Art’scool Docent Story: Kate SoudantWhat’s Your Vision?
Art can be interpreted in numerous ways. While looking at James Ensor’s Fireworks, 1887 (above), during a recent M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY “What’s Your Vision?” tour, a mixed-age group responded with eight different viewpoints to the question “What is going on in this picture?”
In this type of tour, information about the artwork is not revealed until after viewers respond. As always, the youngest was the first to offer an opinion: “It’s a volcano!” he shouted. After the others in the group spent a minute more looking at the work and developed a bit more confidence, they too began to express their opinions: fireworks, a big fire, a bomb blast, a sunrise, a meteor hitting the earth, a beautiful sunset. One person even said, “I don’t know what it is but it scares me; and why are those people at the bottom not doing anything?!”
Looking at art takes time, and when someone notices something, it often triggers a thought in another viewer’s brain. The last comment focused the group on the people at the bottom, who some viewers had not even noticed at first. The colors are not bright and the figures are not clear—what are they doing? Some thought they were running away, but then, on more careful inspection, someone else noted that it appeared they weren’t doing anything unusual; in fact, many aren’t even looking at the large, bright explosion of color.
Did they all agree? No, but that’s what makes looking at art fun—seeing other people’s viewpoints, engaging our own imaginations, and getting a richer, fuller appreciation of the work.
James Ensor’s Fireworks, 1887, is currently on view in the 1962 Knox Building. Come and see the work in person to discover your own vision.

Art’scool Docent Story: Kate Soudant
What’s Your Vision?

Art can be interpreted in numerous ways. While looking at James Ensor’s Fireworks, 1887 (above), during a recent M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY “What’s Your Vision?” tour, a mixed-age group responded with eight different viewpoints to the question “What is going on in this picture?”

In this type of tour, information about the artwork is not revealed until after viewers respond. As always, the youngest was the first to offer an opinion: “It’s a volcano!” he shouted. After the others in the group spent a minute more looking at the work and developed a bit more confidence, they too began to express their opinions: fireworks, a big fire, a bomb blast, a sunrise, a meteor hitting the earth, a beautiful sunset. One person even said, “I don’t know what it is but it scares me; and why are those people at the bottom not doing anything?!”

Looking at art takes time, and when someone notices something, it often triggers a thought in another viewer’s brain. The last comment focused the group on the people at the bottom, who some viewers had not even noticed at first. The colors are not bright and the figures are not clear—what are they doing? Some thought they were running away, but then, on more careful inspection, someone else noted that it appeared they weren’t doing anything unusual; in fact, many aren’t even looking at the large, bright explosion of color.

Did they all agree? No, but that’s what makes looking at art fun—seeing other people’s viewpoints, engaging our own imaginations, and getting a richer, fuller appreciation of the work.

James Ensor’s Fireworks, 1887, is currently on view in the 1962 Knox Building. Come and see the work in person to discover your own vision.

Art’scool Docent Stories: Kate SoudantWhy I Love Being a Docent
Last week, a group from Gloria J. Parks Community Center came for a tour. In my group of girls from grades three through five, only three had been to the Albright-Knox before, so most of them were not sure what to expect.
Their first adventure into the new Robert Therrien exhibition had them awed; a few were even a bit apprehensive. Was there a giant in there? Would that table fall on your head? When it was apparent it was safe (no to both fears), we continued exploring and found about six different possible reasons why there was one chair leaning against the wall. After exploring (and exercising) their imaginations, we went to look at some other works in the exhibition.
A darker work that looks like a huge cartoon cloud with spigots coming out was next and we found a number of different possible meanings for that work as well. Then, one young girl said, “it looks like a snowman on its side with drains to let the water drip out when it melts.” What? A snowman! Why, yes, I could see it now, and that sparked a light in my own head because Robert Therrien is known for using similar object shapes—including a snowman—in many different forms of media.
This was the link to take us into the room where two snowmen (one a sculpture and the other a wall hanging) are on view, along with two other objects. Suddenly, another young girl squealed in delight. “Look!,” she said, pointing to the two other works, “the snowman’s nose [referring to an oil can sculpture] and his hat [referring to a tilted hat on a stand].” She was absolutely right. And I had never noticed the connection before.  
I thank this group for giving me a new perspective on art and the opportunity to see new possibilities in what is being shown. I love it when art opens our eyes (and minds).
IMAGE: Robert Therrien’s No title (folding table and chairs, beige), 2006.© 2013 Robert Therrien/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Art’scool Docent Stories: Kate Soudant
Why I Love Being a Docent

Last week, a group from Gloria J. Parks Community Center came for a tour. In my group of girls from grades three through five, only three had been to the Albright-Knox before, so most of them were not sure what to expect.

Their first adventure into the new Robert Therrien exhibition had them awed; a few were even a bit apprehensive. Was there a giant in there? Would that table fall on your head? When it was apparent it was safe (no to both fears), we continued exploring and found about six different possible reasons why there was one chair leaning against the wall. After exploring (and exercising) their imaginations, we went to look at some other works in the exhibition.

A darker work that looks like a huge cartoon cloud with spigots coming out was next and we found a number of different possible meanings for that work as well. Then, one young girl said, “it looks like a snowman on its side with drains to let the water drip out when it melts.” What? A snowman! Why, yes, I could see it now, and that sparked a light in my own head because Robert Therrien is known for using similar object shapes—including a snowman—in many different forms of media.

This was the link to take us into the room where two snowmen (one a sculpture and the other a wall hanging) are on view, along with two other objects. Suddenly, another young girl squealed in delight. “Look!,” she said, pointing to the two other works, “the snowman’s nose [referring to an oil can sculpture] and his hat [referring to a tilted hat on a stand].” She was absolutely right. And I had never noticed the connection before.  

I thank this group for giving me a new perspective on art and the opportunity to see new possibilities in what is being shown. I love it when art opens our eyes (and minds).

IMAGE: Robert Therrien’s No title (folding table and chairs, beige), 2006.© 2013 Robert Therrien/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Art'scool, presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York

Art’scool Docent Story: Kate SoudantChinese Exchange Students Respond to Marisol’s Baby Girl
Here’s a favorite story about how culture can easily change context from Albright-Knox docent Kate Soudant:
When discussing Marisol’s Baby Girl with a group of Chinese exchange students, one of them said, with full assurance, “I know what that means—the mother loves her child too much.” Another student added, “And each child has to be more important than the parents.”
IMAGE: Art © Marisol Escobar/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Art’scool Docent Story: Kate Soudant
Chinese Exchange Students Respond to Marisol’s Baby Girl

Here’s a favorite story about how culture can easily change context from Albright-Knox docent Kate Soudant:

Art'scool, Presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Western New YorkWhen discussing Marisol’s Baby Girl with a group of Chinese exchange students, one of them said, with full assurance, “I know what that means—the mother loves her child too much.” Another student added, “And each child has to be more important than the parents.”

IMAGE: Art © Marisol Escobar/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY