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Response to Spazito (Reply #41)

Fri May 25, 2012, 04:53 PM

49. Offered for Contrast:

This is among my favorite post WWII American paintings, Andrew Wyeth's The Virgin. It is at the Brandywine River Museum but they seldom exhibit it because it gives people vapors.



The model, Siri Erikson, is about 13 in the picture. Anyone who tried to denounce it as child pornography (as some surely would, not knowing the definition) would be a maliscious philistine.

And anyone who said it's too dirty for general audiences would be saying that boobs and public hair are intrinsically dirty, because it's pretty damn understated. Myself, I have no categorical issue with nudity. I admire the heck out of nudists. (My favorite fringe-lifestyle group)

It is a scandal to me that a museum does not regularly display the best painting they own by the guy the museum was built to showcase simply because they get a lot of school trips and most of their money comes from stuffy old Delaware valley ladies.

That said, it is an erotic painting in many ways. It is not a clinical study of human musculature, it is a portrait of the unaffected pubescent beauty of an immigrant farm girl, and that beauty has an erotic dimension.

But it is not aggressively provocative in the way the sculpture under discussion is, and it is not based on or about the tropes of contemporary pornography. And I think many people feel differently about different things based on such traits.

I am posting this as an example of what I see as a fine line. This painting should be on permanent exhibition at the Brandywine, IMO, but I can see that it would make people uncomfortable if hung at the post office. And nobody goes to the post office for a teachable moment or to examine contradictions in their own sexual attitudes or whatever. They go to buy stamps.

As to what is appropriate for an Arboretum? I guess it depends on what people who use the space think. The test of what is socially appropriate is subjective, and about society itself.

But society, not a few loud crack-pots. Our standards shouldn't be lowest common denominator. (What Lenny Bruce called, "Dirty in the eyes of the most corruptible member of society.")


If they get enough complaints from people who are not obviously recreational trouble-makers they remove it. If not, they won't. Pretty much the same way anyplace decides what users of the space like or dislike.

(This whole conversation is funny because I am one of the most strident defenders of erotica on DU, but also feel strongly that the public sphere is distinct from the full range of expressive speech. I think that people should, within reason, be able to exist in a relatively desexualized sphere, or seek out an entirely sexualized sphere. The public sphere should try to function well for everybody, even people with some different attitudes than mine.)

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