But Is It Art?

That’s the question an alert — and concerned — “06880” reader wants us all to answer.

She writes:

Some pieces of art hanging in Sweet Frog are part of the youth arts forum. I understand that art is a form of expression, but I also understand that many pieces of art show touchy topics. I wonder how Westport parents feel about this piece of art hanging in a local frozen yogurt store. I find it inappropriate.


Claire Traynor photo

She asked. You answer. Let’s crowd-source this one.

Is it appropriate for a frozen yogurt store? If yes, why? If not, why not? And if not, where else would be appropriate?

Click “Comments” below. Please respond thoughtfully and respectfully to the questions above, and any others art-and-Westport-related.

80 responses to “But Is It Art?

  1. Daniel Katz

    Nomnsense. People of all ages see stuff less “artful” and more sexually alluring on television every twenty minutes….and this piece is actually ART.

  2. Betsy Phillips

    Needs ‘a cherry on top…’

    Not saying it’s not Art, (At All, it’s Lovely)
    … but if SF wants to allow/promote local art, I think–they should curate the art show or have someone curate–for a good fit for their space….
    I basically agree w Dan.

  3. Polly Temple

    People will complain about anything. Why not a yogurt store. You can’t have yogurt and appreciate art at the same time? That is beyond, well I’m not going to say it.

  4. Susan Iseman

    I’d be more concerned with ingesting all of those artificial ingredients and heaps of sugar than a picture of the human form in its natural state.

  5. Denise Michalowski

    I have young children and love and appreciate art. This does belong hanging somewhere for people to see but not in the frozen yogurt store. Consider the library – a place of learning and discussion- do you think they would put this in the children’s section?

  6. Dorrie Barlow Thomas

    Oh brother! When she said “touchy subject” I was expecting…well, I dunno, maybe something especially violent or graphic or perhaps politically charged (probably the most gruesome of all!)…but a naked body (and done with skill, it would appear)? Come on, this is practically the very definition of art (see museum walls everywhere)! And as far as appropriateness in that venue, well: if they’re having art displayed there, then they’re gonna get art there.

  7. K Nordberg

    Everyone knows beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When it comes to images that are most of the time private why must one be exposed to it when shopping for yogurt? Forcing someone to look at art that one did not purposely go to find, and have it be a “private” image is wrong. If I walked into the store and posed in such a way it would be just as disgusting!

  8. Marcy Sansolo

    I have no problem with this piece of art, or the fact that it is hanging in frozen yogurt store. A typical 8 year old client at sweet frog is concentrating on how much cake batter yogurt they can squeeze into a cup and what flavor gummy worms are available rather than what’s on the walls. I don’t often frequent frozen yogurt joints, (hello ice cream, best food in the planet),but kudos to sweet frog for hanging ART!

  9. Jerry MacDaid

    For those who think this piece of art is appropriate for a frozen yogurt shop, I’d be curious where you draw the line? An artful drawing of a sex act? Cover art from one of our local pornographer’s dvd cases? Maybe a still shot from one of his films?

    And wherever you draw the line, why would you draw it there?

  10. I think the owner of Sweet Frogs is pretty amazing, I have spoken to her at length about her decision to partner with the Yourh Arts Forum and allow her space to be used to display unbelievable passionate youth artists. It’s sad to me that Sweet Frogs and the Youth Art Forum is getting attention for this – and not the amazing people and artists behind the organization. It’s art, the piece in question is far less controversial to me than just about anything…how about applauding Sweet Frogs, applauding the youth Arts forum and above all applauding this amazing teen artist.

    • Valerie DiPrato

      Totally agree with Lindsay – we are so lucky to have Sweet Frogs in our community – where kids’ talents are respected and celebrated – what better place than “their” favorite froyo shop!! Westport is known for it’s artist community. IMO – art in Sweet Frogs is progressive and shows respect for our kids’ maturity and ability to recognize and analyze peer talent. It is the little things that make our kids feel they are appreciated and welcome.
      As for myself, I also love having something really beautiful to look at and think about while I am waiting for them to enjoy their stacked cups of froyo!

    • D Michalowski

      You are sidestepping the point. I am so happy to have sweet frog, my kids ask to go there constantly. I am also very happy to have it be a venue for youth art. But my 7 year old would immediately comment/notice it and I would then be discussing nudity while eating my ice cream. The owner made the choice to hang that provocative image (not just of nudity but suggestive of masturbation as well) as it is her perogative. But I will wait to visit until the art show is over as I do question the judgement of the owner.

