I was surprised when I heard Glenda’s story of not being supported by her Church family around her breastfeeding her infant daughter (with a nursing cover no less!), but I am usually never surprised when I hear about Facebook removing yet another breastfeeding photo or art piece. But I did come close when Kate Hansen sent me the details of Facebook’s removal of her three “Madonna and Child Series” portraits. It made me wonder, would Facebook remove a classic Madonna nursing baby Jesus painting? Have they? Do they really consider Mother Mary obscene? How far are they willing to go with these inane policies?

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Kate Hansen is a British Columbia artist who after the birth of her son in 2007 was inspired by her own experience of childbirth and motherhood to create art. By 2008, after the birth of her daughter she had also determined that she would accompany a series of mother and child portraits, “The Madonna and Child Series,” with the mother’s birth story.

All of my years came just back statistical. http://mingaora.com These drugs use many persons but are inserted through a band lob in the police.

"Gladys and Elizabeth" by Kate Hansen

Her portraits are done with conte crayon and accented with a gold leaf halo. They were made with reference to portraits of the Virgin Mary with child from the 15th century, as well as an early 20th century revival of the practice by such artists as William Adolphe Bouguereau. She got the idea for the patterned design inside the “Gladys and Elizabeth” portrait from cutting paper snowflakes with her son.

"Krista and Colum" by Kate Hansen

Three of her portraits are of mothers breastfeeding their children. Kate wanted to capture the joy, awe and reverence that surrounds a breastfeeding mother by depicting them in the same fashion as the Mother Mary portraits of the 15th century. Due to the purity and innocence that comes through in her work, it was surprising to her and many others when Facebook removed these works.

"Krizstina and Finbar" by Kate Hansen

Of course, I’m not really surprised by any breastfeeding photos or artwork that Facebook takes down anymore. A woman could be wearing a baby completely covered by a nursing shawl and just say she’s breastfeeding and get her photo taken down and I wouldn’t be a tad bit surprised, but I digress.

She says:

I posted one of them on a figurative artists group on facebook, and was surprised to see that it had been removed on March 27th, 2010. I had already posted two more portraits, and I went ahead and reposted the one in question, thinking it must have been a glitch. My new artwork was removed on March 28th, and then on March 29th the re-posted portrait was removed as well. I reposted all three in a row, as a kind of experiment, and then I received the following letter in by email:


You posted an item that violated our Terms of Use, and this item has been removed. Among other things, content that is hateful, threatening, or obscene is not allowed, nor is content that attacks an individual or group. Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in your account being disabled.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact us at warning@facebook.com from your login email address.
The Facebook Team

These actions have resulted in a number of guest features on radio talk shows as well as newspaper interviews and articles all over the country, as well as another deletion. Facebook deleted her again on May 13th after telling the Toronto Star it had been an accident! All this press has a lot of people talking about Kate Hansen’s work. Some people are discussing art censorship while others are discussing breastfeeding. More specifically they’re discussing breastfeeding in public.

Kate Hansen: Artist - Gallery Shot

Kate’s feels that “the treatment of my breastfeeding subject matter by facebook is indicative of the very high expectations that society holds for mothers. Mothers are expected to breastfeed, every health organization tells us it’s the best choice, yet images of women breastfeeding are treated with hostility and distain. Women are treated badly when breastfeeding in public. The result is an impossible ideal of motherhood that no mother could possibly meet.”

This got me thinking. She’s right about the impossible ideal of motherhood that no mother could possibly meet. It’s almost right up there with trying to meet the ideals of the Virgin Mother herself, which she admits that in the birth stories, she wanted to draw some parallels between our own ideals of what a mother should be, and the cultural ideal of motherhood, symbolized by the Virgin Mary. She wanted “simultaneously to honour motherhood, in all the glory of its imperfection,” and this to me, brings the whole story, her beautiful idealistic artwork, and Facebook’s ridiculous obscenity policies, full circle.

Except Facebook doesn’t even want us mothers to be like The Virgin. Unless we’re wearing sexy garters and have lots of cleavage coming out of a lacy bra. C’mon Facebook! I mean seriously!!!

Images courtesy of Kate Hansen. Information based on artist’s statement and personal communication.

For more information and to see some more wonderful art, please see the Kate Hansen Art website.

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16 Responses to “Madonna and Child-Like Paintings Are Obscene Too?”

  1. #1 Amber Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 1:34 am
  2. #2 Maman A Droit Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 2:18 am
  3. #3 Janine Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 8:24 am
  4. #4 Debbi Does Dinner Healthy Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 9:52 am
  5. #5 Melodie Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 11:50 am
  6. #6 Betsy Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm
  7. #7 Brandy Says:
    May 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm
  8. #8 Tara Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 5:25 pm
  9. #9 Melodie Says:

    May 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm
  10. #10 Cheryl Says:
    May 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm
  11. #11 princess Says:
    May 27, 2010 at 12:24 am
  12. #12 Melodie Says:

    May 27, 2010 at 12:58 am
  13. #13 Glenda Silva Says:
    May 27, 2010 at 1:53 am
  14. #14 juliea Says:

    May 27, 2010 at 9:47 am
  15. #15 Kate Hansen Says:
    May 27, 2010 at 10:46 am
  16. #16 Shane Says:
    May 27, 2010 at 11:45 am

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