TThis exhibition combines works by Baltimore
artist Sonia Denise Tassin with creations from Park School’s
Kindergarten classrooms. In doing so, remarkable parallels
The expression “a five-year old could do that!” is
often lobbed at modern artworks as a negative criticism.
This exhibition sets out to demonstrate that such a comment
may actually be seen as a great compliment.
Five-year olds experience the world with curiosity and
wonder. Each new encounter is seen as a fresh opportunity
for discovery and growth. Good artists, despite no longer
being children, have such an attitude.
As an artist, Sonia Denise Tassin is at once exemplary
and remarkable. Exemplary, because she shows what it
is artists have long valued in children: their originality,
open-mind, and un-jaded outlook on the everyday, qualities
that Tassin brings to all she does in the studio.
Tassin is remarkable in that she also has a total un-self-consciousness
akin to the un-self-consciousness of young children.
This allows for unfettered play, a play leading to startling,
fresh, and enlightening discovery through her art. Rare
is the artist with as free-ranging a mind as Tassin’s.
Such openness to experience is not at all unusual among
very young children. The enviable richness of such a
way of being begs the question: what happens to us as
we grow older?
The answer is at once complex and simple. Complex, because
to effect change calls for an entire cultural shift.
That many of us lose our child-like sensitivity to phenomena
means we are ill-equipped as role-models and teachers;
we have become deaf to the “hundred languages” of
children and thus unintentionally pummel them out of
children. (Children are tuned to adult expectation and
live to meet it; if a nascent language goes un-affirmed,
We live in a world rife with visual insensitivity. Many
people have trouble discerning the differences between
works by a developed artist such as Tassin and works
by very young children. Though parallels in this exhibition
are profound, differences in levels of sophistication
ought to be glaring to viewers. That they are not apparent
to many who see the show makes the point.
There is, however, a simple solution
to the troubling position in which our culture finds
itself. It is simply a matter of looking afresh at what
we have long dismissed: the wisdom of children. This
does not mean denying maturation as we age, but rather,
like an artist, seeking the qualities of childhood that
will strengthen us as learning beings.
We must look again at the creative works of very young
children. See them in their fullness, so that we know we
will be passing on a compliment next time we say of an
artist’s work something like, “a five-year
old could do that!”