Maurice Sendak, children’s author and illustrator, died today. For those who loved his books it’s a great loss.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Asian Art. Granted, not a lot. But it has to do with how we think about children, and what we share with them. Sendak’s work is dark, exploring some of the grimmest topics a child could be exposed to. He didn’t believe in sheltering children from the real world. He had a deep respect for the ability of children to deal with complex and challenging themes. For an insight into Sendak’s work, check out this recent interview from The Colbert Report.
Phantoms of Asia, which opens on May 18, is in many ways a challenging show. As a parent, I am wondering how my three-year-old will react to the images. I wonder if he should even be exposed to some of them. I have been speaking with other parents here at the museum about how we plan to address some of the questions that could come up: about death, about violence, about sex. We will all have different ways of dealing with these questions, depending on the age of our kids, our own experience, our parenting styles. But we’re all bringing our children to see the show. We all feel there’s something in it that will be enriching for them. And I can’t speak for the others, but for me I know that Maurice Sendak is part of the reason that I feel prepared to engage with this material: not just as a parent, but as a person.
Vale, Mr. Sendak.