Who Brings a 3-Year-Old To An Art Opening?

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I do.

Last week I attended the opening reception for Wall-Wall, a bold new collection from artist Ashley Bickerton. The well-attended event was held at the Tripoli Gallery in Southampton.

Bickerton’s work was stunning. A colorful collection of new work featuring wall facsimiles made of oil paint on fiberglass and resin cast rocks mounted to plywood structures framed in aluminum. The paintings were created in Bali, Indonesia, where Bickerton lives with his wife. They are an extension of Bickerton’s wall contemplation fixtures of the 1980’s. According to the press release, Bickerton was inspired while on a trip to Mexico, where he saw brightly colored stone walls painted hot pink and purple. The idea occurred to him that if paintings are meant to fill a wall with color and meaning, what would be more appropriate than a colored wall to hang on a wall? Gallery owner Tripoli Patterson had the paintings shipped to his studio in Southampton from Bali and will be on display until Aug. 8. The gallery is located at 30a Jobs Lane, Southampton. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 12-5 p.m. The gallery is CLOSED on Tuesdays.

I’ve been trying to stay inspired lately. Since moving back to Long Island from Queens, I’ve had a hard time surrounding myself with inspiration and creativity. I’m hoping it will jump start this general malaise that has been keeping me from completing the second novel my publisher has been patiently waiting for.

To help manage the chaos of a three-year-old and a five-year-old stuck inside the house wreaking havoc, I took my three-year-old with me to the reception. I was full of dread. The last time I took a toddler to an art museum was when I took my oldest to the MoMA. It was a disaster. He tried to climb over the barriers, touch the sculptures, rub his hands over the Pollocks and I had to reign him in while constantly reading the looks on the faces of childless 20-somethings who all seemed to be collectively thinking ‘who brings a baby to an art museum?’

Here’s the thing. I don’t care. I’m doing it anyway. I’m sorry if that interferes with your plans to wax philosophical about the Monet in your transparent attempt to get laid by the 2nd-year SVA student you dragged with you, but you share a world. Deal with it. (To be fair, I once was that childless 20-something who waxed philosophical in hopes to get laid by the SVA student. But now I’m not. And P.S.: It doesn’t really work. Tell her a good joke instead.)

I don’t say all this to be some sort of maverick, or to merely wind up sounding like the self-absorbed millenials we’re all supposed to hate. But quite frankly: I need this. My three-year-old needs this.

I am not chock full of positive images of my father. He was haunted by addictions and failures and survivor’s guilt from Vietnam, and his demons caught up with him unfortunately before he reached 62. But one lasting image that will always stick with me was his love for horses and the rodeo. He was a semi-professional bull rider, calf-roper and bareback rider. He took us to rodeos all over Long Island, upstate New York and Connecticut. (The arenas that existed on Long Island are now miniature golf and go-cart courses). I remember going to rodeos with Junius Langhorn, from the Poospatuck Indian Reservation, and he taught me how to spin a pistol on my finger. At the rodeos he’d wear an authentic native headdress.

I am fortunate to have been exposed to the life my father led when he wasn’t home being an irritant to my mother. I am grateful that he brought me and my siblings to his rodeo competitions. I’m grateful that he brought us to rodeos even when he wasn’t competing. It laid a foundation for me to understand my father as a unique and passionate person. Rodeo was his passion, and that’s worth something even after he died.

I need the same for my sons. To see me living a life full of art and creativity. I’m a writer, not a painter, but I love my sister arts and I want my children to see me creating a life in art.

Fortunately I didn’t need to rehearse this spiel at the Tripoli Gallery. Tripoli, Bickerton and his wife, Cherry–everyone I encountered at the reception was enormously welcoming and kind to my little one. He was handed a gallery card of Bickerton’s work, which he used to try and find the original on the wall. Tripoli poured him a soda. Employees at the gallery couldn’t have been nicer. It was an awesome experience. After my ordeal at the MoMA, I’m glad I tried again.

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Ashley Bickerton (right) and his wife, Cherry, speak to attendees at Wall-Wall at the Tripoli Gallery in Southampton. July 8, 2016.

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