Artists asked to cover forest statues’ naked butts

·3 min read

A Kootenay artists’ group won’t put pants on some statues they installed on a forest path near Kaslo.

The artists turned down a request from a woman who thought the depiction of children with no pants on might ‘normalize’ pedophilia.

“Nudity does not usually bother me,” Zita Lay wrote recently to the Koots Collective, cc’ing a copy to the Village of Kaslo. “As a mother, I get it’s normal for many preschoolers to run around peeling clothes off or refusing to put clothes on at all. However, the sculpture of the small child, nude, alone with an adult in the woods, was disconcerting for me.”

Lay hasn’t seen the statues themselves, just photos and a news article of the installation, which features whimsical human-like creatures playing ‘Hide and Seek’ in the forest along the Kaslo River Trail. One of the group installations depicts an adult ready to catch a child about to fall. The child has no pants on.

“Given all that I have learned about child sexual abuse and how it happens, the naked child, alone with the adult, normalizes risky and concerning behaviour,” she wrote, noting one-in-ten Canadians reported having been sexually abused as a child.

She says she recognizes the artwork as a great contribution to the community, but says it should be changed.

“I request the two sculptures showing children’s bottoms be modified to have their private parts covered,” the Saanich-area woman wrote to the artists. “Please think about the safety of all the children who may view this work.”

Koots Collective member Yvonne Boyd responded to the request. She began by noting the creatures are not human, have no distinguishable sex and are in no way engaging in a sexual activity.

“Our intent is that they represent what is healthy in an adult child relationship, that of an elder caring for the youth in their care, we intentionally did not make a female caretaker as we felt we did not wish to stereotype caregiving, they, were of round body and not intended to be male or female,” Boyd wrote back.

“…We are representing what should be the norm, that elders care for youth, and that sex has nothing to do with it, only safety and playfulness.”

She also notes the children were designed to be wearing diapers and onesies, and the adult is clothed in pants.

“Nor are they alone with an elder but all together with each other, we are representing what should be the norm, that elders care for youth, and that sex has nothing to do with it, only safety and playfulness,” Boyd added. “Please note that the elder’s elbow is up to prevent the little one from falling, rather than a potentially inappropriate hand on its bottom.

“It is a sad truth that not all people take the care of children that they should, and do them harm instead, we want to portray what should be.”

Even if they wanted to add pants to the statue, they couldn’t, says Boyd, as no retro-fitted additions would meld properly with the completed statues. She also noted the statues are meant to naturally grow lichen and moss as they age into the landscape – so eventually everyone will be ‘clothed.’

“We hope that the children viewing this work, and now you as well, see illustrated in our sculptures what an elder’s proper relationship to a child should be, one of trustworthiness, caring and support,” she said.

Village council received the correspondence exchange without comment.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice