Tad Beck is a Los Angeles and Maine based artist who deals largely with the naked body and nature. His work explores the ability to push the boundaries of nudity on video but he does so in a way that is not suggestive of sexuality or seductiveness, rather his work airs on the side of naturalism and realism. The naked body is not a stand in for sexual themes or issues, as one might expect; in fact it becomes another way of representing nature.
Beck was influenced by nineteenth century American painter Thomas Eakins in both style and content. Eakins, who worked in the middle to late nineteenth century, used the then innovative technology of the camera to capture images of his models before he painted them. Beck has a series of photographs in which he overlay his own models on top of the older version of the photograph. Eakins directly influenced Beck’s video, Roll, in the angle of the shoot and the content of the video. In his 2003 video, Roll, Beck has directed four models to walk steadily as they can on logs rolling in a river. This rural activity of logrolling brings a down-home kind of feel to this four-channel contemporary video installation. To capture the shots of the film the artist swam beside the log rollers, treading water and working to keep the frame steady. This type of action defines Beck’s works. He focuses on the human body in action in nature.
There is a sense of humor to all of Beck’s pieces. The nudity becomes more of a joyous celebration of humanity in nature, rather than exploiting the choice of nakedness to perpetuate social stereotypes of groups of nude males. The action of the bodies in nature also emphasizes the wit of the work, because they are working naked bodies, they are inherently not as sexual.
Beck’s works are currently on display at the Samuel Freeman Gallery in the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, California. Alongside his work Roll is Blow, which is a video of nude male models holding onto a sailboat blowing in the wind. Another video on display is called Stroke and it centers on naked male models in several rowboats. The shot is god-like, shot directly overhead, giving the viewer an omnipresent attitude toward the work.