Art Teacher Rips Penis Off Student Sculpture

Tommaso Masaccio (15thC)

Tommaso Masaccio (15thC)

A student’s sculpture project at South Kingstown High School was mutilated by her art teacher even before it was completed. The reason was that the anatomically correct figure sported a penis. Apparently penises could be viewed by students when they are studying art, but not reproduced in their own art work. While requiring student sculpture to be true to the human form, the school apparently finds some parts of that human form undesirable and better left out. The sculpture showed a man in a crawling pose, completely naked. Instead of a head, however, the sculptured featured a television on top of the man’s neck. The student found out what had happened to her sculpture when she returned from a week-long leave of absence and discivered her project “on its side. One finger had been broken off, the head had fallen off, and the penis had been torn off.”

While we recognize that school administrators have the authority to limit student expression when it could lead to a disruption of the educational process, it is well established that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”  Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). While a few freshmen snickers could greet the work initially, that could be no more a reason to destroy a student’s artwork than to remove Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling from the humanities curriculum.

The action of the teacher, which is supported by the school administration, is not only constitutionally suspect, but also educationally unsound.  In the 20th century, art historian Kenneth Clark has noted, the nude “remains our chief link with the classic disciplines.”  The beauty of the human body has inspired painters, photographers, sculptors, and choreographers for many centuries.

Not only have nudes been a central subject of art from ancient times, but figure drawing and sculpting is a staple of art education.  Trying to teach art while excluding the human body is hardly possible. The only thing a ban on modeling nudes would protect students from is a good arts education. And putting a chill on the expression of budding artists goes against the principles of an education whose goal is to produce the responsible, free and creative citizens of a democratic society.

Greek Satyr - 2500 years old sculpture

Greek Satyr - 2500 years old sculpture


About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Art Teacher Rips Penis Off Student Sculpture

  1. Karen Schneider says:

    Svetlana, there are projects at this high school in which nudity is okay. However, this project had different guidelines. Why do you believe that it is art with the penis, but not art without it. (This was not a “do-what-you-want” piece, but a SCHOOL assignment, with guidelines and rubrics.)

    And Svetlana, how would you attempt to stop those (immature) students that want to add a 3-foot long penis to a female statue only to impress their classmates. Such students do not intend to create art, but rather something to amuse their friends. If, by means of a response, you state that all students should be allowed to do what they want, within a year that school’s display cases would be filled with pornography. Social Studies reports would be filled with racist statements, and students would wander the halls toting nazi symbols and pictures of naked women on their tee shirts. Do you believe that such things would assist schools in creating a safe and supportive environment?

  2. ncacblog says:


    My understanding is that this project was to be a paper mache sculpture. Correct me if I am wrong. Apparently the sculpture of a man with TV head was acceptable – it is unclear how making it anatomically correct would suddenly violate any guidelines based on the artistic skills to be developed. In fact, a penis is a body part that presents higher technical difficulties of representation than any others.

    And if a student wanted to create a sculpture with a 3-foot penis they would be part of the oldest tradition of art – the creation of fertility symbols. Art is frequently created to provoke and amuse ones peers and approach issues that concern them. Why shouldn’t it amuse? Art is fun, play, not only hard work – it is supposed to bring joy and pleasure, as well as convey ideas.

    Your opinion of students is really really low if you believe all they would create if given creative freedom is porn and expressionf of racial and religious hatred. My impression of young people differs – I find most of them thoughtful and occasionally more mature than their elders. Even if your experience with some teens is different, treating them all as sex-obsessed racists and anti-semites does not appear to be a positive approach. Even is some teens had racist feelings the solution would not be to push such sentiments underground but to bring them out in the open where they can be discussed, understood and possible changed.

    As for nudidy – let’s not damage young people by teaching them to be ashamed of their own developing bodies and a their very natural adolescent interest in sexual difference.

  3. smithcommamamma says:

    No one is has damaged any kids’ mind by requiring them to show a little class when creating “art.” The schools must have guidlines and rules and need to allowed to draw the line.

    The student was clearly trying to get away with something in the name of art. The project should not have been destroyed however, but mearly clothed. Any art teacher or student with the least bit of creativity could have managed that.
    My daughter is very talented and was allowed to sculpt a penis in ceramics. Read my story at What a waste of valuable time. She should have been filling out scholarship applications and adding pictures of real art.
    I would much rather have something I can display in my home even when I have grandchildren. Neither my husband or any of my three sons are ashamed of their bodies and they grew up without penis art sitting on the coffee table. None of them are ashamed of their penis and actually utilize said penis quit well. Women come up with that psychological crap in order to lead men around their balls. That causes real damage!

  4. lenyara khayasedinova says:

    Oh, kick-ass statuettesssss! Ohhhh… Ohh…Ohhh…I want to have exactly the statue in my living room. Specifically to all excited!!!

  5. andre says:

    Ms Schneider!

    What have Nazi symbols to do with Jewish teacher’s (I assume she is Jewish – she is extremely prudish and her surname looks Jewish : Loretta Jeremiach) act of ripping the penis of student’s artwork? Could it be another excuse to pour out grievances over one of many many wars and many tragedies that happened in the past? You lack reason, I’m concerned about your intelectual state, you have confused this issue completely with other issues, nothing connects one thing to the other, I suggest you seek advice on how to construct a noteworthy argument before you start one, and before you blindly push your agenda either driven by some unexplained solidarity with a Jewish teacher or Jewish mentality, that seems to be venture beyong what is natural (no suprises there). Also, before you start to cry of anti-semitism, better stop because only some Israeli Jews are semites, and Jewish person is not ethnically unique, for there are Ethiopian Jews, Ashkenazhi Jews (Khazars and Slavs) and Israeli Jews and I’m sure there would be some Palestinian Jews too, all ethinically diverse, some semites , some not. The teacher who mutilated the statue should be expelled, this is not a normal behaviour, she is imposing her conservative views and exercises these in a very radical, aggressive manner, a teacher is suppose to be open minded and capable of reasoning and some kind of subtleness, Ms. Jeremiach lacks all of these characteristics it seems. Jews and Muslims are taught that human body is dirty and shameful, Jewish teachers living in United States of America should keep their views to themselves.

  6. Pingback: moreystudio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s