Blogs Field Guide Margaret

I am an artist with a job and two kids, ages 5 and 5 months. I love making and looking at art, and hope they'll like it, too.

“A treasure hunt to make a drawing”

My eight-year-old friend Mani, who loves both math and art, was especially taken with the Sol LeWitt exhibition. One of LeWitt’s wall drawings and its instructions so inspired Mani that he went home and made his own drawing. He described LeWitt’s instructions – which might seem a little dry at first glance – as a […]

My eight-year-old friend Mani, who loves both math and art, was especially taken with the Sol LeWitt exhibition. One of LeWitt’s wall drawings and its instructions so inspired Mani that he went home and made his own drawing. He described LeWitt’s instructions – which might seem a little dry at first glance – as a “treasure hunt to make a drawing.” Here’s Mani’s account (mostly in his own words) of his art adventure:

Me: Do you remember what first interested you in that exhibition?

Mani: My mom said that the activities at the Walker on that day were about geometry, which interested me immediately. [T]he first thing I did was look at the “eight dots” drawing (“Wall Drawing #224”) The drawing is as big as a wall and contains eight points that are somehow related.  There are also instructions for each point printed next to the points. There are also some lines that Sol LeWitt used to help create the drawing.

What did you think of the instructions?

My first reaction to the “Wall Drawing #224” was that I was not very excited at all. Eight dots didn’t seem that cool. But then my Dad asked me to read the instructions for the eight points out loud.  I could follow the instructions for the first three points, but as I read, the more confusing the instructions got. I couldn’t even finish reading the eighth point out loud, because I was laughing so hard that I fell over.  “The eighth point is drawn where two lines would cross if the first were drawn from a point halfway between the seventh point and a point midway between the first point and a point midway between the midpoint of the bottom side and the lower right corner to a point midway between the midpoint of the left side and a point midway between…” Those were the instructions for point number eight! It was funny that he kept saying “the midpoint of the midpoint of the midpoint.”

Did it seem like a good way to make a drawing?

Yes because it’s like you’re giving somebody a treasure hunt to make a drawing, and it makes this wall with just eight dots on it seem pretty cool.

Mani's drawing based on Sol LeWitt's instructions

Mani's drawing based on Sol LeWitt's instructions

I saw your drawing. How did you end up doing that?

I started sketching the first 5 points at the exhibit, but stopped because I didn’t have a ruler. Then, at home, my dad challenged me to draw the eight dots. At some point I needed to draw lines along with the dots on the paper because all the points except the first few involved finding the intersection of two lines. When the instructions got difficult, I took a different sheet of paper and broke up the instructions into different sections, which helped me understand the instructions.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Everything was easy up to point 3, points 4 and 5 were a little hard because they involves finding the intersection of two lines, but points 6, 7, and 8 were extremely hard because not only they involved finding the intersection of two lines but the lines had millions of midpoints in their instructions.

What was the most surprising thing about working on it?

It surprised me that the first and eighth points are surprisingly close. I wonder if it’s because their instructions are similar. I wonder what would happen if you took the midpoints of the eight points. Would some of the midpoints be in the same place?

Did you exactly follow the instructions or did you make your own variation?

I followed the given instructions, but I have an idea for a variation of a set of instructions. I’m planning to do it in Scratch! Take 4 points. Connect them with lines and find their midpoints. Connect the midpoints and find the midpoints of them. Do this 20-30 times until you see some sort of pattern.

[Note: Scratch is a programming language designed for kids. See scratch.mit.edu for more info.]

A kid’s polar expedition: a Bigloo, teakettles, and maybe even a bear

We made an expedition to the Bigloo at the Walker this afternoon. 4-yr-old J. and I stopped by Saturday and met the folks from Machine Project who are using the igloo/Bigloo as a  performance space – we had some tea, watched the steam rise, and listened to a poem and the pinging kettles. We were […]

J. in the Bigloo, enjoying the sounds of tea and winter

We made an expedition to the Bigloo at the Walker this afternoon. 4-yr-old J. and I stopped by Saturday and met the folks from Machine Project who are using the igloo/Bigloo as a  performance space – we had some tea, watched the steam rise, and listened to a poem and the pinging kettles. We were the first visitors, and they weren’t quite ready for us – J. barely spoke, and just watched everything with very big eyes. It made an impression though, and she agreed that we really needed to come back on Sunday with her brother and dad.

