My hat is off to Able Baker Contemporary* of Portland, Maine. Their new exhibition Circle Time – Children and their Artists, (running 1/26 – 3/3/18) cleverly pairs the work of “local luminaries” (as one notice termed them) with the art of the young people in their families.
The curator’s accompanying essay frames this exhibition as something of an homage to the freedom and integrity of “childlike” creativity, touting its fearlessness as both an example and an influence for the mature artist, and for all who think visually.
Yet I see this show as so much more. My process and resulting work was for many years largely informed through the necessities and demands of raising a family. The main reason I began to explore textiles as an art form in the first place was due to their non-toxic nature, making them safe to use in the presence of children, and the fact that I could pick up and put down work in a heartbeat, squeezing time for art in around the corners of all the other demands on a young mom’s attention. That’s undoubtedly why I find this exhibit a refreshing acknowledgement of the fuller picture behind the practices of the parent artists.
So often the backstage lives of emerging and young career artists are largely ignored unless there is something “noteworthy” to grab our attention, i.e. an illness overcome or exotic place lived that has influenced the work. There is little attention paid to the nuts and bolts backstory of the many who are diligently making art while simultaneously juggling the the day-in / day-out routines and challenges of being a parent.
The genius of Circle Time, beyond acknowledging the enviable freedom and beauty to be found in a child’s art, is the celebration of the layers of life that contribute to and have sway upon the resulting work of the mature artists exhibiting alongside their children. Recognizing this bigger story as a necessary component in the evolution of the work and careers of these artists makes for a much deeper and more accessible experience for the viewer.
I regret I probably won’t be able to swing a trip to Portland before the show closes on March 3rd, but I will be watching, and encourage you to follow, as the gallery continues to share images through Instagram.
*Able Baker Contemporary presented Selvedge last summer, an exhibition I was so glad to be part of, exploring the work of artists who embrace the history of painting via textile techniques.