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Larry Rivers' Archives
July 8, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

When "Proto-Pop" artist Larry Rivers' died in 2002, he left behind extensive archives of his letters, paperwork, photographs and film documenting the New York artistic and literary scene from the 1940s through the 1980s. They chronicle his friendships and relationships with dozens of artists, musicians and writers, from Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol to Frank O’Hara. Also included: films and videos of his two adolescent daughters, naked or topless, being interviewed by their father about their developing breasts. Now, one daughter, who says she was pressured to participate beginning when she was 11, is demanding that material be removed from the archive and returned to her and her sister.

Per the NYTimes article, the archives have been purchased from the Larry Rivers Foundation by New York University for their an undisclosed amount. They may eventually intend to exhibit the work.

Salon.com: Child porn or Coming-of-Age film?

More on Larry Rivers:

Obit: Barbara Rose on Larry Rivers. She describes him as "...the hostile, affectionate, generous, stingy, gregarious, insecure, serious, superficial, all-American mutt who managed to offend most deeply those he loved the most."

View his work online: (Some works may be NSFW. To the best of my knowledge, there are no depictions of child pornography at these links.)
* The Larry Rivers Foundation
* Flickr
* Smithsonian American Art Museum
* Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
* Museum of Fine Arts: Boston
* The Parrish Art Museum
* MOMA
* Metropolitan Museum of Art
* The Seavest Collection of Contemporary Realism: 1, 2
* "I Like Olympia in Black Face" 1970 / Centre Pompidou, Paris

YouTube Videos:
Interview: Inside New York's Art World: Larry Rivers, 1978
Archived film: Nobody Home
Interview clip: Speaking about his son, Sam
posted by zarq (74 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the NYTimes article:
Ms. Tamburlini said her father filmed his daughters every six months over at least five years for a body of work he titled “Growing.” If she objected, she said, she was called uptight and a bad daughter. When she confronted her father as a teenager about the films, she said he told her “my intellectual development had been arrested.”

In 1981 Rivers edited the footage into a 45-minute film that he planned to show as part of an exhibition. The girls’ mother, Clarice Rivers, who also appears in parts of the film, intervened and stopped him.

posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on July 8, 2010


If he did not film it to get sexual gratification, or to give others sexual gratification, it wasn't necessarily child porn. However, if the minors felt violated in any way, it's still something that should be looked at as indecency with a minor.
posted by Malice at 8:17 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


The close ups of genitals, and the questions about sexual development suggest a boundary crossing where other behaviors would not surprise me.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


His children aren't his personal property or an inanimate artists' tool to make art like a tube of paint or a brush. They are people with feelings, and don't deserve to be put on display or used as part of a project against their wishes.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:31 AM on July 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


From the NYT article:
In Rivers’s case the material seems more overtly sexual, including close-up shots of one daughter’s genitals and detailed commentary by Mr. Rivers on the girls’ changing bodies.
It also mentions his daughters' continued objections; in Rivers' own words, "they kept sort of complaining.” People don't own their kids, and he had no right to do this. I'd dig him up to kick his ass if I knew where he was buried and owned a shovel.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:34 AM on July 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


"Rivers cast himself as something of a wild man, and in his 1992 autobiography, “What Did I Do?,” he chronicled, among other things, his heroin use, his effort to sleep with his mother-in-law and numerous affairs, including one, when he was in his 40s, with a 15-year-old girl. In describing his own early experiences, he wrote that his father tried to molest the first girlfriend he brought home and said that an 11-year-old boy in his neighborhood forced him to perform a sex act when he was 6. "

this gives me cause to question his motivation and intent in filming his daughters....
The film needs to be given to them, they have a right to do what they wish with it.
posted by HuronBob at 8:37 AM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


If the mother is still alive, should she be held accountable as well?
posted by Malice at 8:40 AM on July 8, 2010


Even if it's not child porn (I don't know what those boundaries are, legally), it sure sounds like something where the girls were coerced and violated, and they should be able to get some degree of control over those images.
posted by Forktine at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Larry Rivers, according to my aunt who knew him fairly well through the 50s and 60s, when she was another member of the White Horse Tavern / Chelsea Hotel artists and general wild ones, was a complete and utter creep. Having read his autobiography, I'd concur, although hey, the part where he fucked his parents' living room furniture was hilarious. That said, many good painters - and he was one - are not such good human beings and you have to separate the artist from the art.

This is a really murky area. How did all his stuff end up in the foundation in the first place instead of going to the family when he died? What are the terms of the collection? Who set them up? Ordinarily it's a painters' heirs who decide what goes into the archives and what is quietly, discreetly destroyed but apparently they were never given a chance to do that? As a human being, I can completely see why she would want the films destroyed. As a long time museum worker, I can also see why allowing an artists' heirs the right to pick through the archives would set a bad precedent.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


If the mother is still alive, should she be held accountable as well?

