Day #4: March 19, 2013

The Teen Docent’s last class before Spring Break was a busy one! Students were first set free in the galleries to work on “adopting an object.” Over the three months the students spend here at the museum, they compile in-depth research on works of art that resonate with them the most. While ordinarily museum visitors spend on average fewer than 30 seconds viewing a work of art, the Teen Docents are asked to stretch their powers of observation to consider multiple aspects of an artwork—to really spend time with it to uncover layers of meaning. “Adopting” an object requires thoroughly considering and recording details such as background information, provenance, and time period. Students also answer questions such as, “How would you describe the object to someone who could not see it?” Students think about what questions they would pose to the artist if they could….

AdoptAnObject

During the second half of class, the group did have a chance to ask questions directly of an artist whose work is in the museum’s collection! Students were visited by Drunell Levinson, whose piece Baby Blanket has been in the collection since 1998.

BABY BLANKET, Drunell Levinson (b. 1951), New York: 1996, Aluminum-wrapped condoms with embroidery thread; 44x33", gift of the artist, 1998.3.1

BABY BLANKET, Drunell Levinson (b. 1951), New York, 1996, aluminum-wrapped condoms with embroidery thread, 44 x 33 in., American Folk Art Museum, gift of the artist, 1998.3.1. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

During her talk, Levinson, who revealed that she identifies specifically as “an artist who makes quilts,” discussed how she likes to subvert the idea of what a quilt is or can be—that combining traditional techniques (incorporating three layers—backing, batting, and quilt top) with an unexpected, unorthodox element (materials such as fishing lures or condoms) allows her to re-imagine possibilities in art making.

Levinson

As students extrapolated meaning from each example of Levinson’s work, she shared her belief that art—the object itself—comes alive most when viewers’ interpretations are exchanged, extending the conversation that the artist begins.

Some other topics covered: the role of censorship in the art world (and in the world at large), the social aspects of quilt making, quilt making as a performative act, and geometry as a source of infinite inspiration.

Many thanks to the artist for stopping by the museum to share her practice with us!

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