“Sometimes, the artwork an artist sees as a child ends up shaping him or her in less obvious, more abstract ways, simply by suggesting the vast possibilities of making and thinking about art.” ~ Ann Landi, ARTnews, The Artistic Influences that Made Artists Artists
Sit down with an artist. Talk to her about her work. At a critical time in her childhood, some individual or some experience helped form a vision that stuck. In a recent piece in ARTnews (5.27.14) contemporary artists share their initial memories of Art. Those whose parents had Art books around the house, prints on the wall, or went to museums with their families, had vivid recollections of these early experiences. Nearly all of them impacted their lives to come.
Pat Steir knew she wanted to be an artist as a young girl, though she had only seen Art in early 4-color print versions in books. When her father took her to New York and she first saw Cezanne’s The Bather (1885) at MoMA, she says, “I nearly passed out.” The reality of what she experienced in this painting led to a lifetime of experimenting with color. The Bather gave her the inspiration and confidence to go for it on her own. “The New York painter, still going strong in her seventies, shows large-format abstractions whose washes of color are so dense and broad that they might swallow you whole.” (The New Yorker, 3.10.14)
This image of an oversized mural painted on the walls of the Whitney Museum of American Art in January of 2011, with its fourteen layers of paint in blues and Pompeian red, looks a bit like a musical score. But the artist reveals, “It’s almost like a map you can’t follow, a road map to a place you can’t go.” (Whitney Museum press release, January 2011.)
Young mural enthusiasts today can take their cues close to home. Artists Alexis Iammarino and Sarah Rogers of Rockland, Maine are offering a free class for kids in the community this summer. With the kids in their group they interviewed local folks to figure out which images to represent in their artwork. Iammarino decided to teach her students a thing or two about history, showing them photos of WPA murals and inviting them to concoct their own subdued colors. Their job is to help complete an original mural that depicts the soul of their city, in a space where lots of people gather – the Rockland Recreation Center.
Right now it’s a work in progress and these kids are listening, observing, and painting to learn. They have developed their own “secret” color recipes, labeled with original names preserved for posterity.
Perhaps, like Steir’s mural suggests, Iammarino and Rogers are not just teaching, but creating a bit of a road map and maybe a future in Art for these summer Rec Center participants. Right now they’re having a remarkable experience, and time will ultimately tell….
Nancy Harris Frohlich