When Utah elementary school art teacher Mateo Rueda had his fifth and sixth-grade students embark on a color study exercise, they went to the school library to sift through art books and postcards looking for paintings that best represented the subject they were studying. That’s when his students stumbled on some images of classical painting that contained *gasp* nudity.
“I was surprised about those images being there,” Rueda told Salt Lake City’s Fox 13, adding that the images were at the school long before he was there. Nevertheless, he took away the images that contained nudity from the students’ selections while explaining that nudity in art is normal.
“I explained to the whole class that art can sometimes show images that are not always comfortable to all, that art is better understood when placed in its proper context, that the human body is often portrayed in art, and that the images in the school collection are icons of art history and a patrimony of humanity,” he wrote in a message to a parent that was shared on Facebook.
Regardless, some parents complained to the school, which fired Rueda on December 8, just four days after the class project.
The paintings that caused the uproar were Iris Tree by Amedeo Modigliani, Francois Boucher’s Brown Odalisque, and The Valpincon Bather by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
Utah elementary school art teacher Mateo Rueda was fired when his students stumbled across these classical paintings that contained nudity (Francois Boucher's "Brown Odalisque," "Iris Tree" by Amedeo Modigliani, and The Valpincon Bather by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres). pic.twitter.com/sRbFR05OWe
— Sky Palma (@DeadStateTweets) December 31, 2017
From Fox 13:
The Cache County Sheriff’s Office told Fox 13 they looked into the case after someone filed a report. Sheriff Chad Jensen said they interviewed the complaining parent and student, as well as principal Jenifer Buist.
Sheriff Jensen said they took the post cards in question, which had been part of school property for a few years.
The county attorney decided not to file charges because they were not pornography, and Jensen said the sheriff’s office closed the case.
Rueda said he hopes he can appeal the termination decision.
“Who knows if I can be hired back,” he said.
Featured image: Michelangelo’s “Leda and the Swan”