And so we were back on Sunday, the first ones in line. June recognized the artists and remembered their names – and noted that she had a dream about Joshua reading a poem. And the igloo/Bigloo was just as lovely the second time around. While waiting for our tea, I asked Chris Kallmyer about how the project was going. He mentioned that they always see lots of kids at public events like the one at Bigloo. I am usually most interested in how to get kids interested in contemporary art, but this made me wonder about getting adults involved. Is it easier to trek across the snow and crawl through the door of an igloo without knowing exactly what will happen inside if you’re with a four-year-old? Is it easier to relax, and chat, and enjoy the light, the cold, and the tea you’re sharing with a woman in a bear costume if your kid is mesmerized?

Navigating tricky territories

To celebrate the first day of his spring break, eight-year-old O. and I made a mid-day trek to the Walker. I’d seen the Abstract Resistance exhibition, and knew it wasn’t a show he was ready to see, but there were lots of other artworks — like Rirkrit Tiravanija’s installation featuring a GIANT and absolutely impossible […]

Rirkrit Tiravanija, untitled 2006 (pavilion, table and puzzle), 2006

Rirkrit Tiravanija, untitled 2006 (pavilion, table and puzzle), 2006

To celebrate the first day of his spring break, eight-year-old O. and I made a mid-day trek to the Walker. I’d seen the Abstract Resistance exhibition, and knew it wasn’t a show he was ready to see, but there were lots of other artworks — like Rirkrit Tiravanija’s installation featuring a GIANT and absolutely impossible jigsaw puzzle — that I knew he’d really enjoy.

Shepherding a kid through a museum of contemporary art can be tricky — every parent has different ideas about what is appropriate for their kids — but the staff was really helpful. At the admissions desk, the staffer mentioned that the Abstract Resistance show might not be good for kids, without making a big deal of it. And when we stopped to watch Lorna Simpson’s Recollection, a guard warned us about the language, but didn’t make me feel like we shouldn’t be there. I felt like I got warnings, but that they were delivered with a light touch that left the decision up to us.

And even though we didn’t visit Abstract Resistance, it did generate a good discussion. I explained to Oskar why we didn’t see the show (that there were lots of violent images in it that I didn’t think would be good for him to see), and, after a long pause, he asked, “Why would artists want to use pictures like that in their artwork?” Luckily, there was a useful phrase in the otherwise dense exhibition brochure: the “tyranny of comfort.” The kid-friendly version of that idea? Sometimes, artists don’t want us to be comfortable. Sometimes, they want us to see things that make us really uncomfortable, because that’s a way of getting us to think about things we otherwise might not want to deal with.

And then we worked on the puzzle, and hung out in the hammocks.

No-oo-oooo!! (or, what happens when your kid touches the art)

We were very excited to bring O. and his 3-yr-old sister J to the Walker to see the new installation of the permanent collection. (The crashed car is gone, but the dolphin is still in her nook). We went on the first Saturday of the month, and the kids loved all the gallery activities: they […]

Olafur Eliasson Convex/Concave

Olafur Eliasson Convex/Concave

We were very excited to bring O. and his 3-yr-old sister J to the Walker to see the new installation of the permanent collection. (The crashed car is gone, but the dolphin is still in her nook). We went on the first Saturday of the month, and the kids loved all the gallery activities: they made wire sculptures, they did a seek-and-find. Then we got saw Olafur Eliasson’s  mirror sculpture, Convex/Concave, with its softly whirring motor. J was instantly enthralled: she just froze and watched it move, back and forth, back and forth. Then, suddenly, she walked straight up to the sculpture, and poked it.

She TOUCHED it!!!  I remember yelling and grabbing her. I think the guard said, “Please don’t touch,” but I was a little traumatized thinking my sticky-fingered kid had just poked the perfect mirrored surface of a sculpture that probably cost as much as our house.

Now what? They didn’t kick us out, they didn’t shut down the gallery. I realized that I don’t really know what happens AFTER your kid touches the art. I don’t want it to happen again, but do wonder what the consequences are — that way, maybe I won’t feel so worried about bringing J back.

Take a kid to Graham!

7-yr-old O. and I had an unexpected day off on Wednesday, and we checked out the Dan Graham show. It was SO MUCH FUN. He loved the models (especially the high-rise building with the tiny movie theather) and exploring the mirrored stuff together was the most fun I’ve had in a museum in a long […]

Dan Graham, New Space for Showing Videos, 1995

Dan Graham, New Space for Showing Videos, 1995

7-yr-old O. and I had an unexpected day off on Wednesday, and we checked out the Dan Graham show. It was SO MUCH FUN. He loved the models (especially the high-rise building with the tiny movie theather) and exploring the mirrored stuff together was the most fun I’ve had in a museum in a long time. (The guards were even a blast — showing us how to play with the time-delated cameras in one room). O. summed up the show perfectly as we walked back to the car: ” I know how to make sense of it, but it still doesn’t make sense.”

Art! Now with Ponies!!

