Visual Arts Professor Stirs Controversy Over Nude Final

UCSD Associate Professor Ricardo Dominguez came under fire late last week when the mother of a student complained about the nudity requirement for his final exam. The mother, who remained anonymous, told ABC-affiliate channel 10 news on Friday, May 8, that her daughter was forced to get naked or risk failing Dominguez’s class, entitled “Visual Arts 104A: Performing the Self.” Other students and faculty later defended Dominguez and his class requirements.

Jordan Crandall, chair of the UCSD visual arts department, released a statement on Monday detailing the class’s requirements. According to Crandall, the course is not required for graduation and removing one’s clothing is not actually necessary to pass the class.

“There are many ways to perform nudity or nakedness,” Crandall said. “One can ‘be’ nude while being covered.”

The course, which Dominguez began teaching 11 years ago, consists of a number of prompts for various gestures, including “Your Life: With 3 Objects and 3 Sounds,” “Confessional Self,” “Administrative Self,” “Erotic Self,” “Public Self” and the “Nude/Naked Self.”

In an email to the UCSD Guardian, Dominguez pointed out that the ambiguity around the question of “nudity” and “nakedness” is intentional.

“It is intended to be provocative, to raise issues,” Dominguez said. “That is what performance art does.”

According to Dominguez, nudity has been and is still a core part of performance art from the 20th century to the present day. He continued by pointing out that the class is an extremely successful one within the field.  

“If students are to learn about performance art as practitioners, this history of the medium is crucial for them to experience in a direct way,” he said.

Shanise Mok, a former student of Dominguez’s who took the course in 2012, told the Guardian that students knew about the “Nude/Naked Self” gesture from the very beginning.

“For the final, we were told everyone would be physically naked or emotionally naked in the same room,” Mok said. “And it would be dark — possibly with some candles lit.” 

She noted that some students did drop the class after the first week, but most of them stayed.  Mok also recalled that one girl didn’t participate in the physical part of the final but did participate by being emotionally naked.

“I personally thought it was a very safe place to bare all,” Mok added.

Lisa Korpos, a senior currently enrolled in Dominguez’s class, said in a statement that the course has made her feel more connected to her fellow students within the department and more confident with her aesthetic choices.

“Professor Dominguez has fostered a very supportive, open, safe environment in order for all the artists enrolled in his class to genuinely express themselves,” Korpos said.

She added that she took VIS 2 in which a naked/nude gesture was also included with the same stipulations. That course is a prerequisite for VIS 104A.

Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Brooke Kesinger, who is also currently enrolled in VIS 104A, addressed the concern people have about Dominguez being naked along with the students in a statement to the Guardian. 

“This is simply to ‘level the playing field,’ so to speak,” Kesinger said. “It makes us more comfortable for him to be a participant [rather] than an onlooker.”

Additionally, Carlsbad-based attorney Daniel Watts told the Guardian that students who don’t like the curriculum are under no obligation to take the course.

“If the students were told in advance what the professor wants and if the students are legal adults, no law was broken,” Watts said.

Some students are not happy with the content of the course. Chair of the College Republicans at UCSD Amanda Fitzmorris told Fox and Friends on Tuesday that she didn’t understand the purpose of nudity within the course. 

“The only thing I can think of is that being uncomfortable is acceptable or normal,” Fitzmorris responded.