      • Dawn Collins

        Her hand is resting on her hip. Unless the model had freakishly long fingers I am unsure of how this is suggestive of masturbation.

  11. Terry Brannigan

    Looks like more of a gallery piece. Given how unlikely the location is, my hunch is it was hung there specifically to be shocking vs generating true interest in the piece or the artist.

    I have 3 little kids who go there after almost every night performance at school along with just about every one else at the event. Given the mayhem I’m suprizef the artist isn’t worried about the piece getting damaged!

    Kind of a strange choice. Will yield more giggles and snickers that art appreciation. May draw revenue to the store from the elusive adolescent boy demographic.

  12. Jamie Camche

    Beautiful work by the artist and brilliantly curated by Sweet Frog.
    Art should provoke and inspire discussion.

  13. John Patterson

    The answer to the question “Is it Art?” is rhetorical. Of course it is art and from the small screen I can see it on, it looks like a beautiful work from a talented soul. It is deep, intimate, personal, and beautiful.

    The second question – “does it belong at a Froyo spot in Westport?”, I wouldn’t think so. It may be better placed in a museum or exhibition. That is only my personal opinion -which is where this comment belongs. It is only my opinion. Often times I have been wrong… So I won’t fall too much in love with my point of view.

    Hope everyone in the 06880 has a beautiful day!

  14. The earth without art is “eh”…

  15. Jeff Porter

    I don’t find it inappropriate. The nude has been the subject and inspiration of fine art since people began making art. As a father there are many things I worry about, but this doesn’t even appear as a blip on that radar screen.

  16. Ed Sanford

    Why on earth is the nude body inappropriate ?

  17. Elizabeth Thibault

    Context is everything – neither the setting nor the composition is sexualized. It’s a nude study, honestly showing much less sexuality than what you commonly see in pictures in your Facebook feeds. The human form is not shocking or shameful and we need to be responsible in teaching our children about respect for the body. Normalizing non-sexual contexts takes away the context of taboo, and helps them appreciate it’s actual functions. It’s a mature approach, and honestly, one that many other countries are far ahead of us on. (This is another reason why even discretely breastfeeding mothers are routinely shamed in the U.S. Lets not perpetuate the problem for another generation, eh?)

  18. Chuck Lombardia

    It is beautiful. It is fine.

  19. Lauren Braver

    Art should be exposed to children no matter where it is, that way there is nothing shocking about the nude body. I have two young children and feel that the more they see these artistic images, the less it’s about the body parts and becomes more about the medium and the image as a whole. There is nothing inappropriate about this image unless you are creating the inappropriate situation in your head.

  20. Paul Kelly

    Yogurt stores trade in cultures. This seems like a logical and appropriate.

  21. If it’s the only piece of art, it may send the wrong message to children ..but if it’s among other art, then it’s appropriate and is a teachable moment about what art is. It can be turned into a coversation about light and shadow and how artists see the world and help the rest of us see it. It can also become a discussion about history and medicine and Leonardo da Vinci teaching the rest of the world about the human body….and and and.

  22. Stacy Prince

    Naked bodies in a frozen yogurt store? Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be at least a gelato shop to get away with that kind of thing! 🙂

  23. Marcia Falk

    On first blush I thought, of course this beautiful image is art, but is frozen yogurt food? The point is that art is part of life and a means through which humans communicate and perceive life. Why should art be found only in frozen places defined as museums or libraries or galleries? Excellent question for discussion and a good promo to the Westport Playhouse’s current productions of Art and Red. Thanks Dan for this provocative public forum.

  24. Vicky Lavergne

    As a parent of 5 year old B/ G twins I am not offended at all. I think it’s wonderful to see art commissioned by youth in a variety of places -I would use this opportunity to discuss the piece with my kids all while sitting and enjoying our frozen yogurt during family time . It’s a conversation and discussing a classicly portrayed nude portrait is beautiful – nothing innaproprirate about it.

  25. Wilhelmina de Haas

    Of course it’s art – and it’s beautifully done! Kudos to the artist! By the way have you taken a good look at the Sistine Chapel ceiling? And that’s in a church, in the Vatican….snicker…. 🙂

    • Wilhelmina de Haas

      Not sure it fits in in an ice cream store though…..that I agree with. But I’m sure the owner had good intentions and didn’t put it there for shock value or to offend.

