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Posts tagged childhood

excerpt Child-proof

The endangerment of children—that persistent theme of our lives, arts, and literature over the past twenty years—resonates so strongly because, as parents, as members of preceding generations, we look at the poisoned legacy of modern industrial society and its ills, at the world of strife and radioactivity, climatological disaster, overpopulation, and commodification, and feel guilty. As the national feeling of guilt over the extermination of the Indians led to the creation of a kind of cult of the Indian, so our children have become cult objects to us, too precious to be risked. At the same time they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation. And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.

What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children’s imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go.

from "Weighing Andrew Wyeth," by Terry Teachout,, 17 January 2009

Andrew Wyeth's painting Benjamin's House

I suspect that once the shouting dies down, Wyeth’s oeuvre will undergo at least a partial revaluation, and that it will center on his watercolors. Like so many other American artists who came to prominence between the end of the 19th century and the emergence of Abstract Expressionism, Wyeth profited greatly from the immediacy of watercolor, an on-the-spot medium that does not allow for second thoughts: What you paint is what you get. It forced him to be free. To look at a watercolor like “Benjamin’s House,” which hangs in San Francisco’s de Young Museum, is to see what Wyeth meant when he claimed that “I honestly consider myself to be an abstractionist.” All narrative content has been stripped out of this bare, washy winter scene, leaving only the essentials: a wall, a window, a handful of branches. The result is a masterly little glimpse of the visible world, executed with self-effacing virtuosity.