Today is quite a bittersweet and emotional day in the Dinnerstein household. An exhibition of Simon’s monumental 14 foot wide painting, The Fulbright Triptych, opened at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York on April 29, 2011.
It stayed there until June 10th and then moved to the German Consulate at UN Plaza where it remained until it was packed up today. It’s going to travel to the Law School at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville where it will be on exhibit for one, possibly two, years. Saying goodbye to it was difficult. Simon began the painting in 1971 when he had a Fulbright Fellowship and we spent the year in the little town of Hesse Lichtenau about a half hour away from the city of Kassel. Our daughter, Simone, wasn’t even a thought in our minds at that time. However it took him three years to complete the work back in Brooklyn and along came Simone, so into the painting she went.
I’ve watched people looking at this work for more than an hour. It’s like reading a novel. Actually, it’s like a memoir, recording some significant moments in our marriage and even before we wed. Starting at the top of my panel are some photo machine pictures taken in the Staten Island Ferry terminal on our second date! There’s been an amazing amount of articles written about the painting since the Tenri exhibit opened in addition to a book totally devoted to this one work. It’s all been quite exciting. A real standout of this time, however, has been Simon’s experience of sharing the work and some of his other work with a variety of school children. At the Tenri Gallery Simon invited a different class of children to visit the gallery each Tuesday. The youngest class was a second grade class from P.S. 142 on the lower east side. The teachers had wisely introduced the children to some of the work back in class by projecting images on the SmartBoard so the children were, in a way, continuing a conversation in the gallery. The concentration of these seven-year-olds, most of who had never been in an art gallery, was admirable. After the children had time to wander the gallery on their own, Simon gathered the group around one of his Palette Paintings and explained to the children how he began this work with an older palette and painted his image into it, incorporating the palette into the composition. Angel, a precocious, animated little boy looked at the picture intently and then confidently remarked “So, Simon, you started with a palette, painted a picture onto it, and now you have this picture. Is that right?” Simon said, “yes, that’s it” and Angel replied, “Wow, that is SO creative!”
Fifth graders from East Flatbush, high school students from Red Hook, fifth graders from Park Slope, classes from the Bronx, and second-language learners from East New York all spent time visiting the gallery. Simon brought in his engraving tools to show the children how he worked on the engraving plate that is at the center of the painting, giving the children opportunities to hold the tools and ask questions.
At all of the visits the children had time to sit before the painting and to draw…to copy parts of the work that interested them or to draw their own compositions and to share these with Simon.
Perhaps the most moving experience occurred shortly before the end of the exhibit at the German Consulate. A friend visited the gallery with his very talented, bright, thirteen year old son who has some learning disabilities. Rafaell was so taken with the painting that he asked to be brought back to see it again. At the second visit he spent one hour almost emotionally communicating with the painting. We were quite impressed with his concentration. But that was not the end. Back home, his father heard him talking with his younger brother, explaining that this amazing painting was going to be leaving New York and urging his brother to go and visit it. His father was so impressed that he, in fact, did return to the consulate with both sons to pay homage to a remarkable work of art. Simon Dinnerstein by Rafael, 13 years old
It was so exciting to see how this work of art spoke to the young children and the older teenagers. Each brought their own life experiences along with them as they interacted with the work and each, I’m sure, brought away something personal that hopefully will stay with them forever.