Saturday 21 January 2012

We all need a Kiss

Another little ranty post coming up...

                                                                "Kiss" by Marc Quinn
                                                    Sculpture in Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield

Click on the link here for another look at the sculpture by Marc Quinn. There's a close up and more information about the sculptor and models here. Try some of the other links too, they're interesting.

I helped out on a school trip this week, taking two classes of Year 1 children (aged 5-6) to an art gallery. The theme was portraits, particularly focusing on feelings; the feelings portrayed in the art, and the feelings we have in response.

We were given a wonderful talk and slide show by a member of the gallery's staff, who then took us to look in more detail at some of the exhibits while she told the children about the artists and the people featured in the artworks. She spoke about this sculpture, explained a little about the history of thalidomide and its effects, asked the children if they could see anything different about the models compared with themselves, and said it was her favourite piece in the whole gallery because it is so beautiful.

The children who had the session in the morning listened to this talk and looked at the sculpture. By the afternoon, this section of the tour had been dropped. There seemed to be a view (that of some parents accompanying the trip? Or the teachers? I don't know) that the content of the talk or the statue itself was inappropriate for young children.

What on earth is all that about?

If the issue is nudity - oh please, all the children on the trip have seen their own naked bodies, and most likely that of their siblings and parents too. PLEASE let nudity not be the issue. If children of 5 and 6 are to be taught that there is something embarrassing, shameful or "inappropriate" about the human body, we are setting them up for major problems in life. 

Is the issue disability then?

So we have to shield our children from the dreaded horror of difference, do we?

Now, I know I have a particular sensitivity to this issue. I want my daughter to hear the message of this sculpture; that difference and disability are no barrier to love and beauty. You know how I feel about this, I wrote about it recently here. But this isn't just a personal crusade on my child's behalf. It's an important message for all children to hear. All children can benefit from realising that it's a big wide world out there, with people who face all sorts of challenges, who look and behave and think differently, but who are loved and appreciated, and are just as suitable a subject for art as anyone else.

Inappropriate? How can thinking and talking about difference and disability be inappropriate? Any child who has first-hand experience of disability (be it their own, or that of a sibling, a parent, family member or friend) will be thinking and talking about it from an early age.They don't have the luxury of ignorance.

My daughter's class wasn't on this particular trip, they will be going on Wednesday and I will be going along again to help. I have spoken to N's teacher to ask why the sculpture was edited out, and made my plea for that part of the tour to be reinstated, for all the above reasons. She seemed sympathetic, so I am hoping N's class will have the opportunity to look at this beautiful sculpture and think about its meaning and relevance.

If they don't, then I will be taking my kids back to the gallery in our own time and making a bee line for that sculpture. I'm not afraid to discuss the issues it brings up, and I know they won't be either. We can't ignore difference/disability, because we are living with it.

                                                                  This girl will never be invisible!


Krista said...

I love you girl! Powerful words about love and acceptance of self and others. Not only do I agree with everything you said but I applaud you for being able to see past the nudity to the deeper message here. I feel like most folks get hung up on the wrong things because they can't see past whatever is getting them emotionally charged up. I love how you are raising these kids!!! Nina is such a lil love and the two pictures at the end are quite possible the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

Louise Mc said...

A very powerful post. I love how art embraces the differences in the world, and it sounds to me as if the children were being educated in a sensitive and thoughtful way. It's terrible if someone has taken exception for any of the reasons you mention above. I hope they reinstate that bit of the tour for the next trip. X

karensomethingorother said...

people are often afraid of what makes them think too much. It's much easier to get in, get out, and come away with a quick UPPER from the experience. Nothing too deep. Nothing too controversial. Nothing thought provoking for heavens sake! Oh, and we should all pretend that we're not naked under the clothes.

Nelly said...

Good on you girl.I have taught my kids that everyone has feelings no matter what they look like so treat each one with resoect and love and its worked.Hope your next tour goes well.
Your little one is so cute.

Paul said...

What a fabulous piece of art.

Loo xx from Jumbles and Pompoms said...

Inappropriate, my arse. Well said, Curtise. xx

Fiona said...

All this mollycoddling of children really gets on my wick. Sure there are some things we should protect them from at this age, but nudity and disability are not amongst them. Common sense seems to be sadly lacking. Good on yer for speaking up.

Kylie said...

I think it's a beautiful sculpture and you're so right, we ALL need a kiss. I hope your daughter's teacher includes this thought provoking, life affirming piece of art in the tour. I cannot understand why it was edited out in the first one. Keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

That last photo was such a pleasant surprise! I know recently I was reading a book to my 6 year old grandson--it was a book about rescue equipment for airplanes. The more I read, the more I regretted reading it to him. It focused on things like hijacking and terrorism, both things that could perpetuate the sense of fear we've spent the last decade trying to outgrow.

