(This blog is a response to Kaywin Weldman’s blog: https://www.nga.gov/blog/memory-museums-once-known.html
Kaywin is the National Gallery of Art’s first woman director)
In the December of 2009, I accompanied my husband to the annual Climate Summit held that year in Cancun. I was working on my capstone project titled ‘Creativity and Cognition in the Visual arts’ and thought it would be a nice getaway to be at the beach and dig into research on art education- its role in shaping our society. Envisioning myself slogging during the day while gazing through the window to get a glimpse of the ebb and flow of waves on the Caribbean sea, I packed my bags and looked forward to digging into research on Art Ed and reserving my evenings for the beach.
On the last day, while I was mulling over an archipelago of thoughts and inferences drawn on the role of Art Observation and Critique in shaping proactive learning behaviors, my attention was caught by a young artist, Carlos, painting off the cuff, on tiles, using his fingers- twisting around his forefinger to form the big azure waves, bobbing the pinky barely against the tile to form a splash, and every part of his palm and fingers taking on different roles depending upon the detail he intended to paint. People looked on with glee. A chat with Carlos revealed to me his poverty which explained why he used tiles as his canvas and his fingers replaced fancy, expensive brushes. Color was all he could somehow afford (he explained). Choosing one of his paintings to take home, I handed Carlos a $ 50 bill and he took out his wallet held together by a fraying rubber band to give me the change.
Ever since, I’ve shared Carlos’s story with friends, nieces and nephews for inspiration and gratitude. Alas, I’ve been a bit insensitive in caring little to share his name- unconsciously deciding it didn’t matter as Carlos wasn’t a “famous artist” anyone would care to know the name of. However, reading Kaywin Weldman’s blog made me reflect and underscore my responsibility to give importance to his identity and push just a bit harder to decode his signature on the tile he had converted into a work of art, using the tip of his fingers. Not only artists, but each one of us is looking for prestige and permanence, in myriads of ways.
The world is changing at an unfathomable speed, yet, a few things will and should remain constant: respecting identity. It's funny that while we may age, reach our twilight years, yet our names enjoy an amaranthine existence!! Thank you, Kaywin, for dismantling my assumptions (made unknowingly) that it’s ok to bypass an artist’s name while talking about his artwork that I proudly display in my living room. Our awareness of these biases (often unconscious), and our conscious, relentless effort in removing those can eventuate our society to change in lasting ways.
© Anu Bhatia October 2020