“A work of art should cause the emotion of newness.”
Start Fresh is a group show about clarity, finesse, energy, surprise, nature and healing in art. Bringing together the startling and fresh work of six artists along with that of approximately 80 students from our Arts and Health programs, the exhibit is about the potential of art to spark renewal in all of us.
A new discovery can come at any age. What a delight it was for me to learn about Mary Delany who began her art career at the age of 72. Better late than never! Nature is her classroom where she studies “the wonderful texture of every leaf and flower, the dazzling and varied plumage of birds, the glowing colours of flies…and their infinite variety.” Her scientifically accurate flower portraits point forward in time to our information age, and to our current obsession with image sharing. Her self-styled paper mosaicks, as she calls them, anticipate our mixed media. But Delany’s work reaches back in time too, to the tradition of Renaissance painting where objects in the world are held in the capable embrace of perspective, and bathed in the light of humanism. My fellow teachers Susan Hoenig, Amy Kisby, Barbara Schaeffer and I have been sharing Mary Delany’s art with our students, and now we’re all trying to figure out how in the world this artist managed to make nearly 1,000 extremely ambitious collages beginning at age 72.
The experience of teaching very special students (ranging in age from their teens to over 100 years old) may offer some insight. We teachers have each witnessed someone defying our expectations, in large or small ways. When someone is silent, art may provide a surprising voice few get to hear. When there is too much to say, art may be just the way to turn the volume down. We are lucky to be there for the moment when art creates a small shift, a slight move forward or even opens up a brave new world. That world may close down again, and so we try again. The idea of a fresh start is something we are very familiar with.
The Arts Council has been providing arts programming throughout our community at Carrier Clinic, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, Atrium Senior Living, Greenwood House, Brandywine Senior Living, Harriet Bryan House and in our own Caregivers Class, held at the Arts Council. Each of these programs was invited to take apart a paper flower (and Delany is said to have dissected flowers in order to understand their structure) to form something new. These botanicals show memory, emotion, vulnerability, risk and the touch of many hands and hearts.
The six artists selected for this exhibit connect to the themes of renewal and growth in diverse ways. From drawing to painting, photography, ceramics, printmaking, performance art, biotechnology and environmental intervention, the range of media rewinds to art’s origins, and fast-forwards into new technologies. The artists in this exhibit are trained and skilled. They have finesse and a light touch, and keep their art fresh, honest and relevant.
My hope for this exhibit is that viewers will be inspired by the commitment, vision, innovation and technique on display. I hope viewers will feel energized and will come away with their own ideas for how to increase creativity, healing and wellbeing in our community.