This is the second issue of The Consenses Journal and it bears great news. From June 23 2018 to May 27 2019 MASS MoCA presents at their Kidspace Come to Your Senses: Art to See, Smell, Hear, Taste, and Touch, a Consenses exhibit which I have curated.
In March 2017 I worked with fifty 5th graders from the North Adams area and asked them to paint the essence of “JOY.” But what IS the essence of joy? Well, of course, there’s really no right or wrong answer and everyone’s version is different so I asked them to try filling themselves up with joy by remembering a wonderful time in their lives or an experience that filled them with that feeling. Then I asked them the following questions:
What would the spirit of JOY be if it were a color? Would joy be yellow? Or pink? Or clear or red?
What would JOY taste like if it had a flavor? Would it taste like popcorn? Jellybeans? Warm fresh bread just out of the oven?
What about if JOY were a texture or material? Would joy feel like feathers falling from the sky? Or like riding your bike full speed downhill? Maybe the essence of joy for you feels like running through the woods or falling into your bed after a long day. and finally I asked
What would JOY be if it were a painting?…
From here, the student’s picked up paintbrushes and painted their JOY. And guess what? All of their paintings were different because, guess what? We all experience the world differently. Some students painted with yellows and pinks, others with greens and blues and some used every color in the rainbow. Some used big fearless brushstrokes to represent joy, while others painted careful delicate lines and swirls like whispers on the page. Others painted abstract shapes while others painted representational things like rainbows, fields of flowers or their favorite place to play. Even though all their versions of JOY were different, all of them were right! And together, through their collection of paintings, we were able to explore and discover the broader essence of “JOY”. There were things that all their paintings had in common, like round, bright, colorful shapes.
The same students were next asked to paint the essence of “FEAR”. Again, I asked them to close their eyes and investigate their unique feelings. They asked themselves: “What would FEAR smell like?” “Feel like?” “Taste like?” “Look like?” Again, all their paintings were different but as with JOY, the FEAR paintings all had similar characteristics too. The shapes for fear were sharp for example, the colors were dark and the strokes chaotic.
Taking the paintings back home with me to Cambridge, I chose six (three paintings of JOY, three paintings of FEAR) and designated 6 professional musicians. Never telling them a child painted it or that it was inspired by an emotion, I gave each of them a painting and asked them to interpret what it meant for them and express its essence as a song. Each song was then given to a filmmaker who was asked to express the essence of the music as movement. Each film was given to a poet, each poem to a visual artist, each visual work to a perfumer, each perfume to a sculptor and finally each chain was interpreted by a set designer who interpreted them as a whole and created a space for the art to live within as one collaborative piece of art.
Each link in the chain provides a new window into the art preceding it. Each artwork offers a way to see our humanness with all our brilliant uniqueness and our inevitable limitations. In Consenses, as it should be in life, no matter our age, race, or creed each of our perspectives are equal and valid. What started as 6 student’s paintings of JOY and FEAR has given way to a conversation through paint and fragrance and metal and music about what it means to be human. The ways in which we are different and how those differences help us to see in new and exciting ways, but more importantly how we are all connected though we might not see it in our day to day lives.
For this issue of The Consenses Journal I interviewed two of the children whoes paintings of JOY and FEAR inspired chains of art for our latest exhibition: Ozzie Weber and Gisela Hildabrand. Each interview is followed by a text from the designers who interpreted those chains as a whole and created sets where the art will be exhibited from, Cristina Todesco and Janie Howland. The children were asked the exact same questions about the experience of creating a painting based on a feeling, and the adults were equally briefed to write about what influenced their perceptions and creative processes in interpreting the chains they were assigned to as a whole. As you can imagine, they’re each unique but share common threads. You will also have a sneak peek of one of the chains which will be part of the exhibit.
Play a game of ‘Essences’ with Janie & Cristina and try to guess who their metaphors are describing. And make sure to check if you found out who the person was from the game of our last number — the answer is at the end.
Before I let you enjoy our Journal I’d like to invite you to come celebrate the opening of Come to Your Senses on June 23rd at MASS MoCA with us. We’re having an intimate one-night-only concert featuring musical performances from Carly Simon, Ben Taylor, Sophie Hiller, Kori Withers, Eric Erdman, and John Forte, as well as a dance performance by Alison Manning and Jesse Keller. Click here to buy your tickets — all proceeds benefit arts education at MASS MoCA.
We welcome you to Come to Your Senses.