Friday, September 29, 2006

Art Museum Sculpture Gets Teacher Fired.
(Artwork: 'Child' c Susan Gallacher-Turner 2006)

Unbelievable but true. A news story from Dallas, Texas states that an elementary art teacher took her 5th grade students on an approved field trip to the Dallas Art Museum. Inside the museum, students viewed the art collection including a sculptural nude.

A parent complained. The teacher was reprimanded by the principal, and then put on leave until her contract is out. She will not be rehired. This woman has been teaching for 28 years. She has won awards. And because one parent complained about a nude sculpture in a public museum, she is fired.

Why? It’s simple really, it’s fear. Yes. FEAR.

Why are this parent, principal and school board afraid of art?

Art encompasses a wide range of media and subject matter. From landscapes, still life, abstracts, portraits to nudes, art is part of human history. When I taught an art literacy unit on Rubens, one female student commented in disgust that this artist only liked ‘fat’ women. I pointed out that in that time in human history, people who had ‘flesh on their bones’ were admired because it meant that they had enough wealth to have more than enough food. That to be thin, then, was to be poor and in ill health. Mouths dropped open.

Think about all the messages out there about the body. Again, fear is used and misused to keep us buying food, pills, clothes, activities to mold our body to some sort of cultural image. Today, of course, it seems that the more wealthy a person, the more cosmetic and gastrointestinal surgery they have to keep themselves thin.

Fear keeps us from enjoying, growing and loving our body.

Why are we so fearful? We all have a body. We need it to live. Why aren’t we enjoying it instead of loathing it?

We can blame it on bin laden. Blame it on Bush. Blame it on organized religious right wingers. Blame it on feminism or free love. Blame it on AIDS. Blame it on advertising aimed at manipulating fear into money.

But don’t blame Michelangelo, Rodin, Rubens or Matisse to name a few sculptors and painters to use nudes in their art. They are simply using a chisel or brush to show us ourselves.

If the mother or father of that child never wants them to see a nude, they’d better do more than fire an art teacher. They’d better eliminate every mirror on the planet, outlaw baths and clean clothes as well as surgery, sex and childbirth. Because I don’t know of anyone born in the world who arrives already dressed.

I think it’s time for less fear and more fearlessness.

Come on, people take your life back. Take your body back. Take your rights back. Take your mind back.

Be fearless, make your own decisions. Be fearless, love your body. Be fearless, enjoy your life. Be fearless, listen to you for what is right. Be fearless, look someone in the eye. Be fearless. Look. Listen. Taste. Touch. Smell. Be fearless; use the body you were born with. Be fearless; use your senses and your common sense as well.

You don’t have to like everything, love everyone or go everywhere. But don’t let your preferences cut off someone else’s explorations. Be fearless and let yourself live your very own life. And be fearless enough to let everyone else live, too.


Tammy said...

Susan, I replied to you on AV, but meant to do it here as well!

I hadn't heard about this incident - and I find it pretty shocking as well. It worries me that people are this close minded for one thing. I clearly remember going to the art museum when I was about 5th grade. There is a sculpture in the Denver Art Museum called Annie - a nude woman lying on a pedestal. I was fascinated by her - not because she was nude, but just as a piece of art. The fact that I remember this experience says to me how powerful art can be! I didn't use my artistic side until much later, but I'm positive that
experience affected me! In POSITIVE ways! I wasn't affected
negatively because I *gasp* saw a nude sculpture!

I feel very bad for this teacher who thought she was doing something
positive for her students only to be knocked down. It's really sad
that her school district stood with the parent on this one....

Just my opinion and two (or three) cents worth!

Susan GT said...


You are so right. Thanks for posting on my blog, too!