Their mother is still alive. The NYT article includes a quote from her:
Clarice Rivers said in an interview that she supports her daughter’s effort to get the film back, though she describes it more benignly as a document of the girls’ development.

“What Larry said was that it would belong to them, as a record that when they got older they could look back at,” she said. “It wasn’t a huge thing. It’s become huge, because they can’t get back what was given to them.”

Ms. Tamburlini, though, said she has spent several years in therapy trying to deal with the effect of her father’s behavior.

“I don’t want it out there in the world,” she said. “It just makes it worse.”
Personally, I think that whether his grown children now choose to hold their mother accountable for her participation is their business.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


mygothlaundry, I don't think it's about heirs, but about personal rights--if he had created movies based on, say, peeping through the windows of a neighbor, who was now demanding it not be released, it would be much the same.

He disregarded his children's rights not to be displayed or used in this manner. They're not his property, then or now, and if their "no" was disregarded then, we should regard it now. There are no claims of art that supersede their rights to their own persons.
posted by emjaybee at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


I like this post a lot, thanks for it. It sort of delves into the whole weird thing of art/fashion scenes, avant garde-ism, and '60s "freeness" we can now cynically and two-steps-away analyze for its cloaked insidious sexism and machismo and whole Neal Cassady-ish "what'sa matter baby, you don't wanna sleep with everybody? Aw, you're just uptight and bourgeois, get enlightened!" and how that isn't very enlightening at all. It reminds me of the revelation so many young feminists who want to kick ass when they get to college realize, crestfallen--Sensitive Well-Read "Enlightened" Boy Actually Ain't So Enlightened. I wish I could find an essay or two describing this; I know I've read 'em--it's even more dangerous or unnerving sometimes than a straight-up easy to spot misogynist because it's dressed in new sheep's clothing and you get played and manipulated more easily. There was one that was all "be careful, feminist girl, sensitive boy will break your heart..." or something. G'ah, can't find it. And yeah, I guess that's a tangent over, sorry. But it feels related somehow.
posted by ifjuly at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


It sort of delves into the whole weird thing of art/fashion scenes, avant garde-ism, and '60s "freeness" we can now cynically and two-steps-away analyze for its cloaked insidious sexism and machismo and whole Neal Cassady-ish "what'sa matter baby, you don't wanna sleep with everybody? Aw, you're just uptight and bourgeois, get enlightened!" and how that isn't very enlightening at all.

You mean the sexual revolution? The problem with all revolutions is in the name. It's a spinning motion. You never really get away from where you were. Just some accelerated motion which, combined with the inevitable dizziness, leads to the illusion of having moved somewhere different.

Meaningful change takes a long time and it's kinda boring.
posted by philip-random at 9:09 AM on July 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


Reader comment on the Salon.com article:
The filming was child abuse...

...even if the end result is art.

Rivers' daughters were old enough to communicate that they did not want their naked bodies examined and filmed by their father. He somehow (through coercion, shaming, threatening...we don't know how) did it anyway. That is child abuse. When a child's body is used by an adult, for the adult's benefit, in a way that causes the child emotional upset and/or in a way the child does not or cannot consent to, that is abuse. The result of the child abuse may have artistic value, but I am not sure how anyone who knows what Rivers' daughter has said could watch this and not be, at some very abstract level, complicit in child abuse.

There is a huge distinction between the three year old in the bathtub who happily smiles for the camera and will have no unhappy memories resulting (and may someday even be amused by how chubby and ridiculous her toddler self was), and the preadolescent child being forced to show her nudity for for the sake of her father's "art," who is taught that saying "no" means nothing and that her body is not her own.
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


It reminds me of the revelation so many young feminists who want to kick ass when they get to college realize, crestfallen--Sensitive Well-Read "Enlightened" Boy Actually Ain't So Enlightened.

Yeah, and then there's the flip side, my generation of men, raised by feminist mothers to be sensitive to feminist issues, and then getting to college and discovering those Sensitive Well-Read "Enlightened" Girls Actually Ain't So Enlightened. Like my crazy friend with a PhD ABD in sociology, mentored by radical lesbian feminists, who only goes out with "bad boy" idiots and generally acts in her relationships like a quite unenlightened Barbie. Or to put it another way, my best friend in high school and first of my friends to get married said, "We were raised by feminists, how come the only women we meet just want to be barefoot and pregnant?" Sheesh.

