Best known for her visually stunning portraits of friends and family, Leah Tinari'slatest works offer a different kind of portrait—one that depicts the ever-changing world in which she now lives as a parent to her son, Mars. As a preview to her upcoming show at Mixed Greens, take a behind-the-scenes look into her studio in this exclusive video and read our Q&A for her insights on looking at art from a child's perspective.
Leah Tinari's exhibition "Mars' Planet" opens on Thursday, May 30 from 6-9pm at Mixed Greens (531 West 26th Street, 1st Floor, New York, NY)
We know from your current exhibition at Mixed Greens that having a child has influenced the subject matter of your artwork, but how has it changed the way you experience art?
It has definitely broken down some boundaries for me. I really didn't think about a child being a part of my art or even directing the work in any way, until Mars began hanging out in my studio. I think he has made me look at everything as art—even the most mundane things. They are so curious and their minds really have no barriers, it really is a wonderful freedom.
What role does art play in your child's life? Do you look at art together and talk about it? Do you have any suggestions or tips to give to parents on how to look at art with their children?
I just sort of run with his lead. He is drawing a lot of jail drawings right now. You know, a tarantula in jail, bad guys in jail, daddy in jail. It is definitely a creative outlet for him. We don't have much time to hit the galleries together. Mars will look at a puddle in the street and say "Hey mommy, look, an underwater city!" He is saying that the city buildings reflected in the puddle are an underwater city. We will stop and talk about it and talk about reflection and the idea of an underwater city and to me that is the day-to-day art that we look at.
Are any galleries in NYC kid-friendly? How do you determine if it is appropriate to bring a child to a gallery or art show?
I am probably not the best person to ask what is appropriate for a kid; Marty [Tinari's husband, Martin Kirchoff] and I roll around with Mars to lots of adult places. He has been joining us on dates to our favorite neighborhood bars and restaurants since he was born. We take him to a lot of different venues and if anything makes us or him uncomfortable, we would leave. Mars is really impressed and curious about the idea of violence of things relating to the cops and bad guys, so we worry more about the sound bites he hears from the news more than anything. They don't forget a darn thing so there are a lot of questions about that sort of stuff. Anything violent I would steer away from.
What kind of research do you suggest a parent do prior to planning an art-related excursion with a child?
How far it is from the subway, or the closest bus stop. Also, what awesome food and drink options are close. Those two things are always important to Mars and me; we can't think unless we have eaten well. If planning on looking at art with a child, they must be well-fed and not have walked 15 blocks to get there.
What are other ways to educate a child about art or contemporary art? Do you have any favorite books, movies, or tv programs you'd recommend to a parent?
We love watching movies and animations with Mars as well as beautifully illustrated books. I think it really is whatever you and your child are drawn to. Mars, Marty, and I watched the Secret World of Arrietty, a Japanese animation about little people called "The Borrowers." Mars and I always refer to them when we are on a walk in the city and find something on the ground or in the park, a crack or a pipe or a little object, and he always says, "this would be perfect for 'the borrowers.'" It excites me because he is learning about scale, which is a really important idea in art work. He is bridging the scale of their world and ours and then his imagination will run. It is so cool, I love that kind of stuff.
Any other tips you'd give to an art loving parent in regards to introducing their children to art?
I would say for parents to be open, let your kids look at all sorts of stuff. They will direct you to what they are interested in. They really can handle a lot of information and always have a unique perspective on things. They are not thinking about the cool things to say or the smart thing to say when looking at a painting or a sculpture or anything. They say what really pops into their mind and their free association is unbelievable and can be very creative and poignant.
If you are a local parent looking to experience art with your children, stop by Mixed Greens on Saturday, June 1 between 1 and 4pm for a special Family Day event in conjunction with Leah Tinari's show.