“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.” –Stuart Brown
The concept of play is undergoing a renaissance. Whereas once it May have been applied to immature behavior, or used to describe the wasting of time, now it is recognized as an essential form of intellectual work for both children and adults, as well as a path to creative productivity and social wellbeing.
Animals, including humans, play under the most adverse of circumstances; it is irrepressible. And research shows that consistent playtime fosters empathy, makes us smarter and more adaptable, and builds a framework for complex social behavior.
Each of the artists in Play! is vigorously engaged in the practice of play, and together they illustrate the myriad of ways this can be done. Andy Warhol and Billy Kluver’s immersive Silver Clouds and William T. Wiley’s Punball machine were imagined as instruments of play. Berlin-based artist Hans Hemmert uses balloons, a material we all recognize as a play object, to build a slowly deflating castle barely contained by the walls of the gallery. Dana Hemenway and Terry Berlier turn everyday objects into the stuff of play, while painter Robert Burden and installation artist Nils Volker use familiar imagery to recover the wonder they experienced as children.
Each of these artists believe what more and more researchers, educators, and creatives are upholding as truth — that play is integral to the psychological wellbeing of each of us as individuals, as well as to the health of our families and communities.
“My affinity for trees as a material seems to come from a childhood spent wandering the forest around Southern Pines, North Carolina. . .When I turned to sculpture as an adult, I was drawn to sticks as a plentiful and renewable resource.” —Patrick Dougherty
Whiplash, 2016, by North Carolina Artist Patrick Dougherty was created during a three-week artist residency. His sustainable willow material came from upstate New York, and was shaped in a process similar to basketry, but which the artist describes as akin to drawing. Patrick has created more than 275 monumental, site-specific sculptures on the grounds of museums, universities, botanical gardens, and private residences worldwide. His compelling sculptures evoke woodland architecture or gargantuan nests.
Whiplash was supported by the Palo Alto Art Center, the Palo Alto Public Art Program, and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, with support from William Reller, Pat Bashaw and Eugene Segre, Catharine and Dan Garber, Barbara Jones, Nicki and Pete Moffat, Nancy Mueller, Anne and Craig Taylor, the Acton Family Fund, and more than 40 community donors to the Foundation’s first crowd funding initiative.