Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It takes courage to be an artist sometimes

So today I had a very interesting experience....

A few days ago a friend of mine from Northern Virginia called me to ask if I would be able/willing to help him out with a class he is teaching.  The class is meant to empower girls.  He thought it would be cool if he would interview me about my art since my work is all about empowering people to love their bodies.  When he told the powers that be which people he was planning to have as guests for his class, they looked at the info, looked at our websites, etc., and told him that it wouldn't work for him to interview me.  As he phrased it, "they decided me bringing up the topic of anything that might include nudity was itching for problems."

That makes me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO curious!  What is it about nudity that is problematic?

I recognize some people will look at me like I just asked what's wrong with shooting the president?  Duh - it's wrong!  bad!  not done!  will get you in trouble! 

But nudity?  I truly don't understand what is wrong with it.

Are people afraid their children will go out and start having rampant sex because they've seen breasts and pubic hair in a painting?  Do they equate nudity with pornography?  I'd love to hear your ideas about why you think people are so hesitant to have their children see naked bodies, especially if they're painted respectfully.

An adult art student of mine told me that her brother refused to take his 16-year-old daughter into the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, because he didn't want her to see the nudes in there. 

I love the ending to that story, though - a couple of years later, this same daughter won an art competition and a trip to Paris by painting a picture of herself and her boyfriend nude from the waist up! 

Go figure!

Perhaps it is our desire as a nation to control nudity that makes people so darn excited to see it.


1 comment:

  1. Susan, I wish I knew. As a public school art teacher in the 80s and 90s, I actually had to put pants on David on the timeline I was to display in my classroom. Honestly. I just refused to display the timeline. A PHOTO of a SCULPTURE of a nude man....for real? Then there was the Georgia O’Keefe controversy. Our PTA sponsored every year (for a short while - you’ll see why...) a display honoring a famous artist for Youth Art Month. The PTA president that year chose O’Keefe, much to my delight. Next thing I know that president is talking to me about censorship, so I meet with my principal who relayed to me that there were complaints that the children were discussing that one of the floral images looked too much like “female body parts,” and the girls were embarrassed, the boys teasing, etc. Really? As it turned out, no. Days after my discussion and vehement support of the display and O’Keefe’s work I found out it was actually our (pardon my labeling someone) right-wing, fundamentalist part-time guidance counselor who was having issues. AND SHE LIED in order to have the image removed. (that one floored me more than the censorship.) Ending to the story?
    In protest, but with respect for my principal, I agreed to abide with his decision. He found the entire episode silly, yet as principal felt obliged to remove the offending print in order to not give the issue a larger audience. The PTA president took down the ENTIRE display in disgust, I was given the prints as a gift and that was the end of any further celebration of YAM with that PTA.

    Shyness and modesty are one thing. Fear of nakedness is such another. We ALL have a body. It is the most amazing gift we get and functions in such fascinating ways. Such power the naked body holds, if someone can look at a floral painting by Georgia O’Keefe and feel threatened.