My home's art has themes of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll: is that okay if I have a child?

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Objectionable art: My home's art has themes of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll: is that okay if I have a child?
Vintage vinyl silkscreen by FunkyPopCorn
I love the artwork in my home, and I've never given a second thought to the themes of sex, drugs, and rock and roll in my collection until having a child. Now that my husband and I have welcomed a little one into the world, I give more pause to the content of our collection and future art purchases.

Will the large print of Brigitte Bardot with a cigarette carelessly dangling from her mouth make my son more likely to take up smoking? Could the Mcbess drawings of scantily-clad ladies lead him to objectify women? I know the answer to these questions are, probably not, but I still wonder if the artwork we surround ourselves with could have an influence on an impressionable mind. Although censorship seems inappropriate, should content be more carefully considered when bringing new art into the home? Or can the content of each piece become a conversation and a teachable moment when age appropriate? – M

I vaguely recall the artwork growing up in my house: 1970s and '80s-era landscapes, weird paintings of children holding candles, giant ships, some words on canvas in there somewhere, maybe even some velvet?! I remember them, but I can barely recall thinking about them more than once or twice. Once you grow up in an environment, you become immune to what's around for the most part. This makes me think that your worries are probably not anything to fret too much about considering how your little one probably won't even take much of it in ultimately.

But you're absolutely right that everything can become a teachable moment. Bringing up the history of smoking and how much it's changed in the past decades could be great. Scantily-clad ladies can prompt a discussion about healthy sexuality and body image. Unless there's really objectionable, hateful, or divisive propagandist art in your house, you can pretty much spin most things into a lesson about something.

For future purposes, you can always keep these lessons in mind and start to surround yourself with a mix of images that will prompt discussions. But for questionable art that's already there, it sounds to me like your kiddo will be just fine with you as a mentor in future art appreciation.

Readers: what do YOU say about wilder or more controversial art in a child's home?

  1. For your own child, absolutely teachable moments. Scantily clad women (in art or real life) aren't causing their own objectification… the fact that you're concerned about the messaging in art tells me that you'll teach your child to see women as fellow human beings, regardless of what they're wearing. As far as smoking, now that we know better, we do better… but if your kid will have any knowledge about music and entertainment history, then smoking is going to come up. The only issue that I might be concerned about is when you might want to host playdates, birthday parties, etc, your art could be off-putting to some parents who aren't as open and do believe in censorship. It is your home, so you aren't obligated to fit other people's standards…but it is up to you whether edgy artwork or being socially agreeable is a bigger priority (said with no judgement whatsoever; I just think it's a personal decision that may evolve over time).

    13 agree
  2. My art at home includes a poster for a queer event 20 years ago in Seattle called GENDER FUCKED (the imagery is two women in prom dresses, one with a shaved head), and another one about male body image that has 10 naked men standing in a row like Venus in little clam shells. Then there's the portrait of RuPaul, and the huge fabric banner that reads WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE. Then I've got a weird rainbow bunny sitting at a desk and writing. Lots of interesting conversations to be had with my 8 year old and his friends about all these pieces of art.

    When my artist friend who made the GENDER FUCKED poster brought it over for me, I was like "Ug, what if my son's friends moms come over and look at this and are horrified and like 'OH!!!'?" And my friend, was like, "What if your son's friends moms come over and look at this and then wink at you and are all, 'ohhhHHHhhh…'" and I laughed and got over it.

    For what it's worth, kids don't seem to care about the naked art, but they all want to talk about the WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE art. My son's explanation to his friends? "I mean, it's just a fun fact." Then I listened to them talk about all the different ways you could die. #art

    18 agree
  3. The most prominent art in my childhood home were drawings that my grandfather had done in a life drawing class of nude women, and they never seemed odd or uncomfortable to me.

    1 agrees
    • My grandpa was a painter. There are nude paintings of my grandma all over her house.

      It's awesome.

      3 agree
  4. i am waaay more worried about the iron maiden posters all over town, made up like stained glass church windows, but showing, of course, satan and his homeboys. my kids are scared of these. scared to a point where it´s really not funny anymore. and don´t get me started on that new netflix show with the naked people with gas masks in meat-like packages.
    now, brigitte bardot, nevermind.

    it's like ariel says above, all about the conversation you´ll be having with the kid, and probably a couple of awkward moment once puberty hits (for the kids´friends, hilarious to anyone else..)

  5. I'm waiting for that conversation with my kids. Yes kids that is a mostly naked mama taken under blacklight with her body painted. It's an art project mama and daddy worked on together and most of the time I was the only model we had. Although we have a few with other people in them as well.

    1 agrees
  6. As a 2-year old I once brought a calendar with a painting of several nude women in the grass to my mother and said, "Now THIS is art!" so…your child(ren) will likely either ignore or appreciate the art.
    That said, my parents changed the art they displayed in our home when my dad became a pastor in a small town, as parishioners (and the parents of my friends and my brother's friends) would definitely have gossiped relentlessly about the giant painting of Brahma. And one of my brother's friends insisted that we had a "naughty" statue in our house – a small bust of a Cameroonian woman that included her bare breasts.
    As Lana said above, think about how the new people who come into your life and home because of the child will react and how you might react to their reactions. If you anticipate a lot of pearl-clutching and don't want to deal with it, maybe host birthday parties outside your home.

    2 agree

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