Kenyon Class of ’14, Studio Art major
I have often felt as though I straddle two worlds: that of the southern Ohio, blue-collar, Catholic family who raised me, and that of the liberal arts world, the intellectual atmosphere which has been both welcoming and alienating. I have done my best to define for myself what it means to be a man in these circumstances, given the conflicting messages and values I have encountered where these worlds intersect. This piece derives its title from that struggle. The sense of play I hope to evoke with the use of toys from my childhood and the simple, building-block shapes taps into the solutions I have found for maturing into a responsible adult: work hard, but do it smiling. Treat objects, people, and life with respect, but don’t take things too seriously. Remember play. Remember what it was like before you had responsibilities, before you were aware of your body, but don’t mourn the loss of that time.
The shape and presence of this sculpture is inspired by the model train displays I saw as a child, built by skilled adult hobbyists for the enjoyment of children and others who might find joy in seeing their world in simple miniature. I have tried to further draw out some of the tensions and awkward harmonies between adolescence and adulthood through choosing particular materials. Raw wood and metal sit beside smooth, flesh-toned surfaces. Soft interiors become exteriors, and small niches hide private moments and objects that aren’t necessarily easy to understand, much like the various roadblocks and pit stops on the journey to adulthood. A toy roadway connects them all, evoking this idea of a journey while harkening back to the pure exhilaration of playing with toy cars and living in the imagination.
I still live in the imagination. Becoming a man, choosing the company I keep, choosing how I express myself—none of that changes my inner world, which in some fundamental ways is still the same as it was when I built a city in my parent’s basement and rolled tiny cars along miles and miles of track.
– Noah Johnson, ‘14