be considered art? The general public will say no.
There was an art exhibit by the famous (or infamous) Jeff Koons called "Made In Heaven". It shows him and his then porn-star wife in blatant and raw acts of sex. There's even a picture of him finishing on her face. Of course to try to sugarcoat the pieces, there are butterflies and other props in the pictures, but it's still a series of pictures of two people fucking. It caused controversy of course but the question remained, "Is it art or is it porn?" The lack of symbolism and meaning would cause the exhibition to lean into classifying as pornographic. But is there more?
Made In Heaven — Or Hell
Thank you for the compliments! They are appreciated. I do try to make at least some sense when I write. ;^)
Art is, indeed, imbued with all manner of meaning and messages. In fact, it’s integral to the creation of the piece: the creator had to convey something to the viewer.
Were our favorite blonde bare, with a plain toy, the purpose and meaning of her nudity would probably change, but would be no less valid. That meaning could be manifold. For example, it could be that of capturing a moment of vulnerability. It could be conveying the appeal of the voyeurism that we all possess. Or it could be simply that nakedness (both physically and metaphorically) is our native state, nothing to be ashamed of, and something to be treasured. The purpose could simply be to titillate. Or it could be to celebrate the joy of sex. It could be to encourage the sexual liberation of women. It could be many, many things, again none any less valid than another.
The idea that there is no symbolism in the appearance of a naked, unadorned woman with a vibrator is a fallacy, and a pernicious one at that. Such a view assumes that there is no inherent beauty, no deeper meaning to the human form or condition, or portrayal of human behavior and emotion, other than that which comes in fully-clothed or ironic presentation.
The general public, again, would be applying a litmus test to the art, which shortchanges meaning outside of the obvious, or surface appearance.
Mr. Koons exhibit didn’t lack symbolism. It was simply lost on those who disapproved of the work. <shrug/> The art-or-porn question — to me — specifically and inherently posits that the the depiction of sexuality can only be taken at a very shallow face value.
There is ALWAYS more. The question is not whether the artist intended more, but whether the public at large can, or is willing to, see more.