Childhood, unless you're in the middle of it, is viewed from a voyeuristic vantage point where everyone's sporting an "I Survived the Mountain" t-shirt. Though our oldest form, childhood's seen as simply the obvious and mandatory route in which we take to get to the good stuff, Adulthood; Which is sort of odd because in any other race-trajectory, the most crucial points tend to be A and B(start to finish). Life culture suggests that A.5 or B- is the desired destination spot and within that framework Childhood becomes a sparkling start to a grand peak of self-importance, followed by an elderly snuffing out barely worth mentioning and certainly not culturally heralded. Ushering us along that grand chart are large bouts of knowledge absorption and subsequent entropy; which classically runs concurrent with the great loss of innocence.
So maybe this is why up until the 1800's children in art were portrayed as tiny adults without autonomy, distinct preference, or aesthetic. Perhaps the tragedy of inevitable subversion was too harsh to capture in a series of portraits or a permanent sculpture. The "Alice" portraits of Lewis Carroll have an altered innuendo outside of the context of adulthood and its unsavory impetus. Contemporarily, we're starting to grasp more that children are separate entities who transgress in very specific ways to and within their own set. Once the transgressions of adults enter that safe arena, however, things get uneasy. All things considered, the loss of innocence occurs on a continuum and can hardly be broken up into chronological thirds. The idea of innocence is innately hinged on the idea that one day it will be shattered and this definitive contrast can ignite the artistic space.
Tainted purity is one of the implemented themes purveyed in FPAC's exhibit, "The Adventures of Innocence" featuring artists Chris Fitch and Erica von Schilgen. Though very different in medium and form, both artists run a similar course conveying lost or maintained youthful wonderment, depending upon your perspective. Both sets of works, whether functionally mechanical or implicitly so, have a tinker toyish quality to them that makes them seem as if they may jump off the canvas or pedestal into an impromptu synchronized march. Fitch's "Adam and Eve" is a still of that: a series of vegetables (peppers, cucumbers, etc.) with long spindly wires for legs, walking along single file (as children are made to do), and snapped at a teetering jestered angle á la that scene from Benny and June.*
With "Spring" Fitch uses wood, formica, aluminum, and spindles to assemble what can only be likened to a giant, turquoise, motorized fiddlehead. When on, the plant slowly unfurls in this nascent display that brilliantly imitates organic matter while stirring that grotesque unease within us that deems talking computers eerie, robot baby sitters ill-advised, and the techno-apocalypse ominous. Here, innocence and organics are the natural states and the advancement of knowledge and technology conflict with our definitions of natural by being equally striking.
All of the pieces play around with contrast as a tool. Fitch's flower growing from a photo box and resiny soot sets up an adequate neighborhood for "Cloud Breathers" -- a mixed media piece comprised of stuffed bears and other furry friends vomiting their innards fortuitously made of cotton. In turn, Fitch's "Fur Coat" (assisted by Leliosa Maaba) is one made entirely of stuffed animal pelts, and evokes imagery of a PETA run by five-year-olds, using red finger paint to maim the brutally extracted hides of their buddies.
Through splashes of burnt, and muddled pastels both artists put to use the culturally assigned pallet of childhood, and so, also incorporate that color scheme oft apparent in a hipster sensibility. The fact that a group of young adults and infants have shared preference points to a happening somewhere between the extension of the epoch of innocence and a group peter pan complex. Never mind the resistance to maturation, or maybe due to this; the exhibit works. The two artists meet at an interesting intersection. The common fixtures of "The Adventures of Innocence" are visually stimulating and make for a show that's well-placed, and ripe with kinetic and self-exploding theme.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated for clarification since publication.
* The artist wrote to point out that "Adam and Eve are supposed to be dancing in the Garden"
"The Adventures Of Innocence" is on view June 04 - July 24, 2010 at FPAC.
All images are courtesy of the artist and insert venue name.