Well anyway, on the Rivers film subject, I have mixed feelings. Far be it for me to defend alleged child porn, but the film as described may have artistic merit. There are exceptions in the pornography laws that exempt films with artistic or scholarly intent, and it is fairly clear that Rivers had that intention (mostly). But surely those exceptions do not apply to child porn. On the other hand, people tend to get totally hyper about this subject. I mean, people have been prosecuted for taking their child's bathtub pix to WalMart. My ex-girlfriend made a film back in the sixties that she has totally buried for fear of being prosecuted for child porn, as it has a scene where an underage teenage girl wears a sheer dress that accidentally becomes transparent due to the angle of the sun. The scene is pretty innocent overall, but does have some adolescent sexual overtones, so she can never ever show the film again.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:52 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


The films may indeed have enough artistic merit to overcome the child porn definition, but they also sound like documentation of systematic child abuse.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:55 AM on July 8, 2010


having lived with an artist whose works have been described at different points as either about terrorism, nihilism, porn and even violence against women, i can see how the guy didn't see it from the perspective of invasion of privacy or even worse, child abuse. but this doesn't have as much to do with being an artiste as the USA attitudes towards parenting.

i homeschooled my kids until the oldest entered 4th grade. "parental rights" is a term that's debated A LOT within the homeschooling community. am from the camp that believe parental rights can never supercede individual rights, even if we are talking about a minor, because it toes the line of treating children as property until the are "of age".

and this is why i cringe around the fad of "mommyblogging". shit is going to hit the fan when a lot of these women's kids become "of age". am waiting for the first wave of lawsuits against parents who published TMI about their children and exploited their potty training stories for profit. imagine a whole generation of young adults who have to conten with identity management nightmares because of what their own parents have published about them.

people need to be reminded that as parents, we're here to protect these awesome beings we pushed (or somebody else pushed) out of their loins and that means putting their needs above our wants. we need remember they have a right to privacy, a right to freedom of expression, a right to freedom from servitude, heck, a right to freedom, period; and that it's our job as parents to protect that.

these girls are right to sue the estate. they had no consent on the production of those tapes and obviously their father and mother were "parental rightist" enough to treat their privacy, their innocence as part of their artistic estate.
posted by liza at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


If it were not her father, would it be okay? If some stranger or casual acquaintance wanted to shoot naked video or photos would it be okay? I'd venture to guess "no."

The father/parent does not own the child and cannot control his/her consent as a model for naked photography, whether it's for porn, science, or art. And it kills me to say it, because I think Sally Mann's work is tender, beautiful, artistic and non-exploitative.
posted by taz at 10:08 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"so she can never ever show the film again" As it should be...

An accidental (almost) nude shot of an underage girl, is still an (almost) nude shot of an underage girl... the intention of the photographer is not the issue here...
posted by HuronBob at 10:27 AM on July 8, 2010


Artistic merit is not pertinent to determining whether something is child porn; NY v. Ferber held that the Miller test (which assesses whether something is obscene in part by determining whether it has any "serious scientific, literary, artistic, or political value" does not need to be met for child porn to be banned.

In other words, if something meets the definition of child porn, it may be banned, regardless of whether it has serious artistic merit. (Moreover Ferber also noted that images of children having sex cannot have any artistic value ab initio.)

The question here is whether the material meets the definition of child porn; generally that includes children engaging in sexual activity. I don't know enough about the legal standard to know whether this qualifies.

Regardless, it's absolutely horrifying that without any kind of true consent by the daughter this type of material can enter the public domain. That to me seems like the more on-point legal issue. When can consent to be filmed/photographed in an inherently intimate and some might say exploitative way be effective? Certainly doesn't sound like it was in these circumstances, given the age, power imbalance, and documented bullying.
posted by miss tea at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


i think you guys might be looking for the harsh but human essay that Rachel Elder wrote in '04 about the Whimpster

MEET THE WHIMPSTER: THE MANIPULATIVE ASSHOLE IN SENSITIVE CLOTHING
posted by Hammond Rye at 10:36 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did you ever read Jim Carroll's lengthy description of Christmas morning at Larry's house in Forced Entries? Sounds like things were dysfunctional in that household from day 1. (The children were young and they were already divorced, so it's possible the mother was already trying to distance herself from the situation.)
posted by Melismata at 10:42 AM on July 8, 2010


As an emotional incest survivor, I can assure you: This was emotional incest.

Which doesn't automatically invalidate this as Art - or give the daughters any legal rights. But it sure makes my flesh crawl.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why this is even a conversation. The subjects of the film were too young to give consent. The films should be returned to them. Why is this even an issue?
posted by davejay at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The dean of the N.Y.U. Libraries, Carol Mandel, said in a statement that the university believes the “reasonable privacy wishes” of a child should be considered.

Wow. What a fucking noble saint Carol is! Bullshit rubber-fence mentality.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:51 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


..it sure makes my flesh crawl.

I hereby declare this film to be Rivers' greatest, most successful artwork. People don't even have to experience it firsthand to have a strong emotional reaction.

The subjects of the film were too young to give consent.

IANAL, but I believe parents have the legal right to give consent on behalf of minor children, up to a point (which this film does not seem to have deliberately crossed). Now consider the other side of this issue: what if the children had liked the film and they considered it to be a positive expression of their adolescence? Would we be having this discussion, even if the content of the film was the same?
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That said, many good painters - and he was one - are not such good human beings and you have to separate the artist from the art.

