By Emily J. Weitz
The raw emotion that pervades Jackson Pollock’s work is part of what made him a transformative figure in art history. It is also a major reason that his work is so accessible to children. Joyce Raimondo is a painter who has made a career out of connecting children with modern art, and Pollock is one of her favorites.
Every Saturday morning, the Pollock Krasner House is opened up to children to explore the life and art of this local and international legend. First, people just wander around the back yard, the shimmering blue of Accabonac Creek offering the same backdrop that Pollock had when he created his most famous works. Then Raimondo gathers them together to discuss Pollock’s process. They explore the barn where he painted and the house he shared with Lee Krasner, and then children create their own drip paintings.
“It’s about giving children an idea of creatively expressing their feelings,” says Raimondo. “How do we get angry energy out? Pollock did it by splattering paint.”
She thinks this example allows kids to explore their natural feelings in a productive and healthy way.
Raimondo used to be the Family Programs coordinator at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), and she’s written seven children’s art books including the popular “Art Safari” and “Art Explorers.”
“I want to help kids find meaning and enjoyment in modern art,” she says.
She feels that sometimes the museum experience can be dull for children, and that’s a shame. It’s also not necessary.
“It’s not about lecturing children,” she says. “It’s about letting them look and talk and express.”
Pollock, she believes, is a great inspiration for kids to get creative and to trust their own impulses.
“Pollock has a wide appeal to all ages,” says Raimondo. “He’s a great example of the American dream. He grew up in poverty and he became famous in his own lifetime. He was innovative. Plus, dripping paint is fun for two-year-olds as well as 17-year-olds. It’s messy, it’s free, and everyone can succeed.”
This aspect of freedom is essential in looking at Pollock’s work and allowing kids to incorporate it into their own process. They shouldn’t be questioning themselves, or trying to make it “correct”.
“The most important aspect of the creative process,” says Raimondo, “is the freedom to express feelings and emotions and ideas in a free and creative way.”
Raimondo says she sometimes has to remind parents not to hover over their children, to tell them the way it should be done. As soon as kids start feeling like they have to do it a certain way, they stop listening to that voice within, to find their own creativity.
“Sometimes parents give children too much input that isn’t necessary,” she says. “I remind them that it’s not about the finished product, but about the process.”
It’s also about interpreting art. Pollock’s work left so much up to interpretation, which allows the viewer to be a part of the experience.
“I always ask children what they get from looking at a Pollock,” says Raimondo. “I ask them to interpret, knowing there are no wrong answers. It’s interesting that we can all look at the same painting in different ways. We have different ideas, and we can learn from each other. With modern art, there’s no set answer.”
Raimondo uses this concept in her work on anti-bullying campaigns, which her organization, Imagine That, runs throughout the country.
“It’s not the idea that we have to be the same,” says Raimondo. “And it’s not about tolerating differences, either. Differences should be celebrated! There is so much joy in learning from each other, and Pollock is a springboard for those types of discussions.”
Last Saturday morning, a group of about fifty people gathered in the back yard of the Pollock Krasner house. Children were encouraged to pick a theme, an emotion, and use the drip painting technique to express it. If they did lines or dots, if they splattered or dripped, they were encouraged to follow their own intuition.
“If you let children do art in their own way,” says Raimondo, “it enhances self-esteem. Then, ask in an open-ended way what they created, and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to give too much direction: just value their own unique way of doing it.”
Drip painting classes are offered at the Pollock-Krasner House on Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton every Saturday morning through October from 10 to 11:30. The cost is $35, and pre-registration is suggestion. Go to www.imaginearted.com to learn more.