The New Children’s Museum is not just filled with art and the laughter of children, but it is also filled with possibility. Around every corner and behind every wall, guests are challenged to wonder, “What if?”
When you find yourself wandering past the Apex Chariots and through the orange curtains, you’ll enter a world where things exist on a different scale. The world: Tabletop Terrain, the artist: Britt. Before you, a six-foot table shaped a bit like a peanut shell, presenting a green world made of ferns, rocks, bark, twigs and other natural materials all enclosed by a clear plastic ceiling. Inside, there are some carefully placed creatures—a polar bear, a wolf, a tortoise. The careful observer will notice a shout out to old West embodied in a solitary wagon wheel and a cow skull. As you and your children rush to get your hands on the bounty of plastic animals, I dare you to wonder the following:
What if, like the animal in your hand, giraffes really were six inches tall or tiger sharks were a mere 10 inches in length? If you stood a colossal five feet about them, how would you handle such small creatures? Where would they live? How would you care for them? Would the dynamic of power that exists between humans and other animals change?
What if polar bears and tortoises had to share a habitat? Can they live in the same habitat? If not, then why are they housed so close together on the Tabletop Terrain? Is this a real/present habitat or perhaps a glimpse on the future? What about all the water creatures? Where are their habitats? In what kind of a world do whales and gorillas interact?
What if all art was made from recycled natural materials? How would this impact the way you think of art? Does art require manufacturing? What is the environmental impact of using natural materials in art? How have natural materials been used for art in the past?
What if every person was in charge of caring for a small part of the world? We’re familiar with the adage that with power comes responsibility. Is the power a child has over the activity at the Tabletop Terrain parallel to a real power people have over animals and their habitats? How are we individually responsible for the world around us? What is the outcome if people abandon their power or their responsibility over the Earth?
What if I want a work of art like this at home? If you take a moment to glance up from the Tabletop Terrain, you’ll find even more small worlds all around you. Take a careful look at the globes and shoe box size habitats around you. Layer upon layer of dirt, sand, rocks, plants, and shells, these small worlds nearly come alive. How would one of these look in your foyer or above the fire place? How might you create your own little world? Where can you collect materials for your own work of art?
Part of our mission at The New Children’s Museum is to create a more accessible portal through which people can engage with art. After all, art is for everyone. Britt’s Tabletop Terrain is a wonderful opportunity for anyone to think, play and create. It opens the mind to a type of art you may not have otherwise considered—something beyond paint, clay and the silence of your typical art museum. Want to learn more? Check out Britt’s website, tendliving.com. Wondering something else? Share your thoughts on the Tabletop Terrain by posting a comment here!
—Nicole Borunda, Gallery Guide