Listen – Talk – Learn
One of the pages in the picture book, “The Snowy Day”, by Ezra Jack Keats depicts the image of a child wishing to make a connection with the world outside his window. The main character, Peter, sits on his bed as the right palm of his hand presses gently onto his blanket. He lifts his head slightly and pauses to peek over his window that frames an image of a snowy day. Keats uses robust patterns for Peter’s clothes, the wallpaper and the bed sheets along with striking colors to accompany the rest of the story. The particular imageof Peter assessing the choice of action he has yet to undertake incites a sense of longing in me.
The question that runs through my mind is how do we engage with the outside world and still keep our interior belief systems and values in tact? Artist and curator Jeannine Bardo, addresses some of these issues during the recent BRACA “Embrace Winter” Festival. Her essay “Choice Connections” accompanied a series of works of art, exhibited at the Butcher Bar in Brooklyn in February. Ms. Bardo states,”… connections are made to seemingly disparate subjects through the social networks of language, community, commerce and tradition and (the exhibit features) how artists consider these connections within their work as well as place. Like the butcher and the bar, art is a place where language is played upon and subverted, connections and traditions are made or destroyed…” As the landscape of our community changes how does one grapple with the subtle loss of a previous identity that continues to be redefined by our own sense of place?
“The Snowy Day” has inspired me to focus on that question and engage recent participants of the “Embrace Winter” Festival to depict Peter in an uncommon stillness as he reflects upon the view outside his window. Each person demonstrates a unique interpretation of Peter’s interior world. I note three in particular. One features a carefully designed room, much more detailed than Peter’s original abode. Equipped with a clock on the wall, a vase with flowers, a sign that says “Welcome to Bay Ridge” the artist, Ms. M. pays delicate attention to the comforting ornaments in the room. On another work of art, young Ms. T depicts a full figure of herself on the bed looking closely at the outside world almost within arms-length. In one collage, a mother and toddler dyad creates the image of a figure lying in bed, resting, content and almost indifferent to the presence of the outside world.
A recent snapshot of my son, Samuel, shows him in a contemplative view from our front room window that mimics Peter’s pose and brings me back to the idea of reflection and prompts me to address the uncommon stillness he portrays. How does Samuel think of himself within the context of the outside world?
At the end of the story, Peter takes home a snowball, which he places in his pocket for safe-keeping. After he bathes, he realizes that it has disappeared from his coat pocket. Sustained by the elements of the outside world, this treasure has disintegrated in his interior world. Though disappointed at first, soon he feels ready to venture out once again and explore the new landscape of freshly covered snow with a neighbor.
Like Peter I relish this vision of hope and resilience for my son, Samuel, whose curiosity and wishes though seldom expressed will be cultivated throughout his life as he connects with his community and that his acceptance and tolerance for the changes that occur within our neighborhood will be supported by the individuals whose establishments he frequents. When we come together in dialogue and collaboration through art projects and exhibitions, we divert the uncommon stillness in our hearts to a dynamic voice of engagement and connection with one another.
Luella Adan’s artTalk promotes facilitated discussions of art in museum settings. Its mission is to create a safe space for dialogue where small groups of individuals can share their personal perspectives on art. For more information, please contact Luella Adan at email@example.com or follow and/or post a comment here at https://luellaadan.wordpress.com/
I would like to thank Victoria Hofmo from BRACA (The Bay Ridge Arts and Cultural Alliance) for inviting me to explore this topic further with the community and participate in this year’s Bay Ridge “Embrace Winter” Festival. For more information, please visit their website http://www.bracabrooklyn.org/HOME
I would like to congratulate Jeannine Bardo for her wonderful essay, “Choice Connections,” and her fellow artists for their show at the Butcher Bar in celebration of the “Embrace Winter” Festival Festival sponsored by BRACA. For more information on artist and curator Jeannine Bardo, please visit her website http://jeanninebardo.com/