PELHAM, NY — “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.” —Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5.
Everyone begins life as a child, and as a society we look back on that time when we were innocent: playing, learning, and growing. Childhood is a time filled with imagination, games and play. But it is also a time when we absorb the stories, memories and dreams that make us who we become later in life. Artists often use the motif of childhood to remark upon social conditions, using the framework of childhood to understand larger truths about human nature.
Artists: Randy Bolton, Holland Cunningham, Cristina Grassi, Elizabeth Holtry, Scott Hunt, Leslie Lerner, Dennis Masback and Andrew Shear
Using metaphorical childhood scenes as a device to examine adult issues, the artists here depict children to simply convey complex ideas. Children’s stories, often loaded with moral lessons, are not all sugar and spice. At times hard lessons are delivered to children through myths, fables, and parables, or moral tales. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with stories like Hansel and Gretel, or The Gingerbread Man, instruct and disturb forming minds and moral compasses. Stories like Dick and Jane, or Jack and Jill seem innocuous, but carry deeper meaning. Charlotte’s Web, a dearly beloved story by E.B. White, relates the desperate efforts of barnyard animals to save one of their own, by calling attention to his distinctive and special qualities. While it is read to children, the story carries a metaphor for human interactions in society, which is valuable for all ages.
Some artists in this exhibition take inspiration from those stories and blend them with the imaginative and playful side of childhood to create social satire. Randy Bolton uses children’s book illustrations as a distinctive visual vocabulary to express social satire. Cristina Grassi depicts children’s nightmares with enormous creatures chasing after them. Dennis Masback creates trompe l’oeil paintings that seem to be ripped from a child’s notebook. Holland Cunningham uses actual found snapshots of children to explore the past in shades of gray. A Gothic sensibility of unsettling and shadowy monochromatic memories is explored by Scott Hunt and Andrew Shears. Leslie Lerner (1950-2005) created a personal mythology paired with a lyrical and delicate vision of childhood. Finally, Elizabeth Holtry examines innocence as a time connected to a remote historical past, where children laugh as they play with creatures like rats and cockroaches, evoking awe and respect from the viewers.
Our ephemeral childhood ends with adolescence and is remembered in this close examination of works that celebrate the all too brief; Children’s Hour
The exhibition will be on view September 15 – October 28, 2017 with an opening reception on Friday September 15, 6:30 – 8:00 pm.