Unknown said...

What an amazing blog u have here!! happy i found u! keep up the amazing posts!!

love and happiness

Max said...

Good on you! To add to the 'hiding nudity or disabilities' the thing that get me is the infantalising of childrens intellectual abilities, in particular their ability to use art to think-they generally can do that better way better than adults!
what a sweet wee girl you got there, adorable x

Vintage Coconut said...

My gosh.... I finally realized the disability aspect of the sculpture. I just thought they were nude and I was staring at the art for MINUTES *seriously* Finally I realized they had disabilities too.

Your girls look so much like you.
They are just precious.

The invisible man is quite intriguing. If I saw him in public I would need to go meet him.

Helga said...

Farking great post!
I frigging HATE bollocky PC rubbish.It's bloody ridiculous.
I love you,you're FABULOUS!

Unknown said...

sadly some people are very narrow minded and you are very right there is a time and place to shield our children but not on these issues there life skills. dee xxx

Kitty said...

Well said Curtise, things like this quite simmply shit me. I hope your little girls group gets to see the sculpture...

Unknown said...

Great post Curtise and the last 2 pics are so wonderful
We live in a kind of bizzare world sometimes with the wrong priorites and it is good to have someone like you who will speak out!

I have tagged you girl- go see my blog

Love Ariane

Anonymous said...

I totally agree - people should accept people as they are - discrimination can't be tolerated in this day and age.

Rose&Bird said...

It does seem pointless to drop this from the tour - most comtemporary art is meant to be thought-provoking and children are so much more direct than adults. Maybe the issue was actually that an adult felt uncomfortable with the content? Either way, I hope that your kids at least get to see it x

Unknown said...

Hi Dear, you do not have to do it!
I am just giving you exposure because i like your blog so much!
I know you are a busy mom, love you always!

Ariane xxxx

two squirrels said...

Oh Curtise I love the way you make me step back and think about how I would be in that situation.
First I have to say not being a mum, I really respect how amazing you are and that your wee poppets are so lucky to have an intelligent and thinking mother.
I'm with Miss Helga, PC is just bullshit.
A gallery is the perfect environment for a child to be confronted by issues and questions about the world they are part of. What a beautiful way to learn.
Love to you Sweet

Debberoo said...

Beautiful sculpture. As someone else said I didn't take in the "differences" in the subjects until I had followed your links. Which I think is the point, it leads us to see the beauty of their bodies and the moment they are sharing, long before we notice what we might normally be inclined to focus on.

I've got to say "Go you!" for being a school volunteer, so many things our children only get to experience because of the wonderful people who give of their time and energy to make it possible. Also, go Nina's school for arranging such a fab outing and go Graves Art Gallery for caring for art for us all. Can you tell I'm a little influenced by American cheerleading "Go, Go, Go!"

I am fascinated to find out what happens tomorrow, will it be included, will you find out what the objection was. I'm pretty sure a sculpture like this would never be highlighted in a 1st grade class visit where I live I often find myself out of step with views over here, which to me can often seem extraordinarily prudish, but then us Brits are a saucy lot ;)

The objection here would not be about disability or difference, our school is very inclusive in that way but it would be about the nudity. Not necessarily from the school but I think some parents would have an issue with that.

My guess is that whoever asked that the second class skip this piece was uncomfortable not with disability or even nudity per se but with the intimacy of the piece, I think nude and kissing is probably the objection. I on the other hand was teaching the word "snogging" to my daughter this weekend and at the Disney store no less - its a long story!

I'm so glad that you spoke up and gave voice to why this sculpture should be included, its a slippery slope when we start to censor like this.

Don't even get me started on the way US network tv pixelates (sp) out nudity while blood, gore and guns take center stage!

I told you its little comment essays I'm carrying around ;)

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

What a wonderful sculpture, I think it's beautiful. How very very odd to think it's unsuitable for 6/7 year olds. We're quite open about nudity in my house, I mean, we don't run about naked all the time with the curtains open or anything, but have no problem with being seen naked by the kids. (unflattering comments on my bottom from the 3 year old aside).

As for difference and disability, as you've rightly pointed out - there MUST be other incidences they've come across, it's not that uncommon. There is a Cbeebies TV presenter called Ceri who was born with one hand and part of her arm missing - she would be a someone in the public eye who the children would probably be aware of and she's no more 'unsuitable' than the statue (although sadly some idiot parents complained about her when she was first on screen. Kids didn't bat an eyelid). WELL DONE for standing up and speaking out. I hope they reinstated that part of the trip.

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

Thanks for commenting on my post. Wow what a lovely posse of pictures i n your post.

Scarlett said...

Its such a beautiful sculpture. I am shocked that they took it out of the tour! I adore the way you write in this post and you are so right. I hope they listened to you and this gets put back on the trip. Scarlett x