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Sunday, March 11, 2012

New Arts Center Exhibit “Toys” with the Imagination

 New Arts Center Exhibit “Toys” with the Imagination
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Toys are often among our earliest memories. They inspire wonder, drive imagination and even help develop skills. Now a new exhibit of toy-related mixed media artwork is generating the same sort of energy at Westport Arts Center.

“Toy Stories”, curated by Helen Klisser During, opened with a cocktail reception Friday evening at the 51 Riverside Avenue Center and will be shown through March 18. It features the work of 33 artists, each of whom worked with a toy theme.

“With all the exhibitions, we look to tell a story,” said During. “And like all the exhibitions, the first day is the wrapped present. It really takes the duration of the exhibition and people’s reactions and takeaways to get a full picture.”

Focusing on the subject matter, During said, “Toys are age-old, representing innocence and play. They can be basic or very complex. They can trigger deep psychological memories but also imagination.”

A wide range of media is represented in the exhibit – from photos and sculpture to paintings and video. “There’s something for everyone – play, fantasy, childhood, memory, politics,” added During.

Standout pieces include Christian Faur’s “Melodie”, a portrait constructed using the tips of 10,000 hand-cast encaustic crayons. Margaret Roleke’s “Barbie in the War Zone” is comprised of dozens of plastic toy soldiers affixed to a fabric background. Nina Bentley’s “Born in the NRA” is a sculpture of three cherubs holding machine guns. Chris Dimmos’ “Sudden Death Typewriter Table Hockey” is constructed from two 1963 Olivetti typewriters.

The exhibit certainly had an effect on viewers, many of whom were inspired to have a go playing each other at a full-size foosball table, purposely set up for interaction. And while experiencing this sort of childish fun, patrons recalled favorite childhood toys.

“Some of my favorite toys as a kid were a Lionel train set and a water rocket,” said Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. “I haven’t thought about those in years.”

WAC Board Chairman Lance Lundberg remembered his Erector set. “You could put to work a lot of ingenuity,” he said. “I like to assemble things. It seems there were more mechanically oriented toys when I was a kid than now. The exhibit here goes beyond to show how broad the definition of play and toys is.”

Joe Pucci, Principal at Bernstein Global Wealth Management, the overall exhibit sponsor, said, “I was a big G.I. Joe fan and, of course, had Matchbox cars. It’s fun to have these pieces of art evoke certain memories.”

Perhaps none were more inspired than the featured artists themselves, like Westporter Miggs Burroughs, with two lenticular pieces in the exhibit titled “Cracker Jackie Winkie”. “I enjoyed Tinker Toys as a kid,” he said. “I liked Legos when my kids got into them, too, and toy guns, inspired by Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. This show is a great opportunity to pretend to be a kid again.”

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