Children and Teens Offer Interpretations of SMoCA’s Unapologetic Exhibition
Having trouble understanding contemporary art? Let your children “kidsplain” it to you!
If you ever want to see just how imaginative and ingenious your kids are, take them to a contemporary art museum (ahem—preferably SMoCA)! Many adults feel that contemporary art can be baffling and intimidating, but I haven’t met a child or teen yet who can’t enlighten us with an original interpretation. We have a lot to learn from the way that children can interpret visual language and use their unlimited creativity to make sense of what they see.
I recently asked five children and teens, ages 6–14, to look at an image of an artwork in the exhibition Unapologetic: All Women, All Year at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Without any information other than what they could see, each child or teen offered their view of what the piece is about.
Notice how much 8-year old Olivia Plecas can read into this simply-structured painting:
It’s interesting to note that Olivia sees people in the three forms, as this parallels the artist’s intention to interpret the abstract shapes as figures interacting with one another.
14-year old Lilly Pearson tackled a complex work by Dominique Blain. The artwork presents a bullet, a cigar, and a tube of lipstick. What do you think this piece is about? Listen to the profound meaning Lilly recognizes in the work:
Lilly’s sister Bella (13) noticed that Lalla Essaydi’s photograph has a somber quality, and the repetitive task of writing words over all the surfaces has importance to its meaning:
Asking your children questions to open up discussion about the artwork is important—and fun! Be sure to ask open-ended questions to encourage nice long, descriptive answers. My favorite questions to ask children are:
- What does this artwork mean to you (or what do you think it means)?
- What title would you give this piece and why?
- Why do you think the artist made this piece?
- If you could ask the artist a question, what would it be?
Laura Best, local artist and installation manager at SMoCA, models asking these questions to her two children, Malcolm, 6, and Rosie, 9:
Now, it’s true these children live in creative families. Olivia is artist Lara Plecas’ daughter, and Bella and Lilly ‘s mother is Kristin Bauer, who is showing work at SMoCA currently. Exhibitions Manager and artist Laura Spalding Best’s children, Rosie and Malcolm, have pretty much grown up at SMoCA, too. But all children have a wonderful openness to looking at new things, and you will be amazed at what yours have to say about the art at SMoCA!
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