This is one of my favorite sayings. I have to say though, sometimes it's very difficult. It's a personal failing, I suppose. But if an artist has done something that I find deeply, viscerally upsetting and distasteful, then I won't be able to enjoy their work by separating the person from what they have created.
posted by zarq at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2010


From the article:

In a voice-over Rivers says that he made the film over several years in spite of “the raised eyebrows of society in general and specific friends and even my daughters — they kept sort of complaining.”

That sure doesn't sound like consent to me. No one wants to be the person who destroys or makes inaccessible important art, but as a society we are also trying to do a better job of making sure that people's consent is respected, and consent (or the lack thereof) carries a lot of weight.
posted by Forktine at 11:23 AM on July 8, 2010


Now consider the other side of this issue: what if the children had liked the film and they considered it to be a positive expression of their adolescence? Would we be having this discussion, even if the content of the film was the same?

Um, I think you are missing the point entirely. If the grown children consent to the archiving and viewing of this tape, then there is of course no problem with these activities. The fact is that the children apparently don't consent to this archiving. To maintain for display a tape of my naked body without my consent is a continual form of assault. Full stop.

Whether the tape is "pornography" seems beside the point. The tape was made without their consent (I do not think, in any state of the US, a parent can legally give consent for their minor to be assaulted). It is archived without their consent. It will be displayed without their consent.
posted by muddgirl at 11:23 AM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Now consider the other side of this issue: what if the children had liked the film and they considered it to be a positive expression of their adolescence?

It's exploitation of a minor against their expressed wishes.

Are you asking whether it would still be exploitation if they changed their minds later and decided they liked the final product? Or are you asking if it would still be exploitation if they had done it willingly?
posted by zarq at 11:39 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


How did all his stuff end up in the foundation in the first place instead of going to the family when he died?

If I recall correctly, Rivers created his foundation before his death. He probably assigned all/many of his works to the foundation at that time.

Larry Rivers ... was a complete and utter creep.

And how!

Traditionally, institutions sequester this kind of material until the parties concerned are dead. I'm a little surprised that it even made the news, though given the potentially prurient nature of the films, not that surprised, I guess.

If I were NYU, I'd try to come to an agreement with the heirs to keep the films but to seal them for say, 100 years.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:46 AM on July 8, 2010


Um, I think you are missing the point entirely.

I think you're missing my point, but perhaps I didn't make it clear enough. There is a whole matrix of possibilities here that I think are interrelated.

1. Child porn. Children objected, as adults they objected.
2. Child porn. Children consented, adults objected.
3. Child porn. Children objected, adults consented.
4. Child porn. Children consented, adults consented.
5. Not child porn. Children objected, adults objected.
6. Not child porn. Children consented, adults objected.
7. Not child porn. Children objected, adults consented.
8. Not child porn. Children consented, adults consented.

It seems to me that everyone is only considering possibility 1. It seems like perhaps the other child did give weak consent, but it is impossible to tell since she did not comment for the news story, and it could be argued that she could not give consent with the differential in power between child and parent. But the fact that she's not objecting now makes her position a passive consent.
What I am highlighting here are points 7 and 8. If they gave their retroactive consent as adults, I don't think anyone would be arguing this as child porn, even if it fulfilled the legal requirements to be declared as such. And since nobody has actually seen the film, and can only go by the descriptions of Emma (who has an incentive to release biased statements in her own interest) it is impossible to truly say if this film was "assault," as you assert. Certainly the library has no plans to allow anyone to actually view or display the tape, it would presumably only be available to scholars (or, as the case may be, law enforcement officers).
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2010


The job of a father is to PROTECT his children, not to FUCK THEM UP. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Scoo at 11:54 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


What a mind-eff. Does ANY girl going through puberty want to be filmed naked by their father? Sacrifices for art should be made by the artists, not the subjects.
posted by snsranch at 12:05 PM on July 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


But the fact that she's not objecting now makes her position a passive consent.

No, it doesn't. She clearly objected as a child. She's trying to stay out of it as an adult - you assume that is because she doesn't care, while I assume that she is trying to protect whatever privacy remains for the exploited child of an asshole "artist".

Silence does not, and should not ever, equal "passive consent".

Certainly the library has no plans to allow anyone to actually view or display the tape, it would presumably only be available to scholars (or, as the case may be, law enforcement officers).

Hmm? Where is this indicated? The NYT piece makes it clear that this will be available for viewing after the victims have died. If they want it to be available to law enforcement officers, they should turn it over to the police.

And since nobody has actually seen the film

Again, where do you get this? The descriptions of the film in the NYT article are presented in a way that indicate the reporter, at least, has seen the tapes.
posted by muddgirl at 12:06 PM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


But the fact that she's not objecting now makes her position a passive consent.

