Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What Small Boy Doesn't Love Art?

Last fall's trip to the Chrysler Museum climaxed in my son’s declaration that he was going to vomit. He usually claims total health, even in the face of crippling virus, so he won’t miss any of his stuff. He would soldier on, with his head on fire and his stomach exploding, to attend karate for example. I think he’d have to be actually decapitated, to give up on that one. On this occasion, however, he complained, and he was actually looking kind of green. I believe I went so far as to empty one of the baby’s cracker-filled ziplocs in case I needed to enlist its services. Not a good day. He said solemnly that it was caused by, “All the paintings.” Who can say?

Given the outcome of our last trip, I brought it up again with hesitation. But this time was different. I told him, Benny, we’re going to the art museum today, to see the impressionists. And he said, and I quote, “Oh boy! The art museum! Hooray!” It may have been a moment unique in history. It certainly was unique in my experience.

What a change six months can bring about! He sat and gazed at the pictures. He actually utilized those benches you’re supposed to sit on to make your gazing more serene. He pointed out things to me in the pictures, instead of the other way around, and he remembered his favorite painting, the big stripey one in the contemporary section. (Shabazz by Gene Davis) He is convinced he will find a pattern in it. Maybe he will.

To what can I attribute this transformation? Maybe just his age. Maybe he was just in a good mood. Or maybe familiarity breeds respect, and the past trips, taken at a brisk pace, with no pause to reflect or express any discontent, were actually serving a purpose. He recognizes his favorites. He notes new things he hasn't seen before. He looks up at that fabric in the atrium and kind of owns it. He knows it. And really, that makes sense. If he'll watch Wallace and Gromit 47 nights in a row, enjoying each repetition more heartily than the last, wouldn't he also enjoy repetitions of the old masters? Of course.

Here's Benny's copy of Emmanuel Lansyer's "Portrait of Gustave Godard." The Impressionists Gallery on the second floor has a drawing station where you can use crayons, colored pencils, and other tools, along with the paper and clip boards provided, to sit and copy one of the paintings you see. You can view him in the act in the picture at the top of the post. A gentleman we met in the museum had just copied Portrait of Lucy Lee-Robbins, and showed it to Benny, who was inspired.

The point of our trip this time was to say hello and goodbye to the impressionists on their way out, but we also got to see the Masterpieces from an English Country House. Next time, I’ll review that exhibition, and give you some tips for taking children through it, and of course prepping them beforehand so they can anticipate what they will see.

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