Recently, I’ve run into several parents of young kids who haven’t taken their kids to museums or galleries — or if they do, take them only to the kids’ play rooms at the institutions. My kids have been hauled out to museums since day one (almost – – Baby J. was 7 days old for […]

Painting of a pony from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Painting of a pony from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Recently, I’ve run into several parents of young kids who haven’t taken their kids to museums or galleries — or if they do, take them only to the kids’ play rooms at the institutions. My kids have been hauled out to museums since day one (almost – - Baby J. was 7 days old for her first museum visit), mostly because, selfishly, I wanted to go.  Taking kids to a gallery can produce anxiety — they’re not quiet, they move fast, they grow extra hands when you’re not looking.

In case it feels like art musems are just for contemplative adults who talk in quiet tones, here’s a nice post by writer and critic Edward Goldman, who’s more than happy to see babies in museums — hooray!

Rotten fruit, super chimes, and other summer fun

The  ‘Summer Kids’ Tour’ post on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art blog made me wonder what the perfect kids’ tour might involve at the Walker — and immediately started thinking about rotten lemons, mesmerizing wind chimes, and burgers and chips. Here’s my version of a summer  afternoon at the Walker with the kids: […]

The  ‘Summer Kids’ Tour’ post on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art blog made me wonder what the perfect kids’ tour might involve at the Walker — and immediately started thinking about rotten lemons, mesmerizing wind chimes, and burgers and chips. Here’s my version of a summer  afternoon at the Walker with the kids:

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (1988). Whether you bike or drive to the Walker, start your visit with a trip across this fabulous bridge by Minneapolis artist Siah Armajani. Look for the poem, count the cars.

wind chime

Wind Chime (After Dream) by Pierre Huyghe

Wind Chime (After Dream) by Pierre Huyghe. Tell the kids your going to go see some wind chimes (they’ll be unimpressed), then walk with them through the grove of chimes installed in the sculpture garden. It is unexpectedly mesmerizing, and kids can play tag and listen at the same time.

lemon_rot

The Garden

The Garden by Claes Oldenburg. A successful visit with my kids always involves food. Thursday nights, you can order hot dogs and hamburgers cooked outside on the grill. Place your order inside in the Bazinet Garden Lobby, and check out the rows of mysterious, rotting lemons in glass jars, then go outside, and see the garden where they’re buried while the burgers cook.

turrell

Sky Pesher by James Turrell After dinner, run up and down the hill a few dozen times, then make one more trip up the hill and discover one of our favorite semi-hidden spots at the Walker:  Sky Pesher by James Turrell, which is built into the ground near the WAC building. It is a delight and a suprise, and a great place to end a busy day.

Time Traveling

Last week, my seven-year-old and I went to a lecture by Dr. Ronald Mallett at the Walker. Dr. Mallett, a theoretical physicist, talked about general relativity, special relativity, and the physics of time travel. I really wanted to go – I loved The Quick and the Dead exhibition, and I liked the idea of hearing […]

Last week, my seven-year-old and I went to a lecture by Dr. Ronald Mallett at the Walker. Dr. Mallett, a theoretical physicist, talked about general relativity, special relativity, and the physics of time travel. I really wanted to go – I loved The Quick and the Dead exhibition, and I liked the idea of hearing in a scientist to talk about ideas related to the exhibition’s exploration of time. I was a little worried about how O. would do at the lecture – his first.

It turned out, he loved it. It helped that Dr. Mallett is an engaging speaker, with an inspiring personal story. O. was fascinated by the talk of exploding stars and black holes – from which nothing can escape! It was a lovely night with O. – it was a challenging topic, which we were both interested in, but neither of us knew much about. We were on the same intellectual footing.

I met another parent from the Walker’s parent advisory group – and she noted how much she is enjoying going to things with her daughter (who is about the same age as O.). Now that her daughter is a bit older, she’s finding that they share more interests and can have more in-depth conversations about art, the news, what they’re reading.

O. and I are off all summer – I’m wondering what we should do next. I like the idea of a weekly or bi-weekly mom-son date night, without the two-year-old in tow. Oskar hasn’t seen the Tomás Saraceno exhibition – maybe that’s next.

Boys & Art

Apparently, someone in the UK thinks that boys will only be interested in art if it involves computers — that there’s something about drawing and painting that repels boys. (How the past 2000 years of art history has been dominated by male artists, then, is a bit of a mystery.) Anyway, David Hockney offers a […]

Apparently, someone in the UK thinks that boys will only be interested in art if it involves computers — that there’s something about drawing and painting that repels boys. (How the past 2000 years of art history has been dominated by male artists, then, is a bit of a mystery.) Anyway, David Hockney offers a spirited response, arguing that “boring teachers”, not drawing and painting, are the problem.

