I also presented Matisse's dancers to elementary students. Before I
showed the image, I explained that Matisse was trying to convey the
gracefulness of dance. I drew "organic" stick figures on the board and
asked if they could see the gracefulness of the dance movement (of
course, they could). Then I drew clothes on the figures and they could
see how it hid so much of the movement. I then explained that Matisse
chose to dress the figures in a way that the movement was not hidden--he
dressed them in orange. There was no problem from students or parents.
On the other hand, when I had sixth graders choose a Matisse painting to
emulate, a couple of the boys chose nudes. It was obvious that their
choice wasn't art based. I let their parents know what they had chosen
and explained that whether it was okay with them or not, I was telling
the boys that they had to choose something else.
I agree that nudity is a delicate subject and needs to be presented
carefully and respectfully...and hopefully the community will response
in the same way.
I often refer back to the movie, Titanic. Which scene was a healthier
example for teenagers to see...the one where she is posing for the
drawing? Or the one in the back seat of the car? Hmmm...point of view,
Saint George's School
2929 W. Waikiki Road
Spokane, WA 99208
From: Sharon Henneborn [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, February 07, 2005 10:41 AM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Re: nudity
I taught in public schools for over 40 years in many different
communities. The nudity fear monster is not an easy thing to come to
terms with. You need to approach it in a way that is respectful to the
community no matter how rigid their beliefs seem. The fear is deep
I grew up in the bible belt. My parents both went to seminary. Dad is a
minister. I remember I over heard my mom trying to guide a group of
mothers who had daughters they were isolating & constantly monitoring
them to guard them fearful that the daughters would have unhealthy
experiences. She told them if a concept like the human body is open
to discussion and they see healthy accepting adult responses to it they
will develop healthy responses under the adult supervision.
She said when you fear a thing so that you make it a hidden secret and
attach the coat of the devil to it the child will attach fear and
curiosity and become overwhelmed with the fear & curiosity. They will
either explore without adult guidance or grow up unable to have a
healthy adult response to the human body.
There are some very useful posts on the subject on this list. Every
community is different. A couple of years ago a young teacher on this
list had a conflict with administration and a few parents over a
picture in a book she got from the school library. Eventually she left
her job. We lost touch with her soon after when her email changed.
You have to pick your battles. It may be that you have an isolated
parent or two but that can set the administration on edge. I was
always fortunate to have administrators who stood between me and any
You know we will share our experiences with you and you can pick what
is useful for you and your community but it appears you are on your own
without back up from a fearful administrator.
Once I presented Matisse dancers blue paper cuts. How safe is that! A
little 2nd grader asked if those dancers were naked. I asked, "What do
you think?" The kids decided they were nude and some started to giggle.
I asked what they thought made some people uncomfortable with a figure
without clothes on and some people were comfortable with it. One wise
little girl said. "I think they mix up the art with the sex thing."
After all it is just a cut up piece of blue paper! It is all in the