  26. Elise Zealand

    Hi I second Lindsay above. I have a 6-year-old son who loves art and has seen nudes in as many galleries, installations and major museums as we can possibly take in. I am blown away by the talent of this teen artist. I also have spoken at length with the owner of Sweet Frog. She’s dedicated to promoting the art of young people — all different kinds of artists, including painters, singers and musicians. BRAVO to her and thank you!

  27. Peter Barlow

    Art can be displayed anywhere. I once exhibited my paintings in a self-service laundromat in Bridgeport.

  28. Mary Ann West

    Years ago a Staples Senior put together a series of sculptures depicting young girls in the sex trafficking trade, nothing offensive.

    The curators of the Westport schools show picked two of the “Pretty” girls and banned the others.

    Kids take in what they understand, some would see ballerinas and older children would see the artistry for what it was.

    I have bigger issues with the Kardashian’s T & A all over the magazines, websites and on TV. Now that’s trash.

  29. Jaclyn Jeffrey

    I am curious…does anyone know how old the artist is?

  30. Jimmy Leary

    What’s truly amazing is that this is being met with negative reviews.

    1. These works of art are made by CHILDREN who more than likely are customers. Why wouldn’t they want to place their art there?

    2. They are part of the Youth Arts Forum which is closely associated with sweetFrog. YAF has done so much for children WORLDWIDE and is a phenomenal organization which promotes both the visual and musical arts.

    3. Both Jennifer and Barry have done so much work with fundraising events and charitable work and we are concentrating on a work of art by a child because it’s a nude? Oh PUHHHHLEASE!!!!! If anything, you all should be celebrating how beautiful it is and how talented the child is behind the work. But of course not, it’s easier to complain than to admire.

    Lastly, who are the people saying it should not be placed in a FROYO business? Who died and made you the moderator of all art exhibits?

  31. Chuck Lombardia

    What would you do on a trip to Italy? What if you lived or studied there. Would you drape the paintings and sculptures of an entire nation…a continent?

  32. The owners of Sweet Frog are about the most teen and community-conscious and -supportive folks in town, mostly in subtle ways that show they really care and connect with kids and families.

    (and did you know, he’s a police detective in NYC and doesn’t even live locally?)

    If only the rest of the stores were half as good for the community as they! – Chris Woods

  33. WOW!!! i thought the issue should be AND is the styrofoam cups the yogurt is served …

    ‘Styrofoam is non-biodegradable, so it tends to accumulate in waterways, endangering and frequently killing marine life.
    The creation of Styrofoam also results in air pollution, because of the many chemical byproducts released during the process.’

    i grew up with nude art as long as i can remember back. my mom was/is the artist. lucky me for being exposed!!

  34. Mark Yurkiw

    LOL, this is a joke “post” right? the complainer doesn’t have a name and isn’t a real person….. but the artist is named.
    We should be thanking both the artist and the store owner for their selfless unpaid effort to bring some art into our lives.

  35. Jerry MacDaid

    I don’t find this piece of art offensive but might debate placement in a yogurt shop. And I really am curious what the line is for everyone. I mean, will you all enjoy the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit that is coming next? Most of what is said aobout this piece can be said about much of his work as well.

  36. It’s a lovely picture and it’s display in Frozen Yogurt shop raises interesting questions about where even the finest art should be displayed.

    However, I find it even more fascinating that this painting of a nude is on display in a store that was founded on Christian principles.The “FROG” part of the name, according to founder, Derek Cha, is actually an acronym for “Fully Rely on God”.

    I think it’s admirable that in our current political world that equates Christianity with far right wing views and censorship, this artist’s painting is displayed front and center and without apology because it is art.

