The picture above is by artist Mickalene Thomas. Recently, a collection of her pieces have been on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO has free admissions from 6-9pm on Wednesdays. This Wednesday, the kidlets, their parents, and I all loaded up in one of the vans and headed down to check out the gallery. The dad had a plan so he directed our short visit (we got there at 8) and the first stop was the 5th floor where Mickalene’s collection was. We only got to see two exhibits so I’ll definitely have to go back on a day off and spend the time going through the whole gallery. They have a Monet exhibit right now that I am dying to see.
Mickalene’s pieces were amazing. The picture above was my favourite piece out of the whole night. I could stand and look at it forever. My picture of it doesn’t do it justice, it’s just breathtaking!
While walking around Mickalene’s Femmes Noir exhibit, 3rd was acting like his normal crazy self. He had been in the exhibit a few weeks prior with his dad and 1st so he knew what was coming. When he knows things like that, he can get a little bit crazy/over the top/sometimes obnoxious haha. Like any kid would.
Anyway, in some of the installations, there were naked women. Not in any crude or provocative way. Just a naked form. In all mediums, painted, photography, or just Mickalene’s naked body spread out over 12 different tv screens (I have to admit I didn’t quite understand that one).
As we would approach those rooms, 3rd would run up to 4th and cover her eyes going “don’t look!” or “Don’t let her see!” When his older sisters and I quietly asked him to calm down, he goes “Do you see what’s in there?!”
Now, I’m a pretty open-minded person when it comes to the human body. And the female body. I don’t see it as something that needs to be hush-hushed or kept covered. Whatever you are comfortable with, you do/appreciate. And I really wanted to have that conversation with him right then and there. It was a perfect teachable moment.
But my problem came when I thought I would be overstepping my place. I’ve been with this family for 2.5 years now and I’ve had lots of conversations about lots of different things, but when it comes to the area of bodies and nakedness and sexualization of things and all of that, I find that I’m still out of place if I want to have a discussion like that. I usually just tell them to ask their mother, and then 1st will yell, “ITS A SEXUAL THING!” and then just go back to her room. Although I did tell her what a furry was. In the best non-descriptive way possible that also didn’t have her needing to ask any more questions. I know her parents wouldn’t have been able to answer that and I didn’t want her to google it.
If it had been my child, I would have had a conversation right there. And as much as I always call my kidlets “my kids”, they aren’t and I need to be aware of what lines the parents have created for their own children.
I kind of have an idea of how I would have had that conversation if it was my own child, and it would have been along the lines of how she’s not exploiting the sexual aspects of the female form in her art but rather embracing women, and use the descriptions of her pieces to help illustrate that. There is nothing wrong with a naked breast.
It’s definitely a family to family type thing based on beliefs and moral structures and your own values as a family unit. What works in my mind for my non-existent children might not be the right thing for yours.
So my question is for you parents out there: would you have addressed it in the art gallery? At home? How do you talk about the naked form with your children? Especially if it’s in such a setting as an art gallery and it’s not there to be a sexualized thing? How do you separate the human from the sexual? The difference between embracing the beauty and overt sexualization?
If you’re childless like me, feel free to comment as well. Do you have plans put in place for your non-existent future children?