In this article in the Guardian, Hockney argues that there’s a basic, human need to draw, and that while digital tools can be useful, there’s no substitute for drawing and paintings. And he says the school system is “swindling” the children — I love that characterization!

I’d argue, too, that using real materials is important — my boy needs small motor skills (drawing is good for that) and while he doesn’t like drawing from his imagination, he loves to reproduce all the details of a real thing, like an airplane. He also loves to do stuff on the computer, and taking digital photos. But I think his interest in things is lots more about what the project is about than what the tools are (he’d be more interested in drawing a 757 than a person, no matter what tools he was using). Any thoughts?

Questions with Todd Deutsch

Todd Deutsch, Oscar(Vader) , 2007 Courtesy the artist Since I first saw them on his website, I’ve found Todd Deutsch’s photographs of family life absolutely captivating. I’ve caught myself studying the images for the evidence of everyday life with kids: spaghetti in the living room, scattered shoes, chicken nuggets and naked noodles, a couch stripped […]

Todd Deutsch, Oscar(Vader) , 2007 Courtesy the artist
Todd Deutsch, Oscar(Vader) , 2007 Courtesy the artist

Since I first saw them on his website, I’ve found Todd Deutsch’s photographs of family life absolutely captivating. I’ve caught myself studying the images for the evidence of everyday life with kids: spaghetti in the living room, scattered shoes, chicken nuggets and naked noodles, a couch stripped bare of its cushions. And toys – LEGOs – everywhere.  Chaos and mess and play, all anchored – or set loose? -  by intensely focused kid energy.

The photographs – and my interest in artist/parents – made me curious about  Deutsch, his work, and his home life. How do his kids feel when dad’s camera is focused on them? With three kids, how does he get any work done?

Deutsch will be speaking about his photographs of gamers and family, and how he keeps it all in balance, at the Walker next Tuesday, May 5 at 7:00pm.  A few weeks ago, I met Todd at a coffee shop to talk a little about his life, work, and what he’d be discussing at the Walker.

The Basics:
Todd and his wife have three boys, and are expecting a forth. Todd works primarily at home – he does not have a separate studio. During the academic year, he teaches at the College of St. Katherine, and between teaching and the time he spends with the kids at home, he doesn’t have much time to make work. In the summer, he’s off, but so are the boys. Finding time to make photographs is always tricky, but because the studio is at home, he’s always around and being with the kids is just part of his working process.

About being an artist and a father:
The two roles – dad and artist – are always in tension, always competing. But the camera also provides a perspective on daily life: it slows things down a bit, gives you a chance to revisit and reflect.

Where is your studio?
It’s at home at the kitchen table.  My workspace is in my house – I work on the computer. The boys have taken over most of the house. It would be nice to have a separate space, at times, but for now, this works.

When do you work? After bedtime?
Mostly I work when the boys are around – I am not an evening or night person. I get a couple of weeks each year when they’re still in school, but my teaching has finished, otherwise, they’re with me when I am working.

How do you get work done with the kids around?

I used to work sculpturally – building three-dimensional, sculptural objects out of photographs. Now, I am working at home, and there’s no time, no money for a studio, no money for those kinds of materials.

I’ve learned to work in smaller blocks of time. With the boys, I can work for about 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch, but I’m always getting interrupted to go put out fires. Working digitally has made that possible. When I am working on a series, I edit work with small prints that I spread out on the table.

How do the kids feel about being photographed?

I’ve has been photographing the kids for years, since my first son was born. When I get out the camera, they’re interested in the camera at first, but get bored, and then stop paying attention to it and go back to their own stuff.

They’ve grown up with me making photographs. It is all happening at home – I ‘m making the photographs, and doing my work – but once they’re printed and leave the house, it’s a different thing.

About making art with the kids:
We have the family camera and my camera. We’ve made some stop motion movies – take photos with the lowest resolution possible, and put them together into a movie. With some help, they can do it. If I start making something, they’ll get interested – but if we are really into it – they’ll back off. They want to get their own interests.

How do you stay connected? Who do you talk to about art?
I always worked alone, even when I had a studio with other artists around. My wife is an RN, but we met at art school. So I can run work by her and she’ll understand and be able to respond both as a parent and as an artist. And she understands how important it is to me to keep making work, even though it takes time and attention -– she understands that side of being an artist.

So, how DO you balance everything?

Making art is kind of a selfish activity. You’re constantly conflicted, constantly in a process of choosing how to spend your time. So, choosing to spend a couple of hours in the studio is hard. I know the kids are around – I can hear them in the next room. It could be different with a separate studio, but then I wouldn’t see them.The key is having a partner who is supportive – it is a miracle that anyone would help you with this!

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