  37. Good Afternoon “06880” readers. I am the sole owner of Sweet Frog Westport, CT and feel the need to respond to this post from a customer. First off – Thank you for all of your comments as they are greatly appreciated. Second – The Youth Arts Forum Gallery has been up for months now. Our walls feature art from children under the age of 18. If they are over 18 – that means that they have graduated to “An Ambassador” of The Youth Arts Forum, but still hold a presence to pay it forward to the younger youth members. Claire Traynor is not only “an artist,” but a performer also!!! She has played here at Sweet Frog from the beginning…at our Grand Opening and has continued to return on many occasions for fundraisers. The art in question is not hanging alone on our wall. Claire has given us 3 in total and I AM PROUD to hang her beautiful art in my shop. Yogurt or not. P.S. Quite a few PARENTS with CHILDREN inquired about buying it, but Claire won’t sell. 🙂
    Other Youth Arts Forum artists are also featured, but you’ll have to come in to see them. One is more beautiful than the next…and for the record – my true customers are quite shocked at this woman’s anonymous request.
    The woman in question was VERY INTERESTED in having her son play and sing here in the future…until she saw the charcoal. Then we had a conversation and she told me her son had a concert in a few weeks. IF the picture was still there…she would not be coming. FYI: Please don’t. We’ve had concerts for the last week and none said anything. Actually – that artwork has been up for months. I’m sorry you missed your teaching moment with your son. I’m sorry that you focused on one picture when we have so many. Did you know we have a photography contest going on and one of his classmates may have taken one of the photographs on the wall? I’m sorry that you decided to “speak up” in front of your son. I, however – used this post as an example to my 12 year old son. I showed him this blog along with the picture and he just shook his head in disgust. It was as if he was saying…Really mom??? Thank you for MY teaching moment.

    • And let’s not forget your support of a young muscian, http://www.calkehoe.com/ who has gone on to Berklee College of Music and now has a blossoming and very active music career. The town could use 20 more sweet store owners like you! – Chris Woods

  38. Mina de Haas

    Same people that are offended by art like this should stop drinking their coffee out of pagan fertility goddess adorned cups from Starbucks! LOL!

    Just sayin……

  39. Dawn Collins

    I have zero problem with this piece.

  40. A.B. Sander

    People today really need to stop getting “offended” all the time. It’s getting tiring.

    • John Patterson

      I have read all the comments and I agree with the overwhelming sentiment. The picture does belong in a Froyo shop… And I have decided to come to Sweet Frog and support this amazing woman and her values.

      What a beautiful forum!

  41. Daniel Katz

    Jennifer, you deserve all our thanks and gratitude for both your support of young artists and for your most artful defense of your position and your delicate put down of idiocy.

  42. Tom Leyden

    It’s pretty simple to me….another tempest in a teapot…if you don’t like the fact that the painting is hung where it is don’t go there. Free speech is free speech….too many people trying to control how others think and live there lives. Control your own!

    • Jerry MacDaid

      Actually, based on Jennifer’s account, it sounds like that is exactly what the woman in question did. She didn’t like the piece of art in that location, said she and her son would not be back if it was still there, and sounds like she hasn’t come back.

      In addition, we now have Jennifer exhibiting her intolerance for other people’s tastes and/or values telling her “please don’t” come back and berating her for not using this as a “teaching moment” for her son. Teaching moment of what I’m not sure – compromising your values? Frankly, sounds to me that the “offending woman” did use this as a teaching moment.

      And separately Mr. Katz, I love your beautiful display of tolerance of someone who might have a differing view than you buy calling them an idiot. Talk about idiocy…

      • Mr. MacDaid – I would like to clarify if I may. I greatly believe that if something does”t feel right…it probably isn’t. If the art in question bothers her – she should not visit my shop because it’s not coming down as of yet. There are many other wonderful venues in Westport (Saugatuck Sweets, Top This, Carvel, Sunny Daes) where she will surely feel comfortable taking her son. I welcome and applaud her for her views, but at the same time – I was letting her know that it will stay on my wall. I don’t believe I am “exhibiting intolerance for other people’s tastes and/or values.” I stand by what I believe in and I believe in The Youth Arts Forum making the world a better place for everyone… starting with our children. YES, I said, OUR children. Why is it OK for a customer to use me so there child can sing and play in my store, yet call the shots on the art I put on my wall? It’s a double edged sword and I fully stand my ground on this one. Everyone – big and small – should feel comfort in where they choose to go and especially where they bring their children. If my yogurt shop and beliefs are not it for her – that’s OK and I have no hard feelings.

        • Last, but not least – the “teaching moment” she missed was comparing paint to charcoal to pencil. Comparing the other art on the wall and discussing how everyone is different and sees different things. Talking about photography vs. portraits…The ages of the artists… Reading about the artists… Comparing the ages…Looking around the store and noticing other things that “may be art.” Many, Many things were missed because the mother CHOSE to focus on the one charcoal. Maybe – the average person doesn’t have these skills and I expected too much. I have been around children my whole life so this comes easy to me. In a great big world…this is small stuff. Kindness begets kindness…Always.

