The Art of the Month Club is a regular feature on the WCMA blog. Each month we invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Club member. Today, please welcome, Amelia Wood, WCMA Coordinator of Education Programs. We’ve made an exception this month, the work of art Amelia chose is not part of the museum’s collection but from the collection of the artist, Amy Podmore, Professor of Art here at Williams. Podmore’s sculpture was on view in the Kidspace at WCMA: Artistic Curiosity exhibition from November 10, 2012 through April 21, 2013 and had a profound impact on the visitors and tour groups during its time here.
When I started my position as the Coordinator of Education Programs at WCMA in mid-November, I was introduced to the Kidspace: Artistic Curiosity exhibition, where I would be working with Museum Associates to provide K-12 tours throughout the academic year. As I entered the gallery, I was immediately taken aback by a white figure with pointed ears, balanced on a tiny green ladder and holding a violin. Intrigued, I bee lined to the sculpture—which was suspiciously turned away from the viewer—for further inspection. I giggled as I scanned its face, and my head quickly filled with questions: ‘What’s that bunny doing? What’s up with the boots? Is it a Bugs Bunny mask? A-ha! I see a neck under there!’
After some further investigation, I learned that the sculpture, titled Measured Rest, was created by Williams art faculty member Amy Podmore. In a 2009 Williams Record article, Podmore stated that her work “has always been about the everyday, the culling of ideas gained from observing and interpreting the world;” a seamless fit with WCMA’s Kidspace exhibition.
Measured Rest, which was the first stop on our Curiosity tour, quickly gained the ability to transform students into detectives, authors, artists, and historians. The sculpture seemed to encompass the theme of curiosity from every angle. Conversation and questions came organically, and as the Museum Associate tour guides and I came to realize, it was often difficult to move onto the next tour stop.
As the semester chugged along and I began to gain my ‘museum legs,’ I found that I was able to use Measured Rest in a variety of settings beyond the Curiosity tours, including tours with adults and elderly groups, teacher workshops, Drop-In Drawing sessions, and the Family Day Celebration. One morning in February, as I scrambled to cram for a grade four African Art tour, I began to panic, realizing we only had three West African masks on display. Suddenly, Podmore’s mask-wearing creation came to mind. I incorporated it into the tour and was delighted to hear how pleased the teachers were that their students were able to make connections to both historical and contemporary mask making.
Another highlight from this semester was a visit from a group of preschoolers I previously worked with at the Williams Children’s Center. As we approached the sculpture, I could sense their excitement and wonder. Chatter quickly diminished and was replaced by tiny gasps. The children were fascinated by the history of the sculpture and were instantly engaged. I was astounded when I checked my watch to find that we had been discussing possible story lines and artistic practice and purpose for almost fifteen minutes!
Realizing that Artistic Curiosity was scheduled to close on April 21, I’ll admit that I was saddened by the thought of Measured Rest no longer living in the 1935 gallery. It had become a sort of beacon for me; a safe place where I was reminded of my passion of working with children and art. On the final day of the exhibition, I made sure to stop into the gallery one last time. I thanked the sculpture for its endless possibilities, for the intriguing conversations and strong connections it helped me forge with the children I had worked with, and for helping to kick start my career in museum education. The sculpture stared back with its familiar, welcoming grin. Somewhere in that smile, it seemed to say, ‘You’re welcome.’
Above image: Amy Podmore, Measured Rest (rabbit), 2009, mixed media. Collection of the artist. Installation view. Photo by Arthur Evans.