Thursday, March 16, 2006

Letter to Middletown School Board

in response to what was seen on Mr. Campello's page about a week ago, I penned this letter to the Middletown, NY school board. Their actions upset me to no end.

To Whom It May Concern:

I was quite disturbed recently to learn that a highly gifted and well-qualified educator of the arts, Peter Panse, was suspended by your administration for suggesting to his talented and zealous student – eager to pursue their education in the arts – that they should take a figure drawing class.

As an art student, beginning at the age of fifteen, I regularly attended life-drawing classes at the local art museum in Davenport, Iowa. Students under the age of eighteen were not allowed to attend the class without guardian consent. These classes were paramount in the foundation of my arts education, freeing up my drawing hand in terms of gesture, line quality, and observation. Additionally, the classes called attention to issues in proportion and scale, weight, balance, and human anatomy and physiology.

Without the opportunity to take these classes I might not have become as skilled or as interested in the arts as I am today. This is for several reasons. First, the pose of the model dictates an element of time. A pose can only be held for so long before a model might tire or collapse. With this in mind, a discipline of speed is instilled within the artist to capture the essence of the pose. The same sense of speed may not be learned as easily by drawing a still life (of vessels and shoes, for example), because a still life possesses only a static nature. Secondly, a variety of poses, and therefore drawings, can be accomplished quickly in a set period of several minutes or hours. The same might not be as true, using the example of the still life, because of the limitations involved with set-up of a still life or the availability of materials. Most importantly, what a figure drawing class offers is a mixed environment of student, emerging, and mid-career artists collaborating in an educational atmosphere, exchanging ideas and styles.

To believe that this is a sexual atmosphere is ignorant at best. The arena for figure drawing becomes a sterile laboratory, with the model as a subject. The discipline is the drawing of form, not the oogling of reproductive and excretory regions of the anatomy. To even think, for a moment, that figure drawing would even stray from such disciple is as shameful as reprimanding an instructor for simply recommending and encouraging that his students exercise their artistic skills by seeking out and participating within such a sterile and collaborative environment. And if it is the “exposed” anatomy that concerns you, to draw a parallel just as ludicrous, would you suspend your biology instructors, who cover sections on anatomy and reproduction, for using the words penis and vagina because they may be misconstrued as suggestive and indecent?

The action to suspend Mr. Panse is offensive to intellect and choice. It is offensive to an academic environment that holds, above all other things, the opportunity for students to excel. I urge you to reconsider this action.

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