No. No no no no no. Lack of protest is not consent.

Yes means yes.

Lack of no does not mean yes.
posted by kmz at 12:10 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


How was this not abuse?
From the article:
Ms. Tamburlini said her father filmed his daughters every six months over at least five years for a body of work he titled “Growing.” If she objected, she said, she was called uptight and a bad daughter. When she confronted her father as a teenager about the films, she said he told her “my intellectual development had been arrested.”

In 1981 Rivers edited the footage into a 45-minute film that he planned to show as part of an exhibition. The girls’ mother, Clarice Rivers, who also appears in parts of the film, intervened and stopped him.

In the film Rivers tells the girls to take off their clothes and then zooms in on their breasts from various angles. He interviews them about how they feel about their breasts and whether boys have started noticing them. In some scenes Clarice Rivers appears with her daughters, displaying her own breasts and talking about them.

In a voice-over Rivers says that he made the film over several years in spite of “the raised eyebrows of society in general and specific friends and even my daughters — they kept sort of complaining.” On screen both girls appear self-conscious as they grow older, and Emma in particular hardly speaks.

Ms. Tamburlini said the filming contributed to her becoming anorexic at 16. “It wrecked a lot of my life actually,” she said.

Ms. Tamburlini said she has spent several years in therapy trying to deal with the effect of her father’s behavior.

“I don’t want [the tape] out there in the world,” she said. “It just makes it worse.”
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:19 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


octobersurprise: "If I were NYU, I'd try to come to an agreement with the heirs to keep the films but to seal them for say, 100 years."

That sounds like what they're doing. From the article:

N.Y.U. has agreed to discuss the matter and has already, at the urging of the foundation, pledged to keep the material off limits during the daughters’ lifetimes. Two years ago Ms. Tamburlini asked the foundation to destroy the tapes, but it declined.

And that weakens my gut reaction to this story quite a bit. What I don't know is where the vivid descriptions in the NYT article are coming from. Did Rivers or someone else write about the films?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2010


Why is this even an issue?
Well, when a piece of artwork is given or sold to a collection or a museum or an archive of some kind, than the rights to the piece go to that archive. Now, it is all very well to say, that film was made without the models' consent and it is child porn and it should be destroyed but unfortunately, if you do that, then you are opening up a giant can of worms that nobody really wants to see opened. Suppose another painter has a body of work that contains noncontroversial nudes and one of his children becomes a born again and demands that they all be burned? Whose rights do you uphold then? Suppose that, say, an heir of the Ben Shahn estate suddenly becomes right wing evangelical and demands that his left wing work be destroyed? What about those writers - can't think, offhand, of one, but I know there's been at least one - whose widows burn their last books? That said, I'm also surprised at NYU that this work didn't end up in the 100 years of silence category and perhaps that is where it should be. And on preview, I see that it is.

Now to correct my earlier comment, I just spent a couple hours with my aunt and we got to talking about Larry, turns out he was a pretty good friend of hers. More or less verbatim: "He was a complete junkie of course," she said, "One time he kept begging me for a fix; he had to come over to my apartment to fix because he had nowhere else to go. Then he did and then he started weeping and weeping about his sons. There were the sons - and the second daughter was the child of the babysitter I think - he felt like he turned his sons into junkies like him." So, yeah, dysfunction all the way down. All unhappy families are different, after all.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:50 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, didn't you people ever see Peeping Tom?
posted by rhizome at 12:53 PM on July 8, 2010


if you do that, then you are opening up a giant can of worms that nobody really wants to see opened

I don't know, maybe. It seems pretty clear that the rights for this piece should never have been transferred to the archive in the first place - as an "artist", if I took a bunch of portraits but also secretly captured up-skirt photos, or set up a hidden camera in a bathroom stall but then transferred the footage to an archive before my death, couldn't and shouldn't there be some means by which the victims have some say in the distribution? I don't see much difference in this case when it comes to ability to consent.

Of course, in my perfect fantasy world, consent is taken a lot more seriously.
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


if you do that, then you are opening up a giant can of worms that nobody really wants to see opened

Right on, mygothlaundry. Madeleine L'Engle's children were really not happy about their mother "using their lives" for her fiction and nonfiction; when ML wrote a gushy autobiography about her happy married life, the children were like "whose life was she writing about?" Should artists curb their art to respect their children? Are we all entitled to a life with no upsetting things happening in it?
posted by Melismata at 1:09 PM on July 8, 2010


I'm having some trouble telling how serious you're being, Melismata. I think it's a given that whatever else these films are, they're a record of an abusive home life. If Rivers were still alive and his daughters were still children, I'd want to see to it that his daughters not be abused in this way.

Having said that, he's not still alive and his daughters are not still children, and I'm not sure how to quantify whatever duress is caused by the films still existing.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2010


"Madeleine L'Engle's children were really not happy about their mother 'using their lives' for her fiction and nonfiction..."

