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RE: Nudity


From: Jeanne Voltura (jvoltura_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Feb 06 2005 - 11:00:24 PST

Hi Tracy,

I totally can identify with your frustration and I know what you must be
feeling...I bet you are thinking you need to get the hell out of there and
to some place more open and accepting...I am not totally sure if there is
such a thing in our culture...I teach college courses in art and have been
teaching for the past 8 years or so (mostly part time-two or three classes
per semester) and I have had many problems concerning drawing from or
showing art from the nude human form. And, these problems have been with
adults while teaching in Las Vegas of all places...this town is sometimes
more conservative than many others I have been makes sense if you
take into consideration there is probably one church for every adult book
store...actually there are many more churches...maybe its one church for
every "morally degraded" facility (casinos and adult book stores). As far as
teaching is concerned, I finally decided it was not worth my own struggling
and all the conflict it causes me to continue teaching from the nude (unless
I am teaching a figure drawing class)...I mean, I am not getting paid enough
to deal with people telling me that to show the nude human form is wrong
when its been done forever...I also finally put a statement in my syllabus
that says that I expect when someone takes my class that they be adults and
handle adult subject or issues of nudity in art with an open mind, or they
should just drop the class...I started doing these things because I had one
student who reported me to two deans...and she told them I was showing
pornography...she would not talk to me alone in the hall way because she
thought I was going to attack her I think or that I was going to try to
convince her that her own nudity was something to be proud
was crazy...I am lucky, I can control my class and can control this type of
situation through the syllabus...this cannot be done with kids...I guess you
could talk to each parent individually and tell them what you plan on
showing and ask if they have issues with this....I really hate the fact that
parents are so scared of showing their children the nude body...its really
unhealthy for any natural topic to be covered up...I think one reason
parents are so freaked is because they hate the idea of having to actually
sit down with their kids and talk about a topic they have a hard time
dealing with themselves...I think people also think of nudity as wrong or
perverted...its one thing to show nude art studies of the human figure and
quite another to show images of people having sex...I think that people lump
all of it together and start to call it pornographic... another example of
this is type of thing is parents trying to protect and shield their kids
from seeing and understanding "death"...if we were more open about who we
are...that we do have a body that is covered up with clothes and that we
should not be ashamed to see it or should not think of it as "dirty" I
think our society would not have as many issues as it has...I think this
attitude only teaches kids that they should be ashamed of their own nude
body...and that they are better to keep it covered and never to look at
it...or look at anyone else's nude, when they do look at someone
else's and their own, they feel guilt and shame...I mean, our human intimacy
is important...and its private...but, at the same time, its a fact...and a
reality....and its also one of the hardest things to draw...and that's why
its important to be able to draw from it...the same "scared" attitude goes
for the topic of death..are we to teach kids that they will not ever die? or
that there is no death around them? We do that by hiding it or not talking
about it...its so crazy to me...these are two very important facts of
life...we are born naked and we die...and by not talking about it or showing
it, kids grow up not thinking about certain facts and they have so many more
problems when they are adults dealing with body image and self
acceptance...and not ever really thinking they are not always going to be
alive...I think I finally realized I was going to die after I turned
20...and it was much more painful to start thinking about it then that it
would have been when I was was my parents who shielded me from
this...and partially myself any rate...I am going on and on about
this...I think the answer to your problem has to come from you and your
intuition about the specific situation...but, I would definitely think about
talking to the my opinion, there is nothing wrong with how you
are teaching its the fact you are always going to upset someone when you
deal with images and topics that get to the facts of our own human
vulnerabilities ...we have such a long way to go in terms of being open
minded in our culture...I am not sure if it will ever really be an open
minded culture...its getting more and more conservative and closed I
think...regardless of this, I will never be an artist or teacher that will
censor what I do for anyone..except myself...and if its easier for you to
not show these things because of how whacked the community you are teaching
in is, then that might be better for least you know what exists and
you know who you are and what you think is important and valid and that you
are open minded...and just know that that is a good thing...hope this
rambling helps...and hope the situation there subsides soon..let me know how
things go...


-----Original Message-----
From: Tracy Conley []
Sent: Sunday, February 06, 2005 9:49 AM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Nudity

I am a second year art teacher and I work in a very conservative area, which
I am learning
every day. This has been a really hard year so far. At the beginning of the
year I showed the
video, "Getting to know the artist, Vincent VanGogh" to Kindergarteners. The
part time art
teacher showed it to the readiness kindergarten last year as well. I had two
parents upset
over the cutting off of his ear. I let one of the parents borrow the video
and she actually returned
it and said what a great movie it was. The other parent was in the room when
I was showing it. She didn't come to me with the problem, she went directly
to my Principal (they are also good friends). He never spoke to me about it,
he had the Kindergarten teacher talk to me. Anyway, that blew over and now I
am on to a new problem.

The 5th graders are learning about Georgia O'Keeffe and I showed a biography
video from the public library on her. 40 min. into it there were two
paintings in the video that showed partial nudity. I explained to the class
at the end that's how they painted back then, it's not gross...I had to take
a life drawing class in college and we drew nudes. That was all! Let me say
this to, we are encouraged this year to discuss our college education, we
had to buy pendants to hang up outside of our classrooms, we have to have
our diplomas hanging in the classroom and on special fridays we wear college
clothes. I didn't think I was saying anything that was disrespectful or
inappropriate. Well, my Principal calls me at home on Monday night...ask me
all about this video and what was discussed. He wants to see the video first
thing in the morning. I gave it to him, didn't hear anything back until
Tuesday afternoon. He wrote me and said, do not show the video to any grade
level, do not discuss your education or nude modeling. Ok...I haven't. I've
read the book to the other 2 classes, "getting to know the artist"....let it
go. I am thinking this is all blown over and done. Yesterday, Saturday, I
get an email from my Principal saying that these two parents think we should
write a letter to all of the parents of the students that were exposed to
the video and discussion on nudes!!! I can't believe it. He writes what do
you think? I wrote back my opinion but I am wondering if any of you have run
into this in your years of teaching? Also, the birth of venus, David and a
few others are on a powerpoint that I am suppose to show to 5th graders,
which I haven't. I also showed this same Georgia O'Keeffe video last year to
all 3 5th grade classes and never once had a problem.

Neither one of these parents have discussed this with me at all and I am not
even sure what the boys told their parents. It's been over a week and it's
still a big deal. I will take any and all advice on this.