Field Trip: Newport Art Museum

Recently, two exhibits opened at the Newport Art Museum that I really wanted to see, so on a cold Sunday afternoon, we went to visit.

It being a weekend, my husband could come along with us, which certainly helps in the toddler department. For those of you who wonder how to get kids interested in visiting art museums, I have no big secrets. My oldest didn’t want to go and, at first, decided he’d sit on a bench and read his book, thank you very much. He was drawn in in spite of himself.

The first exhibit was Collage Paintings by William Klenk. (I couldn’t find an artist site for him, just his bio on the URI website.) I find collage really exciting because of the possibilities. Incorporating so many bits of found material in so many ways–just fabulously inspiring to me, and I wanted the boys to see the possibilities of collage.

My six-year-old wanted to know how the artist might have cut out the pieces he used, since they were so exact. (My guess is an x-acto knife or other blade of some sort.) Looking very closely, it was possible to discern the order in which pieces were applied to the canvas. For instance, on the collage pictured on the museum’s website, you could see the outline of the red snake under the picture of George Washington. How exciting to get a glimpse into the process of creating the art.

Many collages featured a sort of striping with acrylic.

We talked about how much planning would have gone into these works, so that the layers were exactly as the artist desired. We also identified, pretty early on, motifs that appeared again and again: birds, boats, fish, balls, butterflies–we found them throughout the gallery. It became like a treasure hunt: Look! Another butterfly! Three in just this one collage! G enjoyed pointing out all the fish. We looked at the collages from a distance and noticed how some images seemed to float in front of the background more when viewed from farther away. You notice different things with a longer view.

I can’t wait to collage with the boys!

The second exhibit we went to see was Artist Books and Etchings by Marian O’Connell. I would be very happy in a life that involved making handmade books all day. I began to try some here and there and then had G, but I plan to get back to it, and this exhibit, too, was very inspiring. As I wandered around the small gallery I marveled at all the hours of work that was surely represented there. Just making a simple bound book used to take me enough time that I haven’t even attempted it since G was born. Time like that, I can’t foresee having anytime soon.

Isn’t that gorgeous? And it wasn’t the most impressive piece there–I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite. As I looked more closely at a book containing snow-related images, I surmised that the artists’ children are all grown, and when I went to her website, I realized her youngest is about my age. This is also inspiring–I’ve always felt that it was okay to fit my own creative needs into the corners of my life, around my children, while they’re young, because there would be an opening later on. And look, here’s Ms. O’Connell’s example!

The boys, meanwhile, also really liked the books. We share a fascination with blank books and manipulating paper–perhaps it’s genetic? The etchings from the books were also displayed on the walls, which was nice, because it can be hard to see all the artwork in a book you can’t touch.

After visiting those two exhibits, we walked through the rest of the galleries. We probably spent between an hour and an hour and a half altogether, which is just about right with three kids including a toddler. Enough time to enjoy the museum, and not so much time that it becomes overwhelming. This was my first visit to this museum, but I suspect we’ll be back for future exhibits.

2 thoughts on “Field Trip: Newport Art Museum

  1. Jodi

    Thanks so very much for Ms. O’Connell’s example. That’s exactly what I tell myself when it feels as if my writing talent may have shriveled up and died under the weight of 3 pre-schoolers and a kindergartner. I just keep reminding myself “someday” will come sooner than I think. 🙂

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