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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Little Kids, Adult Minds

A mural using a graffiti-like style, done by Nick Zaremba. - Photo by Shaun Krisher
A mural using a graffiti-like style, done by Nick Zaremba. – Photo by Shaun Krisher

Part of the fun of being a kid is having random thought processes and your own language. A century of baseball stats have the same importance as to whether you play tag or dodge ball at recess. Concern over the social consequences and epidemic rates of cootie transmission is a given. Then we grow up, dress up, go to work, and get into a routine. We learn cooties are not fatal, and fun is now defined as barbecues, parties, and cocktails with co-workers once work has ended.

The life that was once chaotic has become ordered, defined, and ordinary. There is no magic or monsters under the bed. Santa and the Boogeyman are accepted forms of social control. The worries at the forefront of people’s minds are not whether little Joe up the street will earn a higher score in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but how to creatively balance the checkbook so the electric bill gets paid. Currently showing in the Harbor Art Gallery, Nick Zaremba’s mural, though intentionally crudely drawn, makes that point.

Using spray paint and a hodgepodge of items, it looks like the exploded room of a six-year-old child. Stuck on the wall are random pictures, a social security card in one case, a handbag, a shelf, and pages ripped from magazines. It’s exactly the crazy disorganization that dwells inside the young minds before they learn to prioritize, evaluate, and produce.

Heather Burke’s work is more blunt than Zaremba’s wall-spanning mural. Taking pre- and post-World War II styled advertisements, she fills the back room of the gallery with apple-cheeked, wide-eyed, and white-teethed, All American, Norman Rockwell clones. The themes of the era were patriotism, brotherhood, and good neighborliness, hence the constant Boy Scout imagery.

Following that era was the sexual revolution. Free love and a generation of young men who came home in body bags while others fought for their civil rights. The country tore itself apart because, prior to the upheaval, America “knew” who its enemy was and the government could do no wrong.

However, to the jaded eyes of the current generation, a person lacking any knowledge of those themes would find Untitled Boy Scouts I and Untitled Boy Scouts II obscene. The intentionally implied insinuations of sexual activity between the two young boys, grabbing their ankles in one picture and one boy holding another’s legs up in simulation of a human wheelbarrow in another, are obscene, absurd, and provocative. Supposedly, they’re just Boy Scouts having fun, right?

One cannot look at the latter and Burke’s Nun and Boys, which depicts two boys arm wrestling with a seemingly out-of-place nun smiling over them, painted over a found wooden American flag, without thinking of the recent allegations of abuse against the Catholic Church and the murder of pedophile and former priest, John Geoghan. So much of what should be and once was taken for fact is no longer trusted.

Zaremba reminds the viewer of their missing childhood on a microcosmic scale with the mockup of a child’s bedroom walls, while Burke’s placement of her work in the context of American history attempts to produce a macrocosmic perspective. There is no innocence left, says the latter. The former gently seeks to remind what it was like to have it.

About the Contributor
MiMi Yeh served as arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003; 2003-2004 *Evan Sicuranza served as arts editor for Fall 2002 Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.