Dreams in the Studio

My family and I attended the Circa 1958 exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill on Saturday.  The exhibit coincides with the opening of the Ackland 50 years ago, and focuses on art made around the year 1958.  This time period was an interesting genesis period for a lot of the art I like most, the pop and minimalist art of the 1960’s, produced by the likes of Warhol, Rauschenberg and Ruscha.  These artists are represented in the exhibition, along with many others.  My favorite “discovery” was Kenneth Noland, a North Carolina native who studied at Black Mountain College, who explored shape and color in his concentric circles paintings.  An example of these is the public face of the exhibition.

Coinciding with this exhibition was a showing of some of Robert Frank’s photographs from the 1958 photography book, “The Americans.”  It never ceases to amaze me how much better a truly printed photograph pops with detail on a wall in a museum or gallery in comparison to the same photographs I have seen in a book for the past 18 years.  If you do not know about Robert Frank or “The Americans,” do yourself a two part favor, a) learn about Mr. Frank and the book at Wikipedia, and b) buy the book, or at least check it out from the library.  If “The Americans” has no effect on you, you need to check for a heartbeat in your Soul.

Why did I take a 3 and 5 year old to such a grown-up exhibition? So many people I know dream so much for their children, and their children’s future.  Parents want their children to do well, financially and with good health and happiness.  As children, many parents, at least in my realm, want their children to be good at sports.  Parents imagine their child as the best on the team, the eventual winner of an all expenses paid scholarship to UNC or Duke for (insert NCAA sport here).  These hopes and dreams can be either uplifting and nourishing, or misplaced and misguided to the point of detriment to the child.  And, there seems no in-between.

I was, and am horrible at sports.  I never had “it,” and I have a killer instinct everywhere in life but on the basketball court.  One third of my miserable childhood memories revolve around sporting goods.

But, I was always decent in art, and creating things, and then on to photography, at least in my own mind.  My family has always been supportive, and my father, a man of few truly thought out compliments, has spent half of his in my life on something revolving around photography.

 So, you go with what you know, and instead of the gridiron or the gym, I dream of my children in the studio, and on assignment.  We give them space to draw and color and create, the supplies (including a camera) they need, and the encouragement they deserve.  And, its working.  My 3 and 5 year old love to paint, and draw, and take photographs, and my daughter starts a clay class this coming weekend.  

At the art museum, I pointed out the history I knew of the paintings and photographs, asked them what they thought of the colors used, or the imagery.  It was so much fun watching them stare down paintings. Their favorite this trip?  An assemblage of crumpled up newspaper and computer paper, they referred to as “The Blob.”  Their most asked question?  In the main collection, “Why is Jesus bleeding out of his arms?”


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