The Pout of a Hundred Possible Meanings

painting of child by Mary Jane Volkmann

The Pout of a Hundred Possible Meanings

There is an exciting and meaningful project taking place on the national art scene at the moment.  It’s called the Great American Paint-In. There are several goals of this project, the opening lines of which read, “We believe there must be a bigger mission to document what is happening in America during this unprecedented time. Our vision is to inspire America’s greatest artists to share their pandemic experience. This collection is made available to the public to support the artists, while inspiring other artists, collectors and the community.”  My entry, which I recently completed, is called “The Pout of a Hundred Possible Meanings”. 

This painting started before the pandemic when I saw a photo one of my friends had taken of one of her children.  It caught my heart and I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I called her and asked if I could use it as material for a painting.  Everything about it made me think of children, their almost universal love for pizza, the abandonment of restraint when they can freely dig in the dirt, their curiosity in secretly exploring places they aren’t supposed to be, their delight when you play with them a game they like and for which they ask again and again, even though you’ve just finished the 20th round, and, of course, that perfect pout cloaking a hundred possible meanings while grabbing your heartstrings. 

Then the pandemic hit. It pulled the rug out from under our lives, threw dire uncertainty into our paths and confined us to home.  The streets became eerily empty, but I continued my daily walk around the neighborhood. Initially there were only a few other people out walking, and when we encountered each other we awkwardly did the careful six foot circle around each other. Then I began noticing laughter.  I saw parents in their gardens playing clever and imaginative games with their delighted children. Gradually more families started coming out for walks, pulling children in wagons, running together, riding all sorts of bikes or assisting the little ones to walk their dogs. And even though we would be walking in opposite directions, from across the street we met each other with friendly greetings and smiles, and even some sweet conversations. 

I have no doubt that many of these families are under tremendous strain and worry, having lost jobs and income and not knowing how the future will unfold, but there seems to be a reaching out in spite of it.  Given what I’m seeing, the thoughtful conversations I am witnessing online and the number of offers of free and creative programs for children being shared, I am hopeful that in some way this pandemic is reorienting our lives and that we are becoming more attentive to each other and to this beautiful trust in our midst: the children. 

I hope you’ll take time to read more about this project and see the juried collection as it develops!




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