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I am a female artist who paints the nude figure. My work of the nude consists of just the female body at this time. I am running into a problem with my sister-in-law. She feels that if her 3 yr. old daughter sees artwork in any form showing the nude figure, it will relay a message to her that it is ok to show her "private parts" to others. This could lead to her thinking it is ok for strangers to show their genitalia to her as well. She said there is no way to explain to children (until they are older) that an expression of art is any different than seeing pornography, or adults exposing themselves.

I have never run into this before with any of my friends who have children of different ages. She states this is because I only hang out with like minded others and we are out of the norm. I would like some literature about the difference between pornography and the painted nude; and something to teach children about the human body in relation to different cultures and art. If you have any links for me or suggessted literature, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, Gretchen

When I first read your note I couldn't help but think of Sally Mann and her work, which, if you aren't familiar with, is photographs primarily of her children nude. There has been a lot of controversy (and compliments) surrounding her work on the subject of when does "nudity" go too far, especially when children are involved. I don't know of any good articles off the top of my head, but a search at the library should bring up something.

Personally, I think that your sister-in-law has it all wrong: First of all--pornography is based on exploitation; power differences and hatred. Nudity is about reality--the body in its natural form--not being put through a meat grinder or tied up or violated by objects. It's almost like we can't appreciate the female body nude, because the majority of the times that we see it--it is being violated and disrespected. I think that if we put more time into valueing and celebrating our bodies--we'd have less time to spend hating them.

As for specifics on the difference between nudity and pornography (of which there are many)---you should check out: books/articles by Anne Hollander, an art historian and art critic; Making Pornography Sexy by Diane Russell; and an old cover story from Ms. Magazine -- "In Praise of Women's Bodies" (late 1970's early 1980s).

I hope that the above is helpful and that your sister-in-law will soon see the difference between the cover of Playboy and a Gustav Klimt painting--or better yet, one by you!


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