          • Jerry MacDaid

            Sorry Jennifer, I obviously misinterpreted “I’m sorry that you decided to “speak up” in front of your son.” as well as the lesson you were passing on to your son “I, however – used this post as an example to my 12 year old son. I showed him this blog along with the picture and he just shook his head in disgust.”

            Different people have different tastes and values. For example, it seems like a decent number of Westporter’s condone, if not enable, underage drinking as well as the use of various illegal substance. I don’t know where you draw the line on that one but I probably draw it on the more conservative side. As for the piece of art, I don’t particularly have a problem with it. I won’t be boycotting your store because it is hanging there (then again, I’m not a frozen yogurt fan so I don’t go there anyway). I do appreciate, however, why others might.

  43. Jessica Bram


  44. Daniel Katz

    Jerry, Jerry, Had I called the lady an idiot, your comment would be right on…the “idiocy” refers to the lack of support for student artists and lack of support for free expression.
    Many folks who are not “idiots” have apparently idiotic facets……

    • Jerry MacDaid

      Hmmm…usually people accused of idiocy are deemed idiots but, given your explanation, I appreciate your nuance. As for branding the woman’s concern that a yogurt shop was, perhaps, an inappropriate place to display a nude as idiocy, I’m not sure that, by definition, her concern translates into idiotic lack of support for student artists or lack of support for free expression. Just a difference in values and/or taste.

      Would you similarly support the display of a student’s artistic re-creation of a scene from Caligula in the store? Would you denounce someone who didn’t think it was appropriate or, perhaps, the owners refusal to display said piece of art, as idiotic lack of support for student artists or free expression?

      Maybe but I imagine even you have a line. If not, let me know and I’ll park my van across from your driveway and project all sorts of interesting “artistic” images on its side for you, your family, and guests to appreciate and support.

      • Jonathan Livingston

        It’s truly amazing how much people read into this. You are as about informed as an outdated encyclopedia. You are an “idiot”

        • Nancy Hunter Wilson

          While I was thinking the same thing, words such as “idiot” are intolerable.

        • Jerry MacDaid

          Sorry. I simply read what the man, literally, wrote and assumed he meant it. Clearly, I shouldn’t have as he appears to have meant something other than what he wrote. If that is being an “idiot”, you might want to check your dictionary.

          What bothers me most in all of this is the smug professed tolerance of everyone except for someone that doesn’t happen to agree in which case said disagreement is, among other things, “idiocy”. As Nancy so correctly notes, the use of “idiot” (and related implications of “idiocy”) should be intolerable to those who profess tolerance. Yet here we are.

          The hypocrisy that is exhibited in many of the comments on Dan’s blog is stunning. You, at least, have not professed tolerance so this obviously does not apply to you.

          • Jonathan Livingston

            Are you seriously serious? What’s actually so greatly amusing is the fact that you along with so many others attempt to sound so profoundly intelligent. When in fact, I believe the majority of people find all of thes negative posts rather smug. I do not claim to be a scholar nor am I an extremely educated person. However, the fact is, this art is created by children. Children who want to be proud of their work. Children who want to know their worth. Children that find it hard enough, to be just children. Then, people like yourself are criticizing the exact same thing these children are trying to figure out. Am I good enough? Do people like my work? Will someone help me to get where I want to get? Then YOU comment and/or agree with the same negativity that these young artists are trying to figure out “why”. It’s literally fucking disgusting. You are an embarrassment to all the young who try to break through. It’s art! Screw the bullshit with all this negativity. And screw everyone who thinks that it shouldn’t be posted in a “yogurt” shop. People should just be happy that someone is doing something to support children and their dreams.

            Ya know, my grandfather off the boat once said, if people minded their own business and left their negativity some place else. The world would be a better place.

            In other words, STOP being so smug and STOP worrying what is appropriate and/or inappropriate. It’s not up to you or anyone else. Jennifer said it best. It’s her choice and if she chooses not to, then don’t. This post/thread is so disfunctuomally unnecessary.

            • Jerry MacDaid

              Please read what I wrote and then re-read what you wrote. Where did I say anything negative about the children’s art work? Where did I say the children shouldn’t be proud of their art work?

              But let’s pretend I did. Are you advocating that children should never be exposed to a negative opinion of their work? That the only acceptable commentary is “yes, isn’t that wonderful”? No ability to say “perhaps you might have done x to make it better” or “you know, some people are small minded and may not appreciate y about your piece”? Really? How would they learn anything much less “why”?

