Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bela Borsodi’s Luminous Images of Children and Their Drawings

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Borsodi admits almost bashfully that he’s good with kids. “I don’t come at them with this adult stuff—I see them as on a level with me,” he explained. “And, when I was a kid, I saw myself as a small adult.” But tasking kids with drawing their dreams proved to be less than straightforward. Some responded to the idea; others did not. They wanted to show what they could do, “so they often started with a cartoon character they knew,” he said.

The young artists included the children of friends, and then of the friends of friends, and, “finally, of the friends of friends of friends,” he said. They ranged in age from about five to twelve. The kids arrived at the drawings in these photos each in their own way. Egon, for instance, was keen to participate, but he was resistant to receiving direction—he wasn’t going to draw anything on request. “He would fill up a white sheet of paper with black from edge to edge. One after another,” Borsodi recalled. “Finally, I forget exactly what he said, but something like ‘That’s how the world is.’ So he actually had, really, a voice of a mature artist! Almost a Malevich or something.” Borsodi considered photographing Egon with one of the black squares. “But I had to also consider the other kids, and the whole project,” he said. Ultimately, he felt that he needed something from Egon that was “a little bit more figurative.” Meanwhile, Egon’s mother had a drawer full of Egon’s art, much of it depicting rockets. Would Egon paint a rocket for him? Borsodi asked. Egon said no, he wouldn’t. But later, unprompted, he drew one.

Gloria wanted to paint rainbows. The black-and-white limitation frustrated her. She drew a series of rainbows in black-and-white, but she wasn’t pleased with them. Somehow Borsodi reached her by saying, “Well, just imagine something crazy.” That excited her. As she painted, she narrated to Borsodi what she was depicting: a big black blob of jello that hungry people, diving off a diving board, will get stuck in. “And then she said to me, ‘Oh, see, this is crazy because this is what happens in my dreams.’ ”

Then there was Rosa. She wanted to explain to Borsodi what Pom—the creature she had drawn—was like. He was ultra-powerful and could tear people apart, but with Rosa he was always very sweet, and he protected her. He could be nice to others, too, unless they did something mean. And Wim: the youngest of the artists, he quickly made a single drawing, and then was done. He announced that it was a tree in a cage.

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