Kids' Jim Dine–inspired artwork at Vittoria cafe in Williamsburg (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Jim Dine–inspired artwork by second graders at Vittoria cafe in Williamsburg (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Before the frustration and jadedness come, before galleries and museums and auction houses, before art history exams and relational aesthetics and identity politics, there is the simple joy of making art. Of mixing soupy colored paints and brushing them onto paper in whatever forms you like. I admit that it’s been a while, but I remember how much fun it was.

Yesterday morning at Vittoria, a local coffee shop, I noticed an exuberant row of children’s artwork lining the side brick wall. It was so much more enlivening than the usual coffee shop art, and when I stopped to read the description (“wall text”), I liked it even more: the paintings were done by second graders who’d been learning about Pop artist Jim Dine. For those who aren’t familiar, Dine has been making paintings and sculptures of hearts for decades. As he explains in this Artnet interview:

IS: And what’s the fascination with the hearts? How many hearts have you made? Millions?

JD: Millions … I have no idea but it’s mine and I use it as a template for all my emotions. It’s a landscape for everything. It’s like Indian classical music — based on something very simple but building to a complicated structure. Within that you can do anything in the world. And that’s how I feel about my hearts.

The second-graders, too, use the hearts as a “landscape for everything” — from scary skeletons and skulls to heartcake bunnies and rabbit carrots, to something out of Minecraft. It’s fun to see how one shape (and the feeling that goes with it) opens up to such a range of symbols and objects; there’s a conceptual sophistication that comes from the easy free association of being young. And I just love their wiry energy — a bit of rejuvenation for my art-world-weary eyes.


Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...