From the Mixed-Up Files of NOT REAL ART: An Exhibition Statement From Curator Morgan Laurens
When 12-year-old Claudia runs away from home, bored with good grades and going to bed on time, she and her brother sneak into the Museum of Modern Art and wait for everyone to leave. Keeping a low profile, the pair join school-group tours during the day and hide in bathroom stalls when the museum closes. At night, they bathe in the Met’s fountains, collect “wishing coins” for lunch money, and sleep in the museum’s fabulous collection of antique royal beds despite the heroic efforts of many a velvet rope.
One day, a sculpture by an unknown artist arrives at the museum, interrupting Claudia’s idyllic vacation from “real life” with a pressing mystery: Who carved the marble angel? Where did it come from? And why did its previous owner auction the masterpiece for a paltry $225? It’s a riddle that catapults precocious Claudia from the humdrum suburbs of her Connecticut home to the gritty, glamorous streets of New York City and back again—this time ready to “tiptoe into adulthood.”
This delicious coming-of-age mystery (which is both a who- and whydunnit) is the crux of E. L. Konigsburg’s classic children’s book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I read under the covers with a flashlight when I was about Claudia’s age. Drawing inspiration from the novel’s “top secret” title and its enduring motifs of wonder, adventure, beauty, mystery, independence, and creativity, our 11th and final exhibition of the year includes slept-on staff favorites from NOT REAL ART’s very own “mixed-up files.”
In celebration of our first year of in-house exhibitions, From the Mixed-Up Files of NOT REAL ART includes 18 works selected by staff archivist Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis, founder and publisher Scott “Sourdough” Powers, and yours truly, editor in chief. Countless bookish children have discovered Konigsburg’s classic novel since I first flipped its pages under my panda bear blanket as a shy sixth grader—somehow, we, like Claudia, became the unlikely heroines (or heroes) of our own stories through the magic of art and adventure. I hope this show does the same for you.
Art, Wonder, and Beauty
NOT REAL ART podcast guest Alice creates large-scale, kaleidoscopic mirror sculptures that transport viewers into the fourth dimension. The Burning Man artist designed our pick for the show, “Ascension” (pictured), with the same proportions as the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Growing up queer in Minnesota, Tyler James Bangkok found refuge in The Wizard of Oz and Japanese anime. His whimsical NFT “Are We Floating Yet?” blends youthful escapism with flashes of a future life abroad.
Janet Luongo’s “Amazing Flying Artist Teacher” has a children’s book sensibility. References to Picasso, George Grosz, and Michelangelo merge with dream-like images of trapeze artists and birds in flight. Walter Plotnick’s exhilarating photo-collage “Aiming for a Better Future” captures the promise of early childhood.
Adventure, Mystery, Secrets, and Play
The young tutu-wearing protagonist of Liese Chavez’s oil painting “Peek” (pictured) simultaneously offers and denies viewers a tempting secret. Texas artist Marcelina Gonzales creates oil-tinted resin works that reconstruct the artist’s memories of growing up in an American border town. Devoid of people, “Our Blue Casita” effortlessly captures the carefree summer days of childhood with a simple chalk drawing.
Luxuriating in the sight and scent of oil paints—“their smell and texture are mesmerizing”—Yannis Chan creates tenderhearted work like “Wherever I Go, You Bring Me Home” that captures the wide-eyed innocence of childhood dreams. John Ringer’s moody painting of the moon fits into a larger narrative of his teenage escape to the West Coast and back.
Independence and Creativity
Mireya S. Vela’s radiant image of a golden bird kissing a woman (pictured) conveys the artist’s belief in the power of art to counteract her chaotic childhood.
Mixing the macabre with bright colors, Lacey Eidem explores the complexities of human nature “through the fresh eyes of a child” in her cheeky watercolor “Will My Face Really Stick Like That.” April Winter’s self-portrait “The Tortoise and the Hair” touches on the photographer’s intertwining needs to nurture her creative roots on an isolated island and venture into the world outside.