Almost Warm & Fuzzy: Childhood and Contemporary Art

  • Almost Warm & Fuzzy, installation view, Des Moines Art Center, 1999.

  • Almost Warm & Fuzzy, installation view, Tacoma Art Museum, 2000. Photo by Greg Bell.

  • Almost Warm & Fuzzy, installation view, Tacoma Art Museum, 2000. Photo by Greg Bell.

  • Almost Warm & Fuzzy, installation view, Tacoma Art Museum, 2000. Photo by Greg Bell.

  • Almost Warm & Fuzzy, installation view, Fundacio la Caixa, Barcelona, 2001.

  • Almost Warm & Fuzzy, installation view, Crocker Art Museum, 2001.

Curated by Susan Talbott, Lea Rosson DeLong

Contemporary artists explore various views of childhood – a mix of innocence and nostalgia, comic-strip heroes and science fiction, fairy tales and computer games – in this survey of works from the United States and abroad. Almost Warm & Fuzzy presents a whimsical atmosphere and yet, a closer look reveals that all is not warm and fuzzy; it is almost warm and fuzzy. Despite its innocence and pleasures, childhood can also be a time of transition and uncertainty. Works in this exhibition speak to the reality of growing up and becoming an adult, revealing childhood as sometimes being a disturbing or intimidating period in one’s life.


The exhibition features several eye-catching and kinetic pieces. Sandy Skoglund, known for her lush photographs of surreal settings, is represented by her installation, Shimmering Madness. Two life-sized human figures are awash in a sea of sparkling jelly beans; periodically, the viewer is surprised by the twittering sound of butterfly wings that have been mounted on the gallery walls. Joseph Schneider’s galleon, a colorful ship the size of a small car and equipped with dozens of hand-embroidered flags and banners, shoots cannons of confetti as soap bubbles fall on the imaginary sea surrounding it. Charles Long has created Sunday Sculpting School, where the audience is invited to play with chocolate-colored Play-Doh.  The Art Guys (Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing) use chicken wire, sound chips, amps, and speakers in order to create a giant note that sneezes, sniffles and says, “Achoo!”


Other sculptural works complement the interactive pieces. Yoshitomo Nara plays on the tradition of animation with his larger-than-life masks of cartoon characters, conveying both cute and naughty sentiments. David Beck probes the questions of natural history when we peer into his mixed-media construction to find the skeleton of a dodo bird. Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s Flea Circus is a miniature set-up filled with microscopic performers, and Vernon Fisher’s painting inhabits the middle ground between a landscape and abstract painting. By placing flies on the surface, Fisher questions our notions of what art should look like, and what materials should be used in art-making.


Almost Warm & Fuzzy is accompanied by a 24-page children’s activity book that enables children to come to an understanding of the exhibition and the visual arts by engaging directly with the works.



Susan Talbott

Susan Talbott is Director and CEO of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, America’s first public art museum.  Before coming to the Wadsworth, she was Director of Smithsonian Arts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (2005 to 2008), and the Des Moines Art Center (1998-2005.) She also served as the director of the Visual Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts (1989-1992) and began her museum career in New York as Assistant Director at the Queens Museum and then as Branch Director at the Whitney Museum of American Art during the 1980s and 1990s. Susan Talbott has achieved national recognition as a director, curator and through her implementation of community engagement programs. She is a Harvard University Fellow and an alumna of the Art Museum Director’s Program. She received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alumna Achievement Award from her alma mater, Pratt Institute.

Lea Rosson DeLong

Lea Rosson DeLong is an art historian, curator, and editor, working mainly in American art of the 1930s and contemporary art. Her BA is from the University of Oklahoma and her MA and PhD are from the University of Kansas. She is the author of N.C. Wyeth’s America in the Making (2011), All the Evils: Christian Petersen and the Art of War (2009), When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow: Grant Wood and Christian Petersen Murals (2006), Grant Wood’s Main Street (2004), among other publications for the University Museums of Iowa State University. She was on the curatorial staff of the Des Moines Art Center where she was the author of Shifting Visions: O’Keeffe, Guston, Richter (1998), among other exhibitions and publications, and the co-curator and essayist for Almost Warm and Fuzzy: Childhood and Contemporary Art (2001). She is the author of Nature’s Forms/Nature’s Forces: The Art of Alexandre Hogue (1984) and essayist for Chemistry Imagined: Reflections on Science (1996). She was the editor and a contributor for Des Moines Art Center Collects (2013). She is a frequent guest curator and author for the University Museums of Iowa State University. Her essays in Campus Beautiful: Shaping the Aesthetic Identity of Iowa State University will be published later this year. DeLong’s biography of the American realist painter Gordon Samstag will be published in 2016 by the University of South Australia. She lives in Des Moines.


touring schedule

Art Gallery of Hamilton
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
November 24, 2001 - January 20, 2002

Crocker Art Museum
Sacramento, CA, United States
August 30, 2001 - November 4, 2001

Fundació “la Caixa”
Barcelona, Spain
April 26, 2001 - July 8, 2001

Long Island City, NY, United States
February 4, 2001 - April 8, 2001

Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma, WA, United States
July 8, 2000 - September 17, 2000

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale, AZ, United States
June 3, 2000 - August 26, 2000

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
Memphis, TN, United States
April 23, 2000 - July 2, 2000

Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art
Cleveland, OH, United States
February 1, 1991 - March 29, 1991

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