The Muscatine exhibition presents the lives of children from all over the world

The Muscatine Art Center invites the community to explore the lives of children of all kinds of circumstances through the new exhibition, “Where Children Sleep: Photographs by James Mollison”.

This revealing series shares various stories of children in many countries. Each studio-style portrait is accompanied by a detailed study of the child’s “bedroom,” which can range from elaborate sanctuaries to the most stripped-down spaces reserved for sleeping, according to a Monday statement.

The exhibition will be presented at the Muscatine Art Center (1314 Mulberry Avenue) from May 26 to August 21, 2022. Admission is free; the exhibition is organized by Curatorial Exhibitions, Pasadena, California.

The photos and their associated text panels tell the story of childhood, including insecurity, hope, pain, comfort and doubt, according to the art center’s statement. Economic inequality, children’s rights, and how we are defined by our possessions and shaped by our circumstances are some of the complex social, typological, and cultural issues that resonate in Mollison’s work.

Mollison explained: “When I was asked to come up with an idea to get involved in children’s rights, I found myself thinking about my bedroom: how important it was when I was growing up and how it reflected what I had and who I was. It occurred to me that one way to approach some of the complex situations and social issues affecting children would be to look at children’s rooms in all sorts of different circumstances. From the start, I didn’t want it to be just about ‘needy children’ in the developing world, but rather something more inclusive…”.

Mollison was born in Kenya in 1973 and grew up in England. After studying art and design at Oxford Brookes University, then film and photography at the Newport School of Art and Design, he moved to Italy to work at Benetton’s creative lab, Fabrica. Since 2011, Mollison has been working as a creative editor on CColor magazine with Patrick Waterhouse.

Work shown worldwide

In 2009 he won the Royal Photographic Society’s Vic Odden Award, recognizing outstanding achievement in the art of photography by a British photographer aged 35 or under. His work has been widely published around the world, including The New York Times magazine, the Guardian magazine, The Paris review, QG, New York magazineand The world.

The new project was originally called “Rooms”, but Mollison realized that the experience of having a “room” did not apply to many children. He noted: “Millions of families around the world sleep together in one room, and millions of children sleep in a space of convenience, rather than a place they can somehow call their bedroom. I have come to appreciate how privileged I am to have had a personal realm in which to sleep and grow.

An image in the new exhibition, “Where Children Sleep: Photographs by James Mollison”, which will run from May 26 to August 21, 2022.

Muscatine Art Center director Melanie Alexander said the exhibit was really created with elementary and middle school students in mind.

“By selecting this exhibit, we hope that children in the Muscatine region will become curious about the lives of children growing up in other countries and in very different circumstances,” she said. “The use of bedroom photos allows you to imagine aspects of the daily life of each child.”

The story of a Nepalese girl

A child featured in the exhibit is Prena who lives in Kathmandu, Nepal. The following description is given of its space and history:

Her bedroom is a tiny cell-like space at the top of the house where she works as a servant. Its diet consists mainly of rice and vegetables. She is 14 and one of thousands of child domestic workers in the country. Prena performs household chores such as sweeping, cleaning, cooking, and laundry. She starts work at five in the morning and finishes at six in the evening.

For this, she earns 500 Nepalese rupees per month (about 5.20 US dollars). She sends the money back to her parents, who have eight other dependent children. Prena visits her family twice a year. She goes to school three times a week, which is the main highlight of her life.

“I think children and adults alike will find the portraits, bedroom photographs, and accompanying descriptions fascinating,” Alexander said. “I hope the exhibit will encourage people to reflect on other people’s experiences and become more curious about our world.”

The opening hours of the Muscatine Art Center are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday evening until 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Free entry.

James C. Tibbs