Rachel Hopkins: Children and Mixed Media

by Maureen Federo     

Rachel Hopkins brings forth a mixed variation of print media and relates it to children’s interaction with media in Dreaming of Mixed Media, April 2012. Hopkins’s work was exhibited at the Arcus Gallery of KVCC Center for New Media in downtown Kalamazoo during the city’s local Art Hop. [1]

Hopkins’s work consists of a collection of cardboard cut-outs that display the idea of a child’s exposure to print media, including a large scale canvas painting that shows layers of newspaper print cut-outs underneath the brushstrokes. The artist uses the method of cut-outs to refer to actual cut-outs of children’s coloring books, and other arts and crafts children normally play with. The artist herself is playing with arts and crafts in relation to the idea of children returning to print media. Hopkins portrays clothing items with foldable tabs for the purpose of dressing and layering dolls, like a perfect cut-out of a Barbie doll coloring activities book. The yellow and pink dress with flowers is an ideal piece of clothing for a four-year-old girl, which Hopkins blows up to life-size to convey the idea of young girls of today who dress based on what they are told to desire through commercials on television.

Rachel Hopkins, Dreaming of Mixed Media, April, 2012. Mixed media. KVCC Center for New Media. Kalamazoo, MI.

Rachel Hopkins turns viewers’ attention towards educational print media by effectively using mixed media in the form of cut-outs to collectively create a visual of children’s interaction with media, which aims to restore children’s innocence. There are certain ways in which a child can interact with print media that serves their education – illustrated books, music sheets, and the comics and crossword puzzles in the newspapers. These are all elements that Hopkins uses within her artwork of using mixed media, which are also a part of arts and crafts that can replace digital and graphic media.

At the same time, Hopkins references this idea of children associating with print media in a dream-like setting, which points to how media influences children dreaming of who and what they want to be when they grow up. Children normally turn to television, digital and graphic media, where they are exposed to violence and materialistic commercials that do not serve any purpose towards their education.

In Children’s Responses to the Screen: A Media Psychological Approach, Patti M. Valkenbur mentions how children’s art education could be utilized, “During this education, children should be given the opportunity to discover themselves, without being subjected to the worries and fears of the adult world.” [2] Valkenbur’s view on how children should be able to apply their art education supports the idea of conserving a child’s innocence, away from television and digital media. One way Hopkins interprets the opportunity for children to discover themselves is through dreams. Hopkins uses the dream factor to express that children have the liberty to be creative. They can create their own appearance and have a vision of whom or what they want to be because they are in that stage of development.

Hopkins uses white, thick, yet light and fluid brushstrokes on top of the illustrated cardboard cut-outs to create a dream-like setting. The canvas painting has a black background that suggests a starry night that features a florescent moon with a smiling child’s face in the middle. On top of the moon, there is a 9-year-old boy wearing an Indian headband, sweatpants and sneakers, riding a wooden pony with two white puppies running behind him. The edges of the canvas are decorated with white bubble-like texture for clouds. Hopkins illustrates this image on top of layers of newspaper print cut-outs of the comics section and crossword puzzles, which are part of leisure activities for children. This painting conserves the dream factor of the artwork, and the presence of a child, along with the child-like face features on the moon, help illustrate the innocence of children supported by print media, which Hopkins combines to show how media can be part of art education.

Rachel Hopkins, Dreaming of Mixed Media, April, 2012. Mixed media. KVCC Center for New Media. Kalamazoo, MI.

To the left side of the canvas there is a rectangular cardboard cut-out with a black background and white brushstroke font that displays a quote from Georges Méliès, a French filmmaker and illusionist from the twentieth century whose work is referenced in the 2011 film Hugo. The quote reads, “If you’ve ever wondered where dreams come from, you look around…this is where they’re made.” Hopkins takes the time to modify the quote to her installation by blending it within the cut-out art. The quote supports the fact that children’s dreams are created through their exposure to media. Their social and intellectual developments determine the values they would keep as adults.

In “Art, Images, Communications and Children,” Marilyn Shaffer and Sarah Dickinson discuss the importance of children’s art education:

“To children, art is the language of thought and comes naturally as a means of expression. From children’s first scribbles, art is a very real representation of their world, and it is through this representation that they are able to understand that world and the myriad of associations between objects and places as well as emotions and feelings.” [3]

The authors emphasize the early development of children and their needs in having to express themselves through art. Hopkins’s installation as a whole references children’s cognitive skills through the aspect of dreaming, and displays print media as visuals children physically need to engage with in order to build their creativity and develop their understanding of the world.

Rachel Hopkins’s Dreaming of Mixed Media is a work of art that attracts the viewer with pop-out, life-size visuals that represent a variety of mixed media within one installation. The artist takes the time to point out the growing issue of how media affects children, which makes her work stand out as a strong statement within a society where mass media continues to expand. With the images of children, along with the cut-out from children books, music sheets, comics and crossword puzzles from newspaper print, Hopkins exhibits the innocence of children within print media that are forms art education.

Rachel Hopkins’s Dreaming of Mixed Media will be exhibited in KVCC’s Arcus Gallery throughout the month of April in downtown Kalamazoo, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11:30-1:30pm. The Arcus Gallery is also currently showing the Faculty Art Show.


[1] For more information on Rachel Hopkins, see: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Hopkins-Art-Pictures-Site/185129846637

[2] Sarah Dickinson and Marilyn Schaffer, “Art, Images, Communications and Children,” Leonardo 24, No. 2 (1991): 189-192. Accessed April 24, 2011. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1575296.

[3] Patti M. Valkenbur, Children’s Responses to the Screen: A Media Psychological Approach (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004), 15-38.


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