In a thought-provoking discourse about children’s rights, Moira Villiard held an exhibit at the Zeitgeist Teatro Zuccone to display her “Doublethink: Rights of the Child” series in October 2019 and again at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis the following winter.
Villiard, a visual artist based in Duluth, showcased her collection of surrealist acrylics, water-soluble oil paintings and digitally designed posters to shed light on the contradictory beliefs and behaviors towards children’s rights in the U.S.
According to the United Nations, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 created an international framework on separating childhood and adulthood to ensure the protection of children. It ensures governments implement policies that invest in child development such as health care, nutrition and “stronger safeguards in place to protect children from violence and exploitation.”
While the U.S. has signed the convention, it is the only member of the UN that has not ratified it.
Moira Villiard held her "Rights of the Child" exhibit at the All My Relations Art gallery in Minneaoplis in February 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery was moved online via ArtSteps.
"To be a child today, or a child of any day, is to know the reality of your own experience out of context, and to be a reflection of tomorrow. And none of the contexts should ever end on a single opinion or conversation."
Cognitive Dissonance / Doublethink
Each piece of the exhibit calls attention to the paradoxes in children’s rights advocacy through cognitive dissonance or “doublethink,” meaning the state in which a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, behaviors, or attitudes towards a topic or situation.
“An example in children's rights advocacy is the expectation of globalizing childhood norms without globalizing the material conditions of childhood that would foster those norms,” Villiard presented through her digitally-designed poster “Words”, based on literature by Kathryn Sikkink. “This also gets back to the idea of rights being indivisible and interdependent - if we fail at promoting one right, we weaken the others.”
Villiard explores the relationship of the child and the body. There is confusion children have of their bodies through the changes, expectations, and pressures of society places on the body. Bloom was painted with water-soluble oils, acrylic and gold leaf on a 24-by-24 inch canvas in 2019.
Definition of a child
According to UNICEF, “A child is neither a property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are subject to their own rights.”
This definition addresses the contradictions society has of children: while society sees children as vulnerable, children are often not adequately protected by policy. Villiard argues that in order to recognize children as human beings beyond belonging to their parents or community, children should receive their human rights.
Villiard mixed images of herself and other people with mixed identities during their childhood with vibrant surreal imagery and scenes to question contradictory views about children’s rights. She chose to paint people who are no longer children rather than to paint children because they cannot adequately give consent.
"Fetishism, Hands and the Lives They Are Attached To" was painted with acrylics on a 16-by-20 inch canvas in 2019.
Artist’s Statement for “The Waters of Tomorrow”
Our water today is the same water our ancestors drank from - it’s the same water they took care of just enough to leave for us. With this in mind, it’s necessary to also consider how we leave the things we were given.
Our water today is the water of tomorrow and the next day, and the next. It is the water our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will enjoy for play, for sustenance, for prayer, and more, and so it’s necessary to leave it better than we found it.
The children in this image include children of two different times - the one on the left is me as a child and the one on the right is a child who exists today, and whose story (as it changes) is not one that I seek to romanticize, but simply honor with her loose depiction … in that moment, she’s a child of today splashing in the puddles, swinging from the jungle gym above a world that’s probably just as big as her imagination. We both are that child.
To be a child today, or a child of any day, is to know the reality of your own experience out of context, and to be a reflection of tomorrow. And none of the contexts should ever end on a single opinion or conversation.
Of course, the world I reference is the same world that places some childhoods in cages, both real and metaphorical. It is also a world of false mothers and fathers. It’s one that haphazardly clings to logical fallacies in an effort to infuse rights into the unborn before they even breathe, and long before acknowledging the rights of the breathing or even the right to breathe.
"The Waters of Tomorrow" was painted with acrylics water soluble oils on a 36-by-48 inch canvas in 2019.
“Right of the Child” was showcased at the Cultural Center in New York Mills, Minnesota in October 2020 and is scheduled for an exhibit as well as programming involving panel discussions by local, national, and global children's rights advocates in the summer of 2021 at the Phipps Gallery in Hudson, WI. The exhibit is an ongoing traveling project, meant to be paired with programming and group discussion around the nuances of our personal and national beliefs on human rights. It aims to offer a foundation of legal human rights understanding for people on all parts of the political spectrum in the United States and encourages viewers to reflect on how they themselves, through values, reconcile personal contradictory beliefs. Programming has taken multiple forms including that of community discussion at opening night to the showing of youth-produced film highlights.
Moira Villiard is a fiscal year 2019 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. ∎
Left: One of several digitally designed posters that walk viewers through the technical side of the exhibit.
Rights of the Child Exhibit
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Page by Suenary Philavanh