Monday, May 18, 2009


Aristide Maillol, Flora (French 1861 - 1944) 65 x 19 x 13 1/2 in. Bronze Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott

I want to share with you a bit of insanity. This is from an article that I came across that was printed in 2006 in the New York Times, so perhaps this is old news. But I fear we have not come far in the past few years.

Apparently, an elementary Art teacher in Frisco, TX, was dismissed from her classroom and banned from teaching anywhere in the county, because she brought her fifth graders into an Art museum in Dallas that exposed them to Nudity. She let them pass by "the marble torso of a Greek youth from a funerary relief, circa 330 B.C.; Auguste Rodin’s tormented “Shade;” Aristide Maillol’s “Flora,” with her clingy sheer garment; and Jean Arp’s “Star in a Dream.”images and sculptures". Wooooh. Can you imagine eleven and twelve year old students put under such duress?

Is this why the average American adult has an Art's education up to about the 6th grade level or is this the result? I'm so disappointed by our society. How can we allow images and videos of guns and violence to permeate this age group and then complain about their exposure to Fine Art that celebrates the human body, human condition or beauty?

Please share your thoughts. Perhaps, you have suggestions of how we can help to change this for the betterment of our society.


  1. I found your blog and website after Googling your name when I came across it on the Rational Painting web forum. I am an artist and journalist and I very much like your work.

    You are correct: the Sydney McGee story is an old one and, on the surface, seems outrageous. But if you look around a bit you'll see that there appears to be more to this story, although just what is unclear.

    McGee had some previous run-in with another school district (about which we know nothing because the files were sealed after an arbitration.)

    After the museum incident described here, more parental complaints surfaced. If you look you'll find letters to editors in Texas papers including one in which a parent writes that his daughter never brought home any art done in this woman's class.

    Often journalism can only hint at what might be the real story. It does look like this school district was looking for a way to get rid of this teacher and seized on a very poor excuse to do so.

    If you look for follow-up stories you'll see that there was a settlement after her dismissal in which she agreed to give up her job in return for which the district paid her salary through the end of that school year. (BTW nobody gets banned from teaching EVERYWHERE in the country -- school districts and our education systems just aren't that organized or cooperative among each other.)

    From what we can see, either this woman had the lousiest lawyers in the northern hemisphere or there is something else about her that makes her unacceptable as a teacher. Because, on the face of it, if the museum incident is all they had on her, then she should have been able to sue the hell out of that district and own the town by now.

    Ultimately I have to conclude that there is something objectionable about how this woman teaches, although we can agree it's pretty unlikely that taking children to an art museum is the reason. There are plenty of good, honest, right-thinking, liberal-leaning organizations that could have adopted this woman's cause and fought for a great deal more on her behalf than a partial year's salary. I think her potential defenders must have been scared away by something else about her but we may never know what.

    We CAN take comfort in the humiliation and outcry directed at a misguided school system that reached for the wrong reason to fire her and ended up having to pay out the salary of someone who went elsewhere.

    It reminds me of the first Attorney General under George W. Bush, John Ashcroft (the only man in the United States history to lose a senate race to a dead man.) Ashcroft, while Attorney General, moved the location of his press conferences in the Justice Department because he felt uncomfortable being photgraphed speaking in front of the large statue of blind justice (a classical bronze nude.) The media and public -- and Leno and Letterman -- laughed for weeks at his man's stupidity and prudishness.

  2. Daniel, thank you for your comments and follow up to this story.

    I just want to make clear, in the above post, I didn't say she was banned from teaching in the entire countRy, but instead county (which is normally how public school districts are formed). I agree to coordinate something like that would take more organization than most of our systems could handle (or even should handle).

    Another aspect that I've been wondering about as well, is if this story affected the Dallas Art Museum's educational programs at all (or any other institution for that matter). Do museums have to cater to this, have nude free pathways planned out? Or programs developed for the easily offended?

  3. I can see it now - like a nature walk: follow the yellow arrows to avoid nudes, blue arrows to avoid abstracts orange arrows to avoid lawyers...

  4. I was wondering as well, about what might happen, or has happened to museum's educational programs as a result of this incident. What a shame. And I loved your point about guns and violence.

  5. Thank you Karen, B.B. and Daniel for the comments. B.B that is so funny. It sounds like an installation art piece of it's own.

    Keep the comments coming.

  6. Thanks for airing this. In 1980 I ran a University gallery on the west coast. One of my exhibits featured a sculpture whose whimsical approach to sensuality included a tiny woman swinging through a sculpted reproduction of a pelvis. There was an uproar, I stood my ground and with the backing of my superior, we prevailed. Of course the Brouhaha was quickly forgotten and the gallery continued to bring international and regional artist into the community. I think it is important to continue to fight for our first amendment rights. Gertrude Palmer nee Gazurian.

  7. Art Attack, thank you for finding me and this post! Who was the sculptor? It sounds like an interesting piece. For some reason your description reminds me of Kara Walker's paper cut outs (although a totally different context I'm sure). Also, I'm glad to hear that you had the backing of your superior.