May 2001

And Then We Grow Up - artist statement

The Tick

Perhaps it was a tick lodged in her skin; that tiny black spot on the left side of her neck. Perhaps it was only the crust on a healing scratch. You get ticks playing in the woods and that's what Sadye does. She is five years old. I'm her dad.

She doesn't want her mother poking around the skin of her neck. She runs away. She won't hold still. She screams. It mounts into a tantrum ending in uncontrollable sobs. She is being violated. She has been unjustly accused of harboring ticks.

Her mother is distraught and anguished. She pleads with her little girl. Mom only wants to look at it. She promises not to touch. Looking won't hurt.

The rock of logic is too heavy a burden to bear. Sadye collapses into sobbing hysteria resisting this new attack with even greater determination. Her mother gives up. She retreats. Out of Sadye's earshot she confides to me that she will inspect it at night while Sadye is asleep.

Later, as I drive Sadye to her play school, she is in a happy mood. I say to her: "Tell me what you would do. You are in the middle of the street. A car is coming toward you. Would you run out of its path? Or would you stand there and cry because the car will hit you?" "I'd run away," is her response, enthusiastic about playing a game of questions and answers.

"Well," I say, shamelessly taking advantage of her enthusiasm, "you get out of the way because the car can hurt you. You might be so badly hurt that you couldn't run and play anymore. A tick can hurt you also. It can put you in the hospital as surely as a car can. You should get out of its way. Let mom remove any tick if it's there. Crying won't make it go away."

"Dad", interrupts Sadye, "when a car crashes the tow truck comes to take it away."

Later that day on the way home from play school, Sadye says, "The tick is gone, Dad. I washed it off myself. With a wet tissue."

From notes of August 1, 1997 by Marvin Chester

This story was written by my husband. It's sentiment matches that of my paintings. "And Then We Grow Up" is a series on children. They are symbolic narrative paintings.

The emphasis is not so much on: 'aren't they sweet' or 'find your inner child'. Rather children in their innocence and playfulness live in a world filled with worry and challenge. The worries will continue into adulthood. Only the playfulness will be curbed by moral and legal restrictions, so that as adults we find penalties for outlandish behavior.

We start out with the longing for approval and that longing forms our way. When we say "discover your `inner child'", do we really mean behavior that is self centered, careless, thoughtless and irresponsible? No, we mean happy, playful and without worry.

But that is not how kids are. That is how we perceive them to be. Kids are just as complex as adults and suffer from the same pressures even as they enjoy themselves. They only look cuter.

Elfi Chester, May 2001