As art teachers, we have all experienced it, a phallic drawing or a curiously shaped clay structure. With the students usually oblivious to the suggested representation of the erect male member, we ignore it but often, we do not display it. Why? To protect ourselves? To protect our students? This post is to question decisions about how we, as teachers, deal with such sensitive issues and also how we can find humor in it all.
While teaching a lesson on how to turn mistakes into Beautiful Oops inspired Barney Saltzberg’s book, I created an Oops of my own. While demonstrated how to turn a coffee stain on a piece of paper into an image, I unintentionally drew the intimate anatomy of a marsupial. The class of 20 six-year-olds did not say a thing, they did not notice and perhaps thought it was a joey hanging out of the kangaroo’s pouch. I, however, did notice and immediately started sweating and trying to divert student’s eyes away from the joey only to depict a very large kangaroo poo and feline hit-and-run! Still, my students did not say a word and I was not met with parent e-mails or phone calls. It made me realize, that I am allowed to make Oops too and because my artwork example was not created with the intention of being a metaphorically filled phallic flop, it was okay…everything was going to be okay.
With the Kangaroo flop hanging in my art office, my teaching partner and I began collecting other Oops throughout the year created by students. We collected these images, creating a gallery to remind ourselves to laugh and to not take things too seriously.
The two images below were created during a unit that focused on turning observational drawings into motifs. After drawing seed pods, students made a print plate based on their drawings and create a textured print resembling the forest floor. These seed pods definitely resemble another type of seed pod.
Here is a photo of a student practicing with the play dough before making a clay cactus.
The picture below is a drawing of a student’s family. The family member on the end is of the student’s baby brother crying.
Nothing is wrong, or bad about art that may resemble parts of the male or female anatomy and by not displaying it, or asking students to change their artwork insinuates that there is something wrong or inappropriate. Instead, we need to reframe it and view it from the point of intention which is always to make art. So whether is a precarious scene from down under to an unsuspecting seed pod, it is art representing the innocence of a child and the way in which art can morph with the mind that views it.