Saturday, October 2, 2010

See No Evil

Our daughter takes a class at a local art school and I absolutely, 100% love the exposure she gets to the craft as well as the exposure to the various art pieces in the building.

Sitting outside her class last week I ended up chatting with a couple adults about a painting in our children's classroom that depicted 2 adults about to engage in sex. I haven't seen the painting, but talked about it with Sophie and she nonchalantly said, "Oh yeah, I've seen stuff like that before. I think it was from another country." Hmmm, so to her, not a big deal. Again, I haven't seen the actual painting, but it has caused me to wonder:

How, as a parent (or if not a parent, just speculate), do you determine what is appropriate for your child to see? Are you the type that will absolutely not let them see a PG-13 film until they are actually 13 or are you more like me, you check why it's rated PG-13 and use your own criteria to determine if your child can see it before they are actually 13? Do you keep your child out of any art museum that has a nude sculpture? Why is nudity such a big deal anyway - it is how we all enter this world - ok, I like to think that I'm so nonchalant about it, but the reality is, I'm not...I didn't fall that far from my protestant upbringing and how will my views affect those of my child?

Just so ya know, I do plan on actually checking out the painting in question - I just didn't want the teacher to think I was a weirdo prudish I have to check it out as if I'm not checking it out...and preferably when nobody else is in the room in case I blush.


  1. Heather, I'm a weirdo prudish parent and proud of it! Having been married to an artist for 20 years I have been and my son has been exposed to plenty of artistic nudity over the years. While I admit it still makes me somewhat uncomfortable, I'm pretty much okay with it most of the time (moreso for myself than my son). The part of the description of the painting in Sophie's classroom that would make me question its appropriateness is the "about to engage in sex." I would check it out too, if I were you.

  2. Camille,
    I sometimes take the approach of "ignorance is bliss" in homage to George Orwell - though that is a bad situation when parenting!

    Did you and Noel have differences of opinion in this area?

  3. re: Camille's post..."about to engage in sex" that's the part that has warning bells and clangs. Are the subjects holding hands, embracing, kissing ???? Not bad in my eyes. There should be appreciation of the human form. BUT about to engage in sex??? By whose standards? Too much artistic license of mammary glands and genitals or visible arousal???. That's my line in the sand for inappropriate for children.

    This was Max's first introduction to nude art.. there was lots and lots to see. He was 9 at the time. He said he tried to avoid them at first and then laughed after the tower of nude people. HA ha.

  5. The more something is hidden and whispered about, the more our human minds will exaggerate its worth and covet it.

    An open mind is not a philosophy or something that applies only to ideas or politics or religion ... it is openly applied to all things - hence OPEN. In all things, modesty and humility reign as our indicators of our humanity and tolerance. Modesty in our own opinions and beliefs and humility in knowing that everyone has the right to believe and live as they wish. I worry when I hear that people impose their opinions and fears on others.

    I love that I live in a country where I can go to the beach in the summer and see grandmothers in bikinis enjoying the sun and the sea with their grandchildren - who could be running around naked for the first 7?8?9? years of their lives. I love that next to these families there are young girls and boys laughing and enjoying themselves without fear of their bodies. I love that I am there - 40 years old - in my bikini swimming and enjoying the sun without fear of some part of my body jiggling! I love that we are all there together, laughing enjoying the sea and the sun - without worry or shame.

    If we allow ourselves to go to the beach in what amounts to our underwear (and I believe beaches worldwide are full of these suits - one piece or two - that show much more of our bodies than what we would wear to say, the grocery store?)then why do we cringe at the thought of the body in a work of art?

    Where is the line? Well, for sure it is for each of us individually to decide where we begin to feel uncomfortable. I only hope that we are consistent with this line as it truly is inconsistency that confuses a child, not the human body.

    Is it the human form that is offensive to those who judge this art or is it their interpretation of the art itself that bothers them. If you look at the human form and see beauty and wonder at its magnificance and power, then nudity in art is beautiful. If you look at the human form and see something dirty and nasty, then the art will be dirty and nasty.

    Rather than worry what our kids look at, why not ask them what they see? Their answers may help to redefine our own notions of what is beautiful and graceful.

    Thank you again Heather for a poignant post.

  6. Sia,

    I am going to practice what you suggest: asking my child what she sees rather than worrying about what she is looking at. This did happen with the painting, she told me, in her own words, that it was no big deal. I do wish I had seen the painting so we could've had a more focused conversation.

    The human body is absolutely beautiful and completely amazing - god, the things it can do! I am not always comfortable with my own body, I am not always comfortable with how the human body is displayed, but the abilities of one's body are profound and that should be celebrated.