Does The Dentist make you cringe? At a Teen Arts Council meeting this spring, we were surprised to learn that The Dentist by 17th-century Dutch artist Jan Miense Molenaer was one of the most memorable works at the Museum for our teens. They recalled elementary school trips where this work was seared in their memories for the dental procedure about to unfold. Molenaer captures an anguished patient peering at the viewer in anticipation and clutching the rosary as a colorfully dressed dentist grips his tooth.
In this year’s Teens, Inspired exhibition, two teens chose Molenaer’s painting to inspire their own works of art. Gabrielle Guenther of Apex High School was drawn by the humorous quality in Molenaer’s work and chose to modernize it in The Dirty South Dentist. Gabrielle’s work comments on the expensive and painful nature of vanity procedures such as grills (jewelry worn over the teeth, made of precious metals and jewels and made popular by the Dirty South rap and mainstream hip-hop cultures).
Gia Adomavicius of Green Hope High School also found her inspiration in Molenaer’s work and chose to explore the lack of bonding between technology and mankind. Her Robot Dentist depicts a mechanical dentist devoid of emotion as she inspects a robot’s oral cavity. Even the personal artist’s touch is missing in the clean, precise medium of digital painting. Contrasted against the exaggerated facial expressions of Molenaer’s painting, Gia’s dentist peers at the robot with a stoic and detached coldness.
One work of art can influence a variety of viewers to share the same powerful emotions and inspire artists to create completely different original works. Visit Teens, Inspired in the Education Lobby (through October 20) to see both of these works and over 20 others inspired by art at the NCMA. For more information about these works and details about entering the 2014 teen exhibition, visit www.teens-inspired.org.
Michelle Harrell is coordinator of teen and college programs at the NCMA.