Client: MASS MoCA
Location: North Adams, MA, United States
Completion date: 2018
Artwork budget: $150,000
30 fifth graders were asked to paint the essence of “JOY” and “FEAR.” Their paintings were given, anonymously, to 50 artists around the world. First, musicians interpreted their paintings and expressed them as songs. Those songs were then interpreted by filmmakers… the films they created were interpreted by poets, the poems inspired photographers, the photos inspired perfumers & chefs, their olfactory art inspired sculptors and once every sense was represented, each chain was interpreted as a whole by a set designer. This exhibit was live at Mass MoCA June 23 2018-May 26 2019 as Come to Your Senses: Art to See, Smell, Hear, Taste & Touch.
Despite each artists’ lack of contact and knowledge about each other’s work, there seem to be common threads that run through each chain, proof that despite our seeming separateness, we are not alone. Consenses believes we need ways to find stronger connections in this fragmented world, to understand one another and feel understood, without fear of judgement. This is the essence of Consenses: to promote tolerance, empathy, and understanding through the arts.
To show the invisible connections between us. To expose the nuances of our individuated experience and allow all perspectives to be equal and valid.
In March 2017, I worked with 30 fifth graders from the North Adams and North Berkshires schools and asked them to paint the essence of “JOY.” But what IS the essence of joy? Well, there’s really no right or wrong answer. Try filling yourself up with joy right now and ask yourself the following questions:
What would the spirit of joy be if it were a color? Yellow like the sun? Green like grass on a summer afternoon?
What would joy taste like if it had a flavor? Popcorn? Jelly beans?
What if joy were a texture or material? Would “joy” feel like feathers falling from the sky?
Or like riding your bike full speed downhill?
These are some of the very same questions these students asked themselves before picking up a paintbrush and painting their version of joy. All of their paintings were different because we all experience the world differently. Some students painted with yellows and pinks, others with greens and blues. Some students used big fearless brushstrokes to represent joy, while others painted careful delicate lines and swirls like whispers on the page.
Next, the same students were asked to paint the essence of “fear.” They again asked themselves the same questions to investigate their individual feelings. They asked themselves: “What would fear smell like? Feel like?..