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Big Wheel, 1995
by Wendy Heisler
Aside from being somewhat autobiographical, Martin Beck's works recall events and places that have had an effect on our national psyche. An exhibit of his work, Paintings by Martin Beck, is on view at the Educational Testing Service in Lawrence through Oct. 27. The title of one of his works, "Big Wheel,” which measures seven by 18 feet, refers to a toy that was popular when he was growing up, the Big Wheel tricycle. As he got older, Mr. Beck noticed how aggressively children rode the toy.
One such child is seen holding a rifle while astride a Big Wheel. All around him is a chaotic scene inspired by the Newark riots of the late 1960s. One child lies dead. and police officers in riot gear, accompanied by a snarling dogs can also he seen.
"This is sort of a memory picture of things I saw as a child." Mr. Beck explains. ''They are things I remember from childhood hut did not completely understand."
Although they happened a while ago, "they still resonate.'' Mr. Beck says. Other paintings in the show were inspired by more contemporary social events.
Mr. Beck grew up in Niagara Falls, New York.
"It was a time in the culture when there were a lot of crises.'' he says, referring to the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate and the pollution of Love Canal in his hometown. We entered a cynical phase.”
"My work shows the labyrinthine aspects of history. with its shifting cultural attitudes. values and events..'