Stories Behind the Art

August 26, 2008 – August 9, 2009 —

The idea that one, single image can be more powerful than a complex body of text has been expressed in many different ways over the years. A phrase like “the drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book” first appeared in Ivan S. Turgenev’s novel, Fathers and Sons, in 1862. With this in mind, the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is the focus for the exhibition entitled Stories Behind the Art. This year-long exhibition includes artwork from MONA’s collection selected to emphasize a narrative theme. The images allow visitors to engage with the art, and serve as inspiration to develop personal stories.

Left Behind, Mountains Ahead by John Falter is a featured painting that begs a story from the viewer. This depiction of Native Americans discovering items left behind on the prairie by pioneers who were forced to dump personal belongings over the side of the wagon as they headed west evokes a wide range of emotions from sadness on the part of the pioneer in having to part with special items to confusion and wonder by the Natives who found these items. A lesson plan, poster, and teacher resource packet for classroom use accompanies this artwork and explores the story in a cross-curricular approach.

On loan from the MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, Iowa, is Snarky Parky and Paw, marionettes by Bil Baird, a puppet artist with ties to Grand Island, Nebraska. These sculptural and playful marionettes were created in 1950 for the television program Life With Snarky Parker, which was written and produced by Yul Brenner and aired on CBS in 1950. Baird is perhaps best known for his Goat Herd puppets featured in the 1967 musical, “The Sound of Music.”  Viewers can’t help but wonder what kind of characters Snarky Parker and Paw were and what they were best known for.

Question labels accompany selected artworks which stimulate viewers to experience the art in a different way. Describing the emotions sensed in the artwork, recalling a memory, or comparing and contrasting two artworks are examples that encourage deeper reflection. Younger audiences are encouraged to write and illustrate a story about an artwork in the exhibition.

Among other featured artists in this exhibition are Patrick Rowan and his sculptural piece entitled Spirit Boat, Leonard Thiessen’s found object collage Bachelor’s Kitchen, Confluence by Don Dernovich, and Wendy Jane Bantam’s painting Snidely Whiplash. The variety of media, subject matter, and process are sure to keep viewers engaged with the artwork and wondering “What IS the story behind the art?”