Art in the Park has come and gone in a whirlwind. I had a great time meeting people and catching snippets of the wonderful performances. Along with being my first vendor experience, it was also the first time my work has been displayed outside of the safety of a gallery where people expect to be moved and challenged.
I don’t think of my art as kid friendly, and was surprised when several children took interest in my tent. My work is colorful and there is Cat Woman and Wonder Woman to draw them in. There were several moments when I saw the power and potential of art, even if only small contributions.
‘My Fatimah’ was displayed front and center, in part, because she is my greatest work, but also because she has a story to tell. A little girl, who appeared to be around 5 years old stopped, captivated by the colors and flowers. Her father struggled to explain the painting, so I tried to elaborate in simple, positive terms. Soon he steered her interest towards the children’s activities and they were on their way.
A few minutes later she had dragged him back and Dad continued to patiently discuss the painting with his young daughter. This time I left them on their own as I was engaged in another conversation. The inquisitive, contemplative look on her face could melt the coldest of hearts.
I noticed children of color were drawn immediately to the table which prominently displayed two bright paintings with people of color. They reminded me how important it is to see yourself reflected in the world around you and inspired me to continue to explore the many colorful variations of the human form.
Several little boys and girls noted how strong Wonder Woman looked and mothers told daughters they can be big and strong too. One girl asked why Wonder Woman is wearing pants. “Because it’s more practical for fighting bad guys.” I answered in a proud feminist tone. Now I find myself reconsidering the plunging neckline of my next Cat Grrrl. This series is intended for an adult audience, and we women have as much right to express our sexuality as to not be objectified, but maybe she will be displayed above kid eye level.
One cannot overestimate the power of art and media. These are constant subliminal messages telling us of our worth and the value of others. Unlike advertisements, art has the freedom to counter the dominant narrative. We can hold a mirror up to society and reflect the beauty of diversity within our communities. We can shine a light on injustice and offer visualizations of a better world that can be passed onto our children as maps for building the future.