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Paintings of a Nude Two-Year-Old: Kiddie Porn or Art?

sarah-hatton-bareArtist Sarah Hatton has an upcoming painting exhibit in Vancouver that is causing a stir. Entitled “Bare”, it includes nine paintings of a naked toddler who is modeled on Hatton’s two-year-old daughter.

Is it a sign of our depraved times that paintings of a naked toddler are met with such vociferous debate? Or are we just being realistic about the potential problems with any depictions of naked children, however innocently they’re intended?

As the image to the left makes clear, these life study portraits are not intentionally erotic in the least. As Hatton puts it, the exhibit is “an innocent observation of what I see every day as a mother.”

But, as Peter Simpson of The Ottowa Citizen points out, we live in in an age “when an innocent image can be infinitely circulated without the permission or control of the artist.” Still, does this mean we have to become puritanical about the limits of artistic expression?

Part of me wishes we could simply end this debate over what’s “appropriate” when it comes to the nudity of a child as young as two. It makes me uncomfortable even to read Simpson’s description of the photos as including “exposed nipples or buttocks.” When a two-year-old is naked, she is not “exposing” anything; she is simply being a kid. There will always be sick people who see these innocent images differently, but if all art stayed within the narrow confines of the unquestionably appropriate, we would live in a very sterile, dull world.

On the other hand, how would you feel if it was your toddler in these paintings?

Image: the peacearch.com

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