Post Humous Portraiture and Epitaphs at the American Folk Art Museum

In search of some quilt inspiration, I decided to visit the American Folk Art Museum in NYC. I hadn't been in many years, in fact, the last time I was there it was located next to the MOMA. Turns out the new space is much smaller than the last, and there were only two exhibits on display. Also, I was wrong to assume that they'd have quilts on display!

The first exhibit I saw was called Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America. It was extremely depressing, but somehow I was compelled to keep looking. The portraits were mainly of children, rendered as they would have been in life. What I found most interesting were the various toys, objects and flowers they were pictured with, and attempting to interpret their meanings (before reading the accompanying description). Some of the paintings for instance, had a piece of dangling cut thread or unspooled thread. In my mind, I've always associated thread with repair and healing, but in these paintings it represented a life cut short.  

The second exhibit was the epitaph project. It was basically a singular blackboard in the shape of a tombstone with some chalk set nearby. Visitors were invited to write their own epitaph, which I did after viewing the posthumous portraits of children. Even without a post-viewing heavy heart, I would have written this....

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It's just the first thing that sprang into my mind.  

After that I NEEDED to go to the gift shop. Had to perk myself up, plus, I never miss a museum gift shop - I look forward to them almost as much as the exhibits themselves. Bought myself a little book called The Language and Sentiment of Flowers. Originally published in Victorian times, it's a dictionary (more like a listing) of flowers and their meaning. In those stuffy times, rather than speak their feelings, suitors gave flower arrangements which the women would then interpret - all through the use of this book. (Looks like we're coming full circle with the use of emojis.) Although I'm all for expressing yourself with words, as an illustrator I can't resist the idea of a visual language.... may have to work this into my illustration somehow!

 

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