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SECCA Exhibitions Through The Eyes of a Child

February 6, 2013

by Gordon Peterson, SECCA Foundation Board Member

Recently, I spent an interesting afternoon touring SECCA’s current exhibitions with Aidan, my 9-year-old little brother from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.

We walked into Vibha Galhotra’s Metropia exhibit with its works made of tiny bells and beads. His attention went immediately to the Dead Monster with its long body looping across the floor.

“Wow,” he said. “It looks like something I’ve seen in a video game.” Upon further review with a furrowed brow he proclaimed, “It must have taken a long time to make this.” I explained the long hours and the help from other Indian women to sew all the bells together and that they are like the ones we saw on the ankles of the Indian dancers he saw at a SECCA Community Day celebration. He nodded and said, “Yeah, I remember. They were cool.”

His attention quickly moved to the “giant snake,” better known as 15 Days in May and my first “why” question of the day.

“Why does she make these things?” I quickly responded as simply as I could that Vibha was expressing her feelings about her country through her art. He paused, and I could see another why question coming to the surface.

Before it surfaced, we moved on to Altering Boon, a hammock made of glass beads, wire and wood. “It’s pretty, but I don’t think I want to sit on it,” he said, which lead to a how question. “How did she make this thing?” I told him very carefully.

We then entered the Frank Selby: Misunderstanding exhibit, with its blurred photographic images drawn from chaotic moments in time of conflict.

“Are these pictures taken with a camera?” he asked. I told him they were drawings of photographs that prompted another why question.

“Why would he want to make a drawing of a photograph if he already had the photograph?” Aidan asked.

I quickly avoided a discourse on the concept of miscommunication in photographs and told him that the artist is making a drawing of what the photograph means to him and he is expressing that meaning.

Sensing a cloud forming in the eyes of the 9-year-old, I moved on to the next photo called Tullssa showing a crowd turning a car over. “What do you think of this drawing?” I asked.

“Why are those people so mad?” he asked in response. “Because,” I started … then stopped.

While we walked out of the exhibits and toward the parking lot, it occurred to me that SECCA is the perfect place to ask how and why questions, get some answers and then decide for yourself.


About Gordon Peterson:

A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Journalism, Mr. Peterson has spent the majority of his career in the advertising agency business, both in New York and North Carolina. He worked for a group of diverse clients including Merrill Lynch, Avis, Pulte Homes, American International Group, The Walt Disney Company and The Washington Post Company.

A marketing consultant, Mr. Peterson is also on the boards of the Piedmont Opera and Friends of the Library, as well as the Docent Board at Reynolda House Museum of American Art. He served six years on the Winston-Salem Symphony Board. He is also a volunteer with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Family House.


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