It turns out my efforts to represent the shading of the child’s body with layers of differently colored fabric was misconstrued and interpreted as “clothes” by the majority of people who viewed the piece. Very few spontaneously saw him as naked. This was because the contrast between the lights and darks was too great – an artifact of the limited pallet of flesh-toned shades of fabric I was able to assemble.
So I darkened the ligher elements with crayon and wax pastels and stabilized the shading using a hot iron which melts the applied surface wax into the fabric. Now the child is seen as naked.
I’m much happier with how people are responding.