“Common Ground” column for June 21, 2013

BY CHANTE WARREN

When my 6-year-old daughter glided her hand across one of New Orleans artist John T. Scott’s musical sculptures at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum last week, a guide quickly walked up to us and reminded my daughter, “do not touch.”

She was puzzled and intrigued with the protruding pieces of vibrantly painted steel displayed throughout the room.

I was too.

Much of Scott’s artwork is so colorful, whimsical and three-dimensional, that it is hard to resist the urge to want to touch one of his prints, paintings or sculptures on display this summer.

I started to fully grasp the weight of his influence in the South after we perused the galleries, listened to a bit of his documentary and read quotes posted above his artwork.

During our family trips to New Orleans’ Woldenberg Riverfront Park, it’s impossible to miss Scott’s 16-foot kinetic structure, “Ocean Song,” located on the banks of the Mississippi. That sculpture is among one of his more publicly known pieces. Some of his other famous works include exhibits at LSU, the Shaw Center, Xavier University and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

I was unaware that his work was so massive until I viewed the “Rhythm and Improvisation” exhibit detailing his legacy and influence in art at the LASM.

His own words, which are available both in a documentary and in quoted passages at LASM, give visitors a sense of his zeal and passion for music and art.

“…to see things with what I describe as ‘jazz thinking,’ and it actually came from listening to musicians,” he said in a quote posted above an asymmetrical wall sculpture.

Scott also believed, not in giving back, but in sharing his work.

Some of the artists’ works he influenced and shared his work with were on display, including that of Lyndon Barrois, who created inch-high football cartoon characters made from gum wrappers. His work features a mini movie re-creation of 1982’s Super Bowl game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

After spending part of our day at the museum, I wondered if there might be a way for me to help “share” some of Scott’s works with my family.

Scott’s “optical jazz” and “spiritual blues” themes are etched into our heads just as vibrantly as his artwork jumped at us from the museum’s walls.

We grabbed a museum brochure featuring a photo of one of Scott’s sculptures and my daughter labeled the shapes. So far, we haven’t gotten much further along than collecting paper towel and toilet tissue cylinders and shoe boxes. Our plan is to paint and bind them together to create musical artwork.

Of course, any visit to LASM has to include a visit through the spooky cave leading into the mummy exhibit and time in the science lab, two of my daughter’s favorite areas there.

I also left the museum fully aware that Scott’s exhibit made a tangible impression on my daughter, who thought enough about his work to feel it, touch it and attempt to create her version of musical art.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.