              Finally, I tend to agree with your grandfather as well as that this thread is dysfunctionally unnecessary, though I guessing for different reasons than you. Smug dismissal of the woman that happened to have different views by some of the commenters is one of them.

          • Nancy Hunter Wilson

            Jerry, we all regret our words at times, even words like “sorry” — which makes you sound Canadian! In all conversation, words and meanings can get muddled… trying to “read” rather than hear a voice are two different things. Neither has to be perfect. Everyone is hypocritical, otherwise there would be no argument.

  45. Bart Shuldman

    Congrats to Sweet Frog!! Supporting the arts and our artists-way to go.

    For those that do not like this piece-or what they are doing–do what our free world-consumer based economy allows-don’t go. And I write this at 6:30 am Wednesday in China–who refuse some of the rights we so take for granted.

    I will encourage our family to support such a great idea by a local business.

  46. Terry Brannigan

    I apologize if this is the second post with the same message . I thought I posted my response but do not see it, so let me try again

    It seems like the piece and its placement accomplished it’s goal to be a bit shocking and get people talking. Really good art does exactly that . Personally I don’t have any problem at all with the pirce or where it hangs

    We attended the Bedford middle school art show last night and were blown away . Everything was great but in particular I like the work that was displayed in the library because it contained notes from the artist about the muse . The inspiration and a depth of some of the pieces was remarkable but most carried a message

    I like the previous post that suggest if someone doesn’t care for something they simply should not go back . However while most of us fancy ourselves enlightened because we recognize the value of art let’s also not forget that simply because someone doesn’t share our opinion of a particular piece doesn’t necessarily mean there are any less enlightened or boorish it may just mean they have a different opinion

    However if they don’t know how to park properly they’re worthy of our harsh judgment!

    Ps: my kids love the place

    Typed with one thumb

  47. Bobbi Essagof

    Kudos to all those 06880ers who see this as a teachable moment and a chance for discussion with their kids! We need more parents like them. Thanks Sweet Frog for giving us another opportunity to talk with our kids! Certainly beats everyone being on their phones.

  48. Interested to know who taught this class….looks like Jim Wheeler’s student quality work. ..but he isn’t still teaching at Staples is he?

    • No, Jim retired about 15 years ago. But you’re right — it does look like something one of his students might have done.

  49. Art, Yogurt and The Eye of The Beholder
    My name is Chris Traynor. My daughter, Claire Traynor, is the Fine Arts Student who created the piece now hanging at Sweet Frog Yogurt (in conjunction with Youth Arts Forum). At first, I wasn’t going to reveal that I was the father – feeling readers would expect a parent to blindly defend his child and simply dismiss my thoughts on the matter. It’s not easy to read some of these posts (even though the vast majority were supportive). It’s true – artists must develop a thick skin but nowhere does it stipulate a father’s hide be just as fortified.

    My hope is to promote understanding and possibly stimulate a change of heart – even in just one reader. To make that kind of breakthrough requires I lay down the persuasive debate techniques favored by so many (caustic sarcasm, hollow-tipped insults, bunker-busting snark, etc.). It’s a difficult task – especially when you consider the absurdly low boiling point we’ve set in America (circa 2016) when it comes to dissenting opinion (particularly when the subject matter is a toxic amalgam of Art, Nudity & Censorship, as we have here). I’m hopeful my two cents might offer a bit of clarity and insight benefitting all sides … particularly as I attempt to pivot away from the artist (lower case) and more to the ART (upper case). My purpose isn’t to defend Claire or what came from her eye and hand – that’s her job. Let it be clear, I do not pretend to be a scholar of the arts – though I appreciate it immensely. All I hope to do is tell a couple of truths, as that is the essence of Art itself.

    Claire was 18 years old when this piece came into existence – a live nude study (w/the clock ticking loudly, I’m told) at one of her large, required studio classes she attends as a Freshman at Parsons/The New School (a wonderful school Claire arrived at by working harder than 99% of her peers, not from her parents being wealthier than 99% of THEIR peers). In reading more than 70 of the replies/posts here, I was glad to see such majority support for the piece but there were a few posts that were terribly off base (depicting masturbation?) and a bit blind to history and the human condition. One contributor wondered if it wasn’t just a well-planned, self-serving “scheme” to bring attention to the young artist. I guess that post, regardless of its darkness, passes the plausibility test in today’s far too cynical world. I suppose it doesn’t matter if its hurtful or casts a shadow on a girl who’s done everything both good and right to be in a place where a piece of her art might publicly hang. It takes lots of hard work and great courage – especially when you’re still forming as an artist. If you’ll accept a father’s promise, I assure you that Claire was not seeking coverage through controversy. I can also assure you that Sweet Frog and the Youth Arts Forum are similarly blessed with pure motives in this on-going art initiative. These organizations, and the people that lead them, are beyond rare (watch the news and count the companies promoting long-term issues like community, the arts or just positivity). They deserve our recognition, applause and support.

