Thump…Dump, Clump, Lump… Bump!
“Did you ever hear of Mickey, how he heard a racket in the night, Thump…Dump, Clump, Lump… Bump, and shouted ‘Quiet down there!’”, so begins In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. A stocky, dark haired boy stands on his bed; buckling forward with clenching fingers and eyes, shouting back at a noisy and uncertain night. The story goes that this fearless tot “fell through the dark and out of his clothes” into a land where three bakers, more than two times his height and width, nearly bake his bare baby body into their morning cake. Mickey busts out of the batter, saving himself just as he is placed in the oven and, with his next remark, makes fun of the bakers’ panic at the subsequent state of their cake. Declaring himself a pilot, Micky hops into newly risen bread dough. He sculpts it into airplane big enough for himself to fly, and agrees to help the bakers by collecting milk from the Milky Way so they can bake a new cake.
I admit that when I read this book as a child I thought Micky was a troublesome boy. He was defiant and adventurous; he did impossible things his own crazy way; he talked back. He didn't let strange noises in the night scare him under the covers; he told them who's boss. He took matters into his own hands. Being the good little girl that I was, afraid of most anything and everything, especially the night, this made me nervous and uneasy. As an artist and a mother reading this story to my son, I can see the strength in this lesson; the comedy in the story; and, the poetry in the cadence of its delivery. Oddly timed like a dream itself, this children's classic is an allegory for the creative self; for the parts of us that are dreamers, thrill seekers, jokers, wanderers, makers; all of us striving to push back against a dark and uncertain night.
I have brought together four artists, who, in my opinion, excel at pushing back against the night. Amber Kempthorn, Erik Neff, Andy Curlowe, and Amy Kligman bare themselves to the world through their paintings which are at once personal, hopeful, strange, poetic, and at times, comedic. They create their own worlds of pleasure and beauty and invite us to cohabit there. These paintings offer a glimmer of what is lovely and good in these difficult and confusing times. The world is what we make of it, so I ask, can it be more of this?