Butts and Privates in Art, or, the Joy of Visiting a Museum With My Child

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Over the weekend, I took my six year old daughter to the Museum of Fine Art. She wanted to go on a mother/daughter outing and who was I to argue when she suggested one of my happy places.

I allowed her to lead me through the galleries. She pulled me along at just under breakneck speed, and I surrendered to the experience of viewing the museum from her perspective.

Paintings and photographs swirled past us, everything melding into a sort of impressionistic blur.

Every once in a while she would stop to admire something.  A portrait of a baby.  A painting of a sunset.  A sculpture of a dog.

We found ourselves in a replica of a 14th century chapel. My child stopped short and gasped at the enormous cross on the wall, and the strange sensation of being in a small room of its own within the giant museum.

We are not religious people and my kids have almost never been to church. But my daughter has a weird fascination with Jesus, maybe because he’s like a celebrity baby and she loves babies. Anyway, there was a serene and sacred vibe in the chapel. We whispered to one another to look at this and look at that.

There were some relics in a glass case. My daughter pointed to a small statue of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. “Look Mama!”

It was indeed a sweet little artifact and we spent a moment admiring the tenderness of the mother and child bond.  I snapped a pic with my phone at Emily’s command.  As we wandered through the rest of that particular gallery, I noticed several portraits of the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus.  I pointed these out to Emily who found them charming.  She also enjoyed the bare butts.  In one, Jesus was full frontal and she gasped, “OMG Mama, I just saw the private!”

“Yes, Dear,” I said indulgently.  “There are a lot of butts and privates in art. It’s sort of a thing.” So for the rest of our visit, she pointed and laughed at butts and privates.  I felt like I had sort of done my part at educating her on art, reinforcing the normalcy of breastfeeding in everyday culture, and joyfully normalizing all different body types (including their privates) without any shame.

Either that or I was totally irreverent and set a really bad example.

Could go either way I suppose.

As we got into the car to drive home, I asked Em if she had a good day.  “Oh Mama, it was the best day ever,” she replied.  I was somewhat surprised that our little jaunt to an art museum was her best day ever, but that’s cool.

I asked her what she had learned about art.  “I learned that there are lots of butts and privates in art,” she stated.  Gotta hand it to my kid, she pays attention.  I guess our next lesson will be about the reasons behind all the nudity in art (pun intended).

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3 responses »

  1. Love it. What an awesome day you had together. That is a lovely sculpture, but I have to say…I breastfed for a long time, and in my experience that particular method of breastfeeding looks physically improbable. 🙂

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