“Don’t judge a man before walking two moons in his moccasins.”
The New Children’s Museum is a place where we can slow down and interact with art and each other, absorbing concepts and creating new ideas about the world around us. While we are here we’re free to roam and investigate on our own terms. With NCM’s big turnover into Animal Art, the museum grounds have been transformed into an entirely new creative space. Through animal-focused exhibits we are invited to step outside ourselves and look at the world the way an entire other species does. Sam Easterson’s exhibit is a shining example, Museum of Animal Perspectives, the hide-and-seek style installment divided into 28 monitors showing various animals in their natural habitats. With tiny cameras attached to each creature’s body, anyone can examine and imagine what it’s like to be a falcon, an armadillo, and even a ferret.
As humans, in a world that’s churning with technological communication and connection like never before, I feel it’s becoming more difficult to really listen to and see one another. We have become increasingly disconnected to the natural world and these exhibits help us to see through a different perspective that maybe we’ve lost. But what is perspective to an animal or a human? Perspective is the way we see things and is an intrinsic part of our vision both scientifically and artistically. How does perspective change and affect us, not only with animals but with each other?
To start on a simple scale, try closing one eye and then another; the entire room shifts from side to side. You have that power in your eye and can do that anywhere you are. At the museum, when you look at Jason Hackenweth’s enormous balloon sculpture Return of the Trilodon from the lowest level of the museum it looks monumentally different than viewed from above when looking out from Marcos Ramírez ERRE’s 33-foot Trojan horse replicate, Toy an Horse. Or how about when you look closely at an exhibit like last month’s artist-in-residence Miyoshi Barosh’s installment “I Am the One…“? It stands in our Arts Education Center like a theater of characters, created from colorful fabric and paper-mache faces. Up close, you can see the brushstrokes and the lines of the paper when she attached the pieces together — the wondrous little details that build the piece. So when you step back, your scope of vision expands and your eyes are able to see much more. On a school tour I had my charming second graders stand as far away from this very piece as they could after looking at it up close and asked them what they saw. “Oh,” one girl said as she cocked her head to the side, “It’s a crowd of faces!” They all stood wide-eyed, their formation mirroring the work they were looking at. “Oh yeah,” another boy said, “It’s a parade of people or animals!” This opened up a new world of questions. Who are these little creatures? Where are they going and what are they doing? Why are they all together? What makes them similar or different? And most importantly, how are they like us?
Through identifying and then sharing perspectives we learn more about what others see and subsequently, pinpoint our own. This creates understanding and I would argue that this understanding is crucial to creating a more cohesive and truly connected world. If we can strive to understand what another human being is seeing and feeling, we can communicate with them more effectively and become genuinely empathetic. With empathy we share experience and this process has the power to define our existence. Perhaps the reflection of this experience is summed up in the banner that scrolls across the top of Miyoshi’s work which reads, “I am the one in the crowd that will make a difference as we march over the past and into the future!” By believing in ourselves we have access to a compassionate power that invites other like-minded folk to march with us to create a better world for everyone. In this way, perspective becomes a tool we can learn and use to live together harmoniously. It’s like that quote, “Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.”
Henry David Thoreau (that’s him up there) once wrote, “Moreover, I, on my side, require of [everyone] a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.” It’s a little wordy of a quote but his message is pure. He argues the importance for each man or woman, and in our case, children to explore their experiences independently, not necessarily apart from one another, but more individually — as our very own. Each person, each child has their very own viewpoint and we must encourage each other to explore and establish our personal experiences and share them together. To use another example, a stained glass window is one large pane of glass but is made up of fragmented, multicolored pieces. We are those pieces, each shining brilliantly to create one illuminated window to the world. And we are beautiful.
—Angella d’Avignon, Gallery Guide