I think this is a little different than filming close up video of your prepubescent daughter's vagina against her will.

This thread is pretty desperate for a lawyer's input.
posted by The Straightener at 1:25 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should artists curb their art to respect their children?

Yes. The law recognizes that there is a power imbalance between adult and child, and especially between parents and their children. As a parent, one's responsibility to the mental and physical well-being of one's children must necessarily trump one's own ego when it comes to creating art.

Are we all entitled to a life with no upsetting things happening in it?

My .02¢: We should all be entitled to a life in which we are not exploited, molested or abused against our wills for someone else's gratification. If that happens, society should most certainly also limit the efficacy of an "Art is Sacrosanct!" defense to circumstances in which the powerless are not being exploited by those who hold authority over them.
posted by zarq at 1:26 PM on July 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Are we all entitled to a life with no upsetting things happening in it?

I think we are all entitled to a life with no forced photography of our breast and/or genital development, or any forced intrusive record of our intimate lives at all - yes. I do think that artists should curb their art to respect their children's most fundamental and personal rights, yes.
posted by taz at 1:26 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are we all entitled to a life with no upsetting things happening in it?

Forced sexual situations are not merely "upsetting things".

Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick.
posted by kmz at 2:03 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Boy that is fucked up. In many ways, it seems like it is worse because it was done by the girls' father, who is supposed to cherish them and protect them and teach them.
posted by Mister_A at 2:20 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That said, many good painters - and he was one - are not such good human beings and you have to separate the artist from the art.

This phrase sickens me. I cannot enjoy and do not wish to experience things created by awful people, I am incapable. I feel this 'person' behaved atrociously. People who have children have a chance to see them as 'vulnerable' without violating them and people who don't have children have no need and, I feel, no right.
posted by Fuka at 3:23 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


^mygothlaundry:That said, many good painters - and he was one - are not such good human beings and you have to separate the artist from the art.

As someone who has struggled against being 'one of those asshole painters' his entire adult life, I must request a citation.

I've seen plenty of asshole painters in leadership positions but made a point of never becoming one of them.
posted by vhsiv at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The spurious notion that children should have essentially the same rights and privileges as adults has gained currency only in the last thirty years or so. I have a pair of shoes older than that. Born of a foolish sentimentality that we have only recently had the luxury of indulging, it's playing a significant role in the destruction of our civilization.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:25 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, there's always Gauguin, my personal king of the assholes genius painter. Then Munch was not a whole lot of fun to be around; neither was Van Gogh, although perhaps they weren't assholes so much as deeply troubled souls. There are also lots and lots of good painters who are also good people. All humans come in all varieties and they all have both good and bad and mediocre and everything else besides the kitchen sink in them - artists are not exempt from the generality of humankind. I think it's kind of dismissive to say, well, this person is PURE evil and that person is PURE good. Most people are both.

I cannot enjoy and do not wish to experience things created by awful people,
That's limiting, I feel, but YMMV. There's a whole lot of art out there; most of us will never know exactly what kind of human being created it. Cave painters may have gone in for human sacrifice; Roman sculptors kept slaves; Gauguin, as mentioned above, left his wife and seven children to starve to death. The Altamira paintings blow me away, as do some Roman portrait busts and as do Gauguin's Tahiti panels, even if he was spreading syphilis just as fast as he could.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:31 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't even figure out what Crabby Appleton's point is. I think he's being crabby.
posted by muddgirl at 4:35 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know a woman who experienced a very similar thing with her step father. He was an artist and somehow got her to pose nude, somehow kept her mother from stepping in to stop this (and honestly who knows what else.) I saw at least one painting he made of her. It was a good painting, well executed, very evocative. The painting hung on the wall of their house all during her high school years. When he died she sped to the house, took it down, and burned it. She is still one messed up individual. Art be damned.

I don't think it is right at all for the institution to keep the film even if they do not display it for 100 years. I think it is pretty monstrous to not allow this her to regain some of what he stole from her in the name of art. Sure, they won't put it on display, but people will continue to see it, especially now that the controversy is out. Can you imagine the feeling knowing people will be able to watch you assaulted over and over even after you are dead? For some reason I feel that it is much worse than say, a written account of something so personal and private. And what about her descendants? Surely they will be proud to say, hey, have you seen the film of my gran being emotionally raped by her father, that's some great art right there.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 5:11 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kids aren't property and humiliating them isn't art.
posted by snsranch at 6:16 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I cannot enjoy and do not wish to experience things created by awful people, I am incapable.

I suspect you are capable. Do you eat meat butchered by nasty people in an abattoir? Do you live in a country founded by awful soldiers killing others? Do you live off the spoils of nature, that are being defiled by oil companies that act at the behest of greedy shareholders? See? I knew you could do it.

I can't even figure out what Crabby Appleton's point is.

