March 13, 2020 was the League’s first day in quarantine. March 20, 2020 was scheduled to be League artist Lucy Garnett’s ‘Notations’ show reception at Shoreline City Hall. It was half a lifetime of work, and the League-hosted celebration was canceled. Here’s a look back at one of her pieces that seems to have an eerie timeliness now with swing sets zip-tied at the park. This critique of Garnett’s art piece was written by League artist Chris Harvey March 24, 2020. Lucy Garnett’s artwork Deprivation of Play, Critique by Chris Harvey Deprivation of Play ILucy GarnettCotton, synthetic soft toys, synthetic batting. (Approx 70×72″)2011 Artist’s Statement:“This hand-appliqued quilt of picked-apart soft toys is a metaphor for the fragmented, violent and deprived lives many children live. I noticed how, in my classroom of primary school students, it was not always the financially poor children who were deprived.” – Lucy Garnett (detail) (detail) Chris Harvey: Deprivation of Play is a quilt packed fairly tightly with pieces of stuffed animals, both the “fur” outsides of earth tones, and the white stuffing (batting). It is square, and quite large. The pieces of stuffed animal, while tightly packed, generally do not touch one another, or meet the edge of the quilt; there are exceptions but they are rare. The shapes are mostly organic and irregular; there are exceptions to that as well though, and those exceptions are compositionally important because there are several pieces of long, thin, more-or-less rectangular pieces that direct the eye around the piece. There are also two prominent spirals, which are distinct in form and pattern from all other pieces but are of similar overall surface area, value and visual weight to many of the irregular shapes, and thus the spirals do not call too much attention to themselves. There are also many whole or partial faces of animals, generally looking out toward the viewer. Textures vary widely; the overall texture of the piece is soft but there is considerable variation of how that is expressed, from the smoothness of the background to the animal hair that ranges from thick and carpet-like to longer and fluffier hair. (detail) The composition of the piece has a feeling of randomness and perhaps chaos: different examples of value, color and texture are scattered around the surface, and individual pieces are generally cut and oriented irregularly, which gives each object its own singular quality. Nevertheless there are many elements that unify the piece and create movement in it. Several of the long, thin, umber- and sienna-colored rectangular pieces in the lower right quadrant are oriented at angles that push my eye upward and toward the top of the piece, where my eye is then caught in the scatter of objects that appear airborne and the pull of gravity then leads my eye back down into the image. The spirals create senses of small eddies; they have the potential of becoming slight visual traps but having two of them serves to keep the eye moving between them rather than getting too bogged down on either, and there are so many other visual elements active in the piece that even as the eye moves between the spirals, it soon finds something else to latch onto. (It’s good that there is not a third spiral or the piece could start to become too much about them.) The other aspect of composition that contributes to movement are repeated elements that are scattered around the piece—irregular shapes of a particular color, size and texture that reference each other and keep the eye constantly moving. The artist showed very good judgment in placing these objects around the piece, and the variety of objects overcomes the sense that a “formula” was used for where to place or how to orient objects conforming to any one particular set of qualities of texture, color or shape. The overall impression I get is of these objects all tumbling in a big mass. I don’t read multiple planes when I look at it; it seems fairly 2-dimensional, which is not a criticism, but rather an observation. If the artist were looking to achieve 3-dimensionality, that would likely require at least some variation in the background from a flat white, and would also require some great technical achievement in how the objects are incorporated; however, it would also likely require a lot more of the objects to overlap one another, and I sense the artist was intentionally avoiding overlaps for the most part. (detail) If I did not know the title, I honestly don’t know what my interpretation of the piece would be. There are a few reasons for this: first of all, the piece is so large that it invites me to look at it from afar and also close up, which automatically creates a range of ways to experience it; plus it welcomes multiple viewers at the same time, and that can definitely affect the experience of viewing a piece because I would probably react to others’ reactions and energy. Plus, the soft texture and the nature of the objects (stuffed animals!) invites some feelings of comfort and nostalgia. On the other hand, the animals have been harshly dealt with—skinned, dismembered, gutted, and the few faces looking out and directly engaging the viewer are tragically lonely (perhaps most notably the face of the polar bear in the lower right, looking out at a severe angle and still attached to the skin from the right side of its body). Then comes the title: Deprivation of Play I, and suddenly I am thinking not of these toys but of someone who cannot play with them. The dismemberment of the animals, and the thin layers of negative space around them, now come across as separation from a child who loves these things but cannot play with them for whatever reason. The packed proximity of the objects makes that separation feel even more stark—they are so close to each other, and presumably to their owner, but they remain apart. The tumbling chaos of the animals adds a further level of anxiety to the separation. If that was the artist’s intent, then it is done very effectively—the elements used here could very easily be used in a way that is heavy-handed or saccharine, but elements like animal faces are used judiciously here and give me a feeling of anxiety for the person whose play is being deprived, not a feeling like my emotions are being manipulated for the animals’ sake.