    In fairness to the original commentator that initiated this thread, the post spoke of “appropriateness” of the art’s location and not the censorship of Art itself. The problem is “Appropriate Art” and “Approved Art” are two sides of the same skinny coin. If necessary, who would be chosen to decide which art is “appropriate” to be hung at a Yogurt Shop? One element of this tiny controversy (an element also found in the supposedly BIG controversies our monstrous mainstream media uses as shiny distractions [this month’s example: “confusingly-dressed bathroom predators”] is the indisputable fact that, by and large, these kind of issues work themselves out – usually before they ever even happen! If this were not the case, pre-teen boys would suddenly be begging to go along on tedious errands to places like Betty’s Yarn Barn & Rubenesque Charcoals or Pen & Ink Nudes Muffler Shop. The fact is the most effective form of censorship is self-censorship. That restrictive fact also applies to young artists like Claire – some are emboldened by this kind of scrutiny, some are flattened by it. My wife and I have a responsibility to help Claire see and understand what is happening now and why. I thought you might enjoy an insider’s view of what we will tell her.

    1. As a self-check for the relevancy or validity of the “appropriateness issue” raised here, I will remind my daughter that any piece of art imaginable has the capacity to offend someone, somewhere.
    2. I will do my best to, once again, show that Art is a pursuit of beauty and truth and that, without art, we are not remotely human – and that includes challenging and honest art. Art helps us see things anew and to “see” in a way no other technology or process allows – viewing life through the eyes of another.
    3. I will remind her that great artists, poets, writers and theologians have agreed, throughout the ages, that the human body … the human form is the most beautiful thing in all of creation. As such, it sets our aesthetic (artistic) values. It is Art’s enduring focus and capturing it is critical to an artist’s development. The viewing of such natural beauty by most anyone, including a parent and their boy, can be a shared moment discussing the stunning simplicity of this form we share. This is not a Supermodel; there is no Photoshop involved. In today’s world – this raw and honest depiction is “truth.” As an aside, I’d confirm the absurdity in thinking that the human form, in its natural state, can ever be considered indecent or inappropriate. I will make a wish that someday all Americans will travel the world and see how other nations and cultures treat and display and honor the human form.
    4. As a thought exercise in this time of diminishing civil rights, I will ask her if she believes the public needs protection from artists or, if artists need protection from the public?
    5. Reminding Claire that her work is real Art hanging at Sweet Frog. I’d follow by wondering aloud how many suggestive and/or explicit images replete with messages unfit for children AND adults that particular parent and boy encountered on their way to get yogurt (and never once thought to complain about)?
    6. I will explain how “children” are regularly held up as a class of vulnerable victims (“beards”) requiring special protective measures from dubious threats when, too often, it’s the adults behind them who are seeking some exemption from reality.
    7. I will tell my daughter, Claire, that she should feel very proud that her work (what she would call a quick, simple nude study and “not a very good one, at that!”) has enough honesty and beauty to move people one way or another.
    8. With all this rubbish out of the way, my wife and I will tell our daughter just how much we love her and how she can count on our support forever and always (all the time squeezing her until she yields and allows us both to hug her like she’s three years old again). She is one of our three “art projects” and I’m proud to say they all display truth and beauty!

  50. Love the response!! ..and Claire…. EVERYONE thinks your work is great!! No one questioned that even a little bit!! It shows real talent!

  51. Dawn Collins

    You are the best daddy ( and mama) ever! It’s a lovely piece, your child is a gifted artist and whoever was offended really needs to catch a ( cultured) clue. I sure hope their kids don’t leave the home, watch tv, look at magazines or shop. They would be horrified!!!

  52. Colin Walker

    The nude is am important art form and therefore the farthest from inappropriate. (Not to even delve into the debate of whether children should have body or shame issues around nudity which I personally don’t think they should ) Any exposure to art at any age is a good thing IMHO.