I suspect he is alluding to the recently developed idea that our precious little snowflakes are asexual beings and must not be sullied with forbidden knowledge before they reach adulthood, and above all, must not ever be prodded about their developing self-awareness of their sexuality, as it might distort their fragile beings. It is hysterical attitudes like this that lead to Abstinence Only sex ed and high teen pregnancy.

This sort of hullaballoo has repeatedly occurred in the art world throughout the ages. People accused Balthus of being a pederast for drawing (fully clothed) teenage models. Gauguin actually married his teenage model. Egon Schiele was prosecuted for pornography and spent time in prison, which lead to his premature death; now these same "pornographic" drawings sell for millions. And under the newly enacted "PROTECT Act of 2003," (originally proposed by troglodytes like Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, and Strom Thurmond) even these artworks are technically illegal and could be confiscated and destroyed. But today, we look back at the era in which those artworks were created, and snigger at their prudishness. I suspect that Europeans are sniggering at Americans' prudishness today, as they seem to have gotten this out of their system decades ago. And after the lifetimes of Rivers' children, in another 50 or 100 years when perhaps the film is analyzed by art historians, they will similarly snigger at our prudishness and wonder what the hell we were all upset about. I mean, seriously, I keep hearing people throwing around terms like rape and molestation, when it seems like they were merely forced to participate in junkie-Dad's ill-concieved, possibly demeaning, psychosexual social documentary. And in Freud's time, they called him a pornographer too. To equate Rivers' film, unseen, with child pornography is symptomatic of the modern moral panic and "mission creep" in the labelling of things like innocent bathing pics as child porn. To bluster and call this rape and molestation trivializes the real victims of heinous child pornography who actually were raped and molested.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:51 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


To equate Rivers' film, unseen, with child pornography is symptomatic of the modern moral panic and "mission creep" in the labelling of things like innocent bathing pics as child porn. To bluster and call this rape and molestation trivializes the real victims of heinous child pornography who actually were raped and molested.

So the testimony of Rivers' daughter--her stated feelings of extreme reluctance to be filmed, the coersion of her father, and her future feelings of violation--they mean nothing? The continual delineation, in this thread, between children who willingly submit themselves to nude photography/paintings and those that are extremely reluctant - that is meaningless to you as well?

I think that Mr. Appleton is doing the opposite of what you describe - he seems to be insinuating that children do not have the same rights to bodily autonomy as adults do, and thus we can treat them how we like if we "own" them, and that granting such rights to children is a new concept. Such a position would be pretty ridiculous and ahistorical to boot, which is why I am confused.
posted by muddgirl at 7:00 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that Mr. Appleton is doing the opposite of what you describe - he seems to be insinuating that children do not have the same rights to bodily autonomy as adults do, and thus we can treat them how we like if we "own" them, and that granting such rights to children is a new concept. Such a position would be pretty ridiculous and ahistorical to boot, which is why I am confused.

Children do not have the same bodily autonomy that adults do, and their rights are subjugated to their parents or legal guardians. I suggest you consider, for example, that parents have the right to consent to their child's surgery, which legally is a waiver to permit a bodily assault. Granting children their own rights is only a recent (and poorly accepted) concept. I recall a recent case where a child refused cancer treatment, his parents wanted him to have it. The child went to court to be emancipated and he lost, and was forced to take the treatments. He lived.

This is not to argue that parents have the right to force their children to commit sex acts or other criminal abuses. That would be ludicrous.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:28 PM on July 8, 2010


WOMEN DOING THINGS THAT THEY WANT DESPITE YOUR OPINION

"Like my crazy friend with a PhD ABD in sociology, mentored by radical lesbian feminists, who only goes out with "bad boy" idiots and generally acts in her relationships like a quite unenlightened Barbie. Or to put it another way, my best friend in high school and first of my friends to get married said, "We were raised by feminists, how come the only women we meet just want to be barefoot and pregnant?" Sheesh."

BETRAYAL OF FEMINISM? OR THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:34 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I keep hearing people throwing around terms like rape and molestation, when it seems like they were merely forced to participate in junkie-Dad's ill-concieved, possibly demeaning, psychosexual social documentary.

I'm the only person who referred to molestation in this thread other than you and I did so in general terms. One person referred to the daughters' experience as "emotional rape."

No one here is equating Rivers' daughters being in this film with actual, physical rape or molestation.

So what the hell are you talking about?
posted by zarq at 7:48 PM on July 8, 2010


WOMEN DOING THINGS THAT THEY WANT DESPITE YOUR OPINION

No, more like radical feminist women doing things that they say they don't want because they represent everything that is repugnant to the philosophies they espouse. Which is fine with me, as long as they don't mind me labeling them hypocrites. Do as I say, not as I do, eh?
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:08 PM on July 8, 2010


See? I knew you could do it.

