April 12, 2012

On Art, Earthworms, and [naked] Sculptures.

My mom made it her personal mission to culturally educate her children during summer breaks from school.

This included piling my brother, sister, and I into the car [minivan] for weekly (if not more often) trips to the public library. We'd gather stacks of sticky children's books in our arms (though I had a propensity for choosing foreign cookbooks), and quickly scribble entries on our reading club worksheets in hopes of earning prizes we never actually saw.

She'd take us to workshops and classes offered at the local community college on topics covering everything from earthworm technology to mastermind chess techniques (cough, Janey).

My parents' love of culture, history, and art saturated our family vacations. No matter what city we visited, they were sure to take us to three places: the libraries, the museums, and the cemeteries. (The cemetery thing deriving from my Dad's fascination with genealogy.)

We spent one afternoon during a visit to southern California perusing the library of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. (Don't worry, they also took us to Disneyland. We weren't neglected.) Of course, this adventure was during the dawn of the Internet, and I'm pretty sure I spent most of the day printing off black and white pictures of Winnie the Pooh.

One trip to the Portland Art Museum promising the wonder of ancient Egyptian creativity surprised us with statues and sculptures of naked people. Our innocent faces showed how mortified we were as we realized our mother had taken us to Satan's playground

My siblings and I looked at her with the same look we'd shoot her when we would hear the word "ass" uttered in a movie. The one that says, "Mom, we know that is bad. How could you let us be exposed to such filth?!?"

But on this day at the art museum my mom didn't reply how we expected. It wasn't the usual, "Sorry kids, that is, in fact, a bad word. We don't use that word." This time, when there were real life-sized naked people, with penises and hairy parts, and breasts, she didn't apologize.

She simply said, "It's ok, kids. It's art." 

At the time, I was sure I'd be traumatized forever, but my mom's frank comment nestled somewhere deep in the crevasses of my being.
It's ok.
It's art.
And I slowly realized what she was really saying: the human body isn't bad. (Totally contradicting the message "Christian culture" had been bombarding my generation with since we were in elementary school.)

On the contrary, the human body is beautiful and created by God, and it isn't something we have to be afraid to acknowledge. It wasn't only the sculptures that deserved the distinction of being called "art." WE ARE ART. The creative Creator created the creation. Creating humanity was the epitome of that creative act.

I hope someday I find myself similarly traumatizing my children, the way good mothers do. 
We'll play with earthworms to learn about composting,
and spend long days wandering through libraries and cemeteries,
and one of these days we might even stumble upon some "scandalous" art that will make them wonder what their crazy mother was thinking.

Linked up with Sarah Bessey for International Women's Day.


  1. This is such a wonderful story. And such a true moral!

  2. Wow, Kelly! I love this article, especially the end part about traumatizing your children as good mothers do! You are an expressive and creative writer! I loved reading this piece!

    1. Thanks, Kristin! I hope it met your fabulous English teacher expectations! :)

  3. Ditto what Kasia and Kristin said!

    1. Thanks, ma! And thanks for traumatizing me! ;) Love ya!

  4. I love the reminiscence of this piece. Isn't funny how our parents' methods and intentional moments slowly seep into our souls? We may Immediately recognize they are significant, but it may take years to appreciate their actions to the fullest extent :-) thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Rachel! That means a lot coming from my fellow writer :)

  5. "The creative Creator created the creation." My roommates & I love this sentence! We may quote it!