ART LESSONS: FATHERS ON ART AND PARENTHOOD

Three young fathers reflect on how art has shaped them and their children.
Photograph by Jesse Boykins III

Genes aren't the only things that get passed down. Early exposure to art has a life-long impact, and fathers everywhere are often the gateway for children to discover it. To celebrate Father's Day, we spoke with three fathers (who are also creatives) on what they learned from their own parents about art, their most formative art experiences and how they hope to foster creativity in their children.

MUSIC PRODUCER & DJ:

MELO-X

Matt Cowen
Platform

What did you learn about art from your parents?

MeLo-X

My parents taught me a lot about art unintentionally. More so my mother who had photos of family from Jamaica in the living room with crystals and china dishes all around. She always had a symmetrical way of designing everything. Looking through my father’s vinyl collection always piqued my interest. I would say these were my earliest stages of consuming art. Even now, I connect to pieces that give me that calming, child-like feeling. I like art that’s intriguing to look at but that also has a great story behind it, just like the pictures in my living room my mom would tell me about.

Platform

How has being a father impacted your music or your creative process?

MeLo-X

My creative process has been impacted immensely by having a child. I’m way more efficient. Obviously, as a father, I really have no time to waste, so I’m working quicker. When everyone is asleep, I’ll work on four to eight different projects that are in progress. (I also work while everyone is up, but that's more of my fun creative work). Usually, Marlo is climbing all over my arms and head while I’m making beats. 

Platform

How do you see your son expressing his creativity? 

MeLo-X

He sings a lot. He will just go into a melody and sound like he’s singing an actual song. He also sings to my beats and music that his mother and I play. He likes to draw and paint. Our studio has sketchbooks, crayons, markers, drum machines and keyboards all on his level. He will make a beat, draw and then play with his cars while I’m working. He doesn’t like to be interrupted while he’s in his zone. He also goes into these imaginative scenes when he builds figures with his toys. I can see a story playing out in his mind.  He also runs all over the apartment ALL DAY. 

Platform

What do you hope to teach him about art?

MeLo-X

I want to show him my favorite artists across all mediums. I’ll pay attention to what he gravitates to so I can guide him and learn from him. We’ll learn together. 

Matt Cowen
Platform

What are some of your favorite art institutions to visit when you want to feel inspired?

MeLo-X

I have a lot of friends who are either artists or work in the industry, so I usually go check out their exhibits. I recently went to a group show at Jeffrey Deitch, stopped by The Broad and my friend Uzumaki’s gallery. When I’m in New York, I like to visit my friends at Sean Kelly Gallery.

Platform

If there was one artist you could collect, who would it be?

MeLo-X

David Hammons.

Platform

What are you looking forward to?

MeLo-X

More life! Getting married! And all my new music I’m about to release!!! 

CREATIVE DIRECTOR, 1017 ALYX 9SM and GIVENCHY:

MATTHEW WILLIAMS

Platform

What did you learn about art from your parents?

Matthew

My parents often took me to museums when I was young when we would travel to big cities. They were always supportive of the arts and encouraged me to explore. 

Platform

How has being a father changed your appreciation of or perspective on art?

Matthew

I love taking my children to exhibitions and listening to them tell me what interests them in the work. Their curiosity always sparks great conversations. 

Platform

How do your children respond to art?

Matthew

They really enjoy art and I feel it inspires them to be creative. They are constantly drawing and painting in their free time. 

Platform

What are some of your favorite art institutions to visit when you want to feel inspired?

Matthew

I live near the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. It’s one of my favorites to visit. 

Platform

Can fashion ever be art? How do you distinguish the two?

Matthew

This is such a complex question. I have so much respect for artists that I find it hard to compare me or my work to theirs in any way. For many designers' work, the business of fashion and the intention of creating products really separate the two in my opinion. Though when I look at some designers' work, like a Rei Kawakubo couture dress, it’s definitely the closest fashion comes to art for me. It still remains very pure. 

Platform

If there was one artist you could collect, who would it be?

Matthew

There are too many I love to choose one! I may have to say Andra Ursuta at the moment. I love her sculptures so much. 

ARTIST:

CURTIS TALWST SANTIAGO

Platform

What did you learn about art from your parents?

Curtis

My parents taught me about art through Trinidadian Carnival, the music of the Mighty Sparrow and the costumes and performances of Peter Minshall. Besides the joy of common experience, all of this continues to influence my work.

Platform

How has being a father changed your work or process as an artist, if at all?

Curtis

I'm sure many artist parents will agree. It's the constant desire for exploration that children have. The tireless curiosity my son exudes inspires me to make my practice even more exploratory. Also, I’ve never had a love greater or more profound than my desire to make art. Witnessing Anna carry and give birth to our baby expanded my capacity on all fronts. Another lesson a child gives is patience, also for oneself, and the need to be more resourceful with time. This has been good for my practice.

Platform

What early signs of creativity do you see in your son?

Curtis

He’s eight months now and likes to sing. A few weeks ago, we woke up at 4 am to find him singing to himself, just laying between us, eyes wide open creating a little melody. He is also a passionate percussionist, hitting basically on everything he can get his hands on.

Platform

What do you hope to teach him about art?

Curtis

Obviously, he is free to choose his forms of expression, and he doesn’t need to be an artist or even like art. However, art is such a large part of our family life, my partner being a curator at Haus der Kunst. My son is naturally exposed to so much art that if it is in him, he will find it. I hope that he will discover art as a source of freedom and joy and provocation of thought, perceiving the world and oneself within.

Platform

What was your most formative early experience with art?

Curtis

My brother Anthony is ten years older and an artistic polymath. He would take me to his theatre rehearsals, make me listen to Purple Rain and sit me at the kitchen table to draw with him while explaining the threads connecting Basquiat to Twombly to Rembrandt. And that the work of Kerry James Marshall and Michael Ray or Bill Traylor is equally important as the work of masters from the European canon.

Platform

What do you do when you want to feel inspired?

Curtis

I observe the world around me and the beautiful gift of this new life in front of me. Where I’m at in life at this moment has been built from years of manifesting and sacrifice. The journey itself is my inspiration, and I still desire to do so much more. I came from blessed ancestors and made this lane for myself by not following a traditional trajectory, and that is enough for me to feel a fire to be in the studio every day.