Fabulous straw man. I'm not buying and your sales job isn't working as well on me as you'd like.
posted by Fuka at 8:39 PM on July 8, 2010


charlie don't surf, maybe you could just let those women live their lives rather than force them to be representatives of their entire gender and an entire school of philosophy.

Back on-topic, I find this fascinating, in that I have instant sympathy for the daughters, but think that mygothlaundry brings up excellent points about the path on which this could start us. Regardless, I do think that the least NYU could do is seal them for 100 years, or some length of time with which the daughters are comfortable. Because they did not give consent, and were clearly pressured into sexual situations, it makes me very uncomfortable to refuse them.
posted by lillygog at 8:49 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, clearly Posting While Sleepy and using way too many pronouns.
posted by lillygog at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2010


I suspect he is alluding to the recently developed idea that our precious little snowflakes are asexual beings and must not be sullied with forbidden knowledge before they reach adulthood, and above all, must not ever be prodded about their developing self-awareness of their sexuality, as it might distort their fragile beings. It is hysterical attitudes like this that lead to Abstinence Only sex ed and high teen pregnancy.

I think that is what you are alluding to. Yep. Pretty much. Who's being "hysterical" again?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:25 PM on July 8, 2010


No one here is equating Rivers' daughters being in this film with actual, physical rape or molestation.

So what the hell are you talking about?


In defense of charlie don't surf (cuz it's such a great song if nothing else), I think his comment is reflective of an overall frustration he has with the tenor of public discourse on such topics, as opposed to what's gone down in this particular thread, which has been pretty restrained.

That is, I agree with him fully with regards to the greater AMERICAN cultural rigamarole when he says stuff like ...

To equate Rivers' film, unseen, with child pornography is symptomatic of the modern moral panic and "mission creep" in the labelling of things like innocent bathing pics as child porn. To bluster and call this rape and molestation trivializes the real victims of heinous child pornography who actually were raped and molested.
posted by philip-random at 9:35 PM on July 8, 2010


charlie don't surf, maybe you could just let those women live their lives rather than force them to be representatives of their entire gender and an entire school of philosophy.

Hmm. Well, if someone declares they are a representative of a school of philosophy, in fact, a PhD in that philosophy, and declares that they live by the tenets of that philosophy, I would generally expect that they not do the exact opposite. This has very little to do with gender, neither gender has a monopoly on hypocrisy. And of course, I let them live their lives, even if I may comment upon their hypocrisy. They wouldn't listen to me anyway, they don't even listen to themselves.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:08 PM on July 8, 2010


Like my crazy friend with a PhD ABD in sociology, mentored by radical lesbian feminists, who only goes out with "bad boy" idiots and generally acts in her relationships like a quite unenlightened Barbie. Or to put it another way, my best friend in high school and first of my friends to get married said, "We were raised by feminists, how come the only women we meet just want to be barefoot and pregnant?" Sheesh.

Aww, so sad for you. And y'all sound like such Nice Guys too!
posted by kmz at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aww, so sad for you.

Okay, I'm trying not to get heavily involved with this derail, and I have been trying to avoid being too specific so as to possibly identify this poor woman, but since everyone is so persistent..

This is not a case of bad boys vs. "nice guys." This is a case of a woman with a pattern of abusive relationships who finally became obsessed with a homeless crack dealer and threw away her career, all her money, her sanity, and became a homeless crackhead herself. I recognize that everyone is entitled to their own choice of lifestyle, but I personally don't see the congruence between radical feminism and being a bag lady.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:29 AM on July 9, 2010


yeah, being in abusive relationships is all about her being a hypocrite and not about any underlying mental health issues or societal pressures or bad luck

also, that is a great example of the multiple women who according to you were raised feminist and are now betraying those ideas by being "barefoot and pregnant", one woman who is obviously outside of the norm, that's a good start for generalizing about lots of people. are you a social scientist? you should be.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2010


Of course the largest unspoken issue, from an art history perspective, is that Larry Rivers was a celebrated painter, not a documentarian. Just because he picked up a video camera and pestered his daughters to be in a creepy home movie sequence, then placed the footage in his archives, doesn't automatically make it a work of high art that supersedes the privacy rights of the daughters.
posted by Scram at 11:08 PM on July 10, 2010


Of course the largest unspoken issue, from an art history perspective, is that Larry Rivers was a celebrated painter, not a documentarian.

True. But according to this obit in the Independent, he did create over 250 videos. At least one of those was a documentary, called "TITS."
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on July 11, 2010


UPDATE:

Postscript: July 16, 2010

After publication of this Op-Ed article, New York University told The Times that it had decided not to accept the Larry Rivers film "Growing" as part of the archives it purchased from the Larry Rivers Foundation. Though the university had reached its agreement with the foundation on Tuesday, the arrangement had not been publicly announced.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:26 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Excellent. Wonderful news!

Thank you, KevinSkomsvold.
posted by zarq at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2010


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