Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DAMage Report - Public Nudity... in art

A stylized sculpture depicting a nude family is causing an uproar in Florida. The sculpture depicts a father with a mother carrying an infant and holding an older child by the hand. It's a representation of Jewish families who fled Ethiopia in 1991 under a covert Israeli military operation called Operation Solomon. The artist, Itzik Asher said it was important to depict the family nude."It's more about this family's spiritual journey," he said. "It's not about Gucci or what kind of car you have, but about who you are. That's why my figures walk naked, but they are not naked in what they carry."

The sculpture can be seen from a nearby Elementary School and reports say some of the parents want the sculpture moved. It is interesting to note that the Palm Beach County's Code Enforcement has only received one complaint and that the school has opted to not get involved in the dispute but "let parents work it out."

Richard Caster, who owns the Addison Plaza shopping center where the sculpture is located, said the sculpture is one of many displayed on his property and he has gotten more calls in support than against it. He felt parents should see it as an opportunity to teach their children about religious persecution. The representation symbolizes the Jewish families who fled Ethiopia under a covert Israeli military operation called Operation Solomon."It's really a miracle," Caster said. "They were able to avoid what's happening now in Darfur."

Jennifer Peluso, an instructor in the Department of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University feels "young children do not process information, understand the world or decipher context and meaning in the same way as older children and adults. Thus, it is naïve to expect that art fitting for older individuals is appropriate for young children, or that "just talking about it" is the proper way to address the differences in young children's cognition. When the sculpture was installed, no advance notice to the school community was given. It was merely placed, unannounced, in full public view. No historical information was (ever) supplied to inform families about the artist's intentions. Thus, parents, teachers, administrators and children were left unprepared for their encounters with the sensitive content of the sculpture. It is understandable, then, that the sculpture would draw concern. Parents are sternly advised to teach children about personal safety, that exposing their own "private parts" in public, or public exposure to other people's "private parts," is unsuitable and even illegal. What are children to think, then, of the very public display of "private parts" in the sculpture? It presents a confusing and contradictory message to our young children."

Ms. Peluso brings up a good point - several of them actually. A lack of communication all the way around seems to be part of the problem. If the intent of the artist and the Plaza owner is to educate the public, then it would stand to reason that information on the message contained within the art would be shared.

Another point of communication would be between parents and children. There is a difference between "living" people exposing themselves publicly and nude sculptures. Children CAN process the difference between art and real life, just as they CAN process and internalize guilt and negative associations with nudity when the message is reinforced that nudity is bad, dirty, shameful. Too many parents don't make the time to have actual conversations with their children regarding the many things they will encounter in life - including art. And five and six year olds are amazingly astute.

The sculpture does not depict any sexual activity or contain any messages related to sex. In fact they remind me a bit of the Denver Alien sculptures - except these have their dangly bits left intact.

So yes, in my opinion - all the hoopla over this from (a) distraught parent is puritanical repression at its finest.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I agree, that is silly, objecting to that sculpture. And very interesting points on the processing power of children and the distinction between sexual and nonsexual nudity. Your work just keeps getting better, Lakota, no kidding. Have a nice break.