Child's Play

Young hearts run free at the opening of "The Playground" at New York's Puffin Room

Image
Growing up is hard to do. Any one at the Puffin Room in SoHo on Saturday night would have agreed. Some even had the scars to prove it. Among them were the nineteen young artists who took part in “the Playground,” a showcase curated by Jillian Leigh Federman and Tanya Rosenstein with help from New York City-based photographer Dana Lauren Goldstein. Their collaborative effort, which began over the summer, resulted in an imaginative look into adolescence and what it means to grow up. For some, it is something better left forgotten. But for others, it is something to be cherished and celebrated, even prolonged.

In his photos, Ben Rayner captured his friends during their wild nights in London while Anton Glamb gathered remnants of a heavy night of partying for his installation. Scott Shannon chose to use Crayola Crayons to draw portraits of himself and an ex-girlfriend while Will Robbins constructed a larger-than-life rosary made entirely of jacks and Suzette Lee constructed a life-sized teepee out of paper. Among the other artists featured in the show are: Jonathan Beer, Claudia Bumbac, Tim Diet, Peter Giang, Jason Matthew Lee, Jimmy Limit, Jonathan Matas, Ian McGillivray, Pablo Power, Emma Sheriden, Gordon Stevenson and Robert S L Waltzer. The show also featured work by Federman, whose two pieces were inspired by and included real objects from her childhood, and Goldstein, whose photography showcased the marks of adolescence as experience by her friends – scars, bruises, bloody noses and all.

“There’s a time in your life when you have to grow up,” Goldstein says. “You realize then that the world isn’t such a pretty place unless you make it. In New York, you get disregarded because of your age. We’re just trying to show people that it’s not how old you are, but what you make of everything that matters.” Rosenstein agrees: “Young artists shouldn't be overlooked. We are the next generation, and we do have something to say.”

So, fans, young and old, braved freezing temperatures to take part in the celebration because, in some way, we can all relate to memories of the blood, sweat and tears that go into keeping childhood dreams alive. Because although times may change, the act of growing up and learning to let go never does.

Dazed Digital: Tell me about the playground you organized. It doesn’t look anything like the ones most of us grew up playing in.
Tanya Rosenstein: The idea is based off a play that Jillian wrote called "The Playground." Her play was extremely inspiring and she brought up a lot of valid and extremely important topics in her play about the transition from childhood to adulthood, and how the term "The Playground" can be used as a metaphor to describe New York City. It can be an environment that allows people to never grow up and take on the responsibilities that society might impose on you, but it also has a contrary effect by taking away a child's innocence and purity at a very young age.

DD: How did you find a place to house the show?
Jillian Leigh Federman: We presented the idea for the show to Tanya's father and he agreed to let us use his space. The Puffin Foundation is a non-profit organization, which was started by Tanya’s grandfather in an effort to support artists.
TR: I knew the space was going to be vacant for a couple months, so Jillian and I decided to take advantage of this time and produce and curate our own show.  We brought together a variety of artists, but it was especially important to me to continue the mission of the Puffin Foundation and bring in artists that might not have had opportunities to exhibit their talent before.

DD: How important do you think the message of the show will be?
TR: I think it's important for people of all ages to come into 'The Playground," and think about their own youth and where they are in their lives.
JLF: I think everyone goes through a time in their lives where it is necessary to start taking responsibility for their own actions. I personally have had a hell of a time "growing up" and I wanted to get people talking about the subject and thinking about their own youth and what it meant to them.

DD: Would either of you say you’ve grown up yet?
JLF: Growing up means being able to parent yourself. I’m getting there. Although I will say, I really need to take a break soon and do my laundry.
TR: I think the term is arbitrary. I still know 50-year old men who act like children and 16-year olds who have wisdom way past their years. I think to be grown up is when you find your independence and self-happiness. I'm not even sure if I'm there yet.

“The Playground” will be on display at the Puffin Room until the 22nd February. 
More Arts+Culture