Policy censors depiction of body

Rated+R+for+mild+nudity%3A+Senior+Khaymen+Hoelscher%E2%80%99s+art+project+of+the+human+form+will+not+be+displayed+in+the+hallways+because+of+a+school+policy+forbidding+the+presentation+of+the+topless+female+body+in+any+form.+However%2C+topless+male+artwork+can+be+in+the+hallway.+Photo+by+Asa+Lory.

Rated R for mild nudity: Senior Khaymen Hoelscher’s art project of the human form will not be displayed in the hallways because of a school policy forbidding the presentation of the topless female body in any form. However, topless male artwork can be in the hallway. Photo by Asa Lory.

Manal Salim

Rated R for mild nudity: Senior Khaymen Hoelscher’s art project of the human form will not be displayed in the hallways because of a school policy forbidding the presentation of the topless female body in any form. However, topless male artwork can be in the hallway. Photo by Asa Lory.

A topless woman extends her arms behind her head, breaking the restricting chains that bind her wrists.

Senior Khaymen Hoelscher depicted a scene of side view nudity in an artwork piece created for his Advanced Placement Art class.

However, Hoelscher did not know until after he spent six hours drawing and constructing that the art censorship policy at RBHS prevents him from displaying his art in the glass cases of the commons.

“They shouldn’t [censor art] at all. I hate it,” Hoelscher said. “Art is an expression of yourself, so why should we censor that?”

Artwork should be appropriate and conducive to the learning environment, according to the Columbia Public Schools district policy. RBHS AP Art teacher Carrie Stephenson said if a student depicts the nude figure of a woman from the waist up, RBHS regulations prevent its showcase in the halls.

“The display cases are public space within the school, and we, as teachers, have to decide if a piece could be considered controversial,” Stephenson said. “If there is a student who wishes to show more in their artwork, we deal with those ideas on an individual basis to make sure that the amount of the … body shown does have a deeper meaning and supports the concept and idea of the artwork.”

Hickman High School AP Art Department Chair Julia Grant also discusses this policy with students, teachers and parents and has both supported as well as discouraged artwork with certain imagery.

“I do not hang artwork which exposes things which would be covered by a bikini.  If a student wants to do work that does, they are welcome to in class. So they have that freedom if they want,” Grant said. “I feel very strongly that just as they have a right to do the work and express themselves in the classroom, the rest of the population [has] a right to not to be exposed to imagery they feel uncomfortable with, unless they choose to.”

Regardless of the art policy administered by RBHS and HHS, Hoelscher believes there is no harm in displaying artwork that depicts female nudity. He said the prevalence of the images of bare women outside of school far outweighs the issue of hanging naked artwork in the RBHS hallways.

“I don’t [think showing female nudity] is inappropriate. You see it all the time with famous artists, in college, in museums and you see it everywhere,” Hoelscher said. “So why should it matter in the art community at Rock Bridge?”

Although Grant agrees students often see images of unclothed people, she believes it is generally in an expected situation such as an anatomy class or a museum. However, she feels as though school should be as safe as possible, giving students control over what images enter their heads.

“If [a student is] walking through a common area and I have hung a nude image, some people may walk on by unaffected,” Grant said, “but others may be bothered by it for any number of reasons. [Students] have a … right to come to school without worrying about being exposed to that.”

Stephenson described how artists see the human body as a vessel for a means of expression and have continued to use both the female and male form throughout art history. There are no written restrictions on the use of nudity in the classroom, according to Stephenson; however, art teachers instruct students to use their best judgement and to make sure that there is a significance behind using a nude figure.

“Typically our Rock Bridge artists are very mature and we allow them to explore figurative work, including muscle structure, part of a nude figure. Thankfully, we have a wonderful administration that trusts the art department staff and our students,” Stephenson said. “We instruct our students to not show more skin than the swim team does. Everything needs to be covered, and the majority of time, if students do choose to use a semi-nude figure in their work they must show some portion of clothing.”

There are situations where the art displayed has affected students who viewed the piece. Grant explains how one of her students had been sexually assaulted, and the suggestive imagery exposed in the artwork was disturbing and upsetting to the student.

In Grant’s opinion, artists, in their quest for self-expression, may lose sight of how their work impacts their audience. All individuals who view the art have diverse backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, the art may affect every student in a different way.

“I am so protective of my kids, and I know that a lot of people have been through traumatic things or have not been exposed to certain things,” Grant said. “I do not want to be the one who triggers a negative feeling in someone because another student felt that their personal ‘self-expression’ should be hung in public.”
By Manal Salim