Monday, July 30, 2012

Art Appreciation

It was time to get some culture into these lambs of mine.

It's not like they subsist on a diet of root beer and pork rinds, and we eat our dinners on TV trays in front of HeeHaw.  They know who Bach and Handel are (though one prefers Tchaikovsky). They have to read--and discuss--Shakespeare, Hugo, and Dickens before they graduate. They chew with their mouths closed (mostly) and one hand on their lap.

But art. They know nothing of art.
And that is all my fault.

Yes, in general, they can spot "Girl With a Watering Can" or Monet's "Japanese Garden." Other than that, though, they have inherited what my friend, Scarlett, calls my 'bad attitude' regarding art.

So, last week, I decided to make some headway in this obvious gap in their education. I packed lunch and kids into the Blue Whale, and we headed off to UT to see Austin's Blanton Museum of Art.

Our little adventure commences as we enter the first floor gallery. And I immediately remember why I feel justified by my bad attitude.
the unidentifiable sculpture made of styrofoam packing pieces...
the ball point pen enshrined in a glass box...
the white paper, blank, except for a centimeter of green crayon...

My kids look at me. I look at them.
We look at the art. The art looks at us.

And I am clueless as to how to rescue the dignity of these 'artists' in the eyes of my children.
But that anxiety lasts about a nanosecond.
Then the Adams snark sets in.
I see the wicked little gleam of mockery lighting eight sets of eyes--which I am sure merely reflects the wicked little gleam they see in mine.

"Look, kids," I say, standing in front of the framed pieces of notebook paper with watercolor paint spilled on them. (I wish I were kidding.) "Mommy's been throwing art away for years."
"Yeah," someone snorts. "Bad mommy."

Alex stands in front of a rather minimalist piece and begins to play docent. She's analyzing the picture--out loud--for the benefit of her siblings. They snicker. I walk briskly past, pretending this pack of Cretans and I do not share the same gene pool.

Determined to rescue this day, I encourage them. "Okay, before we leave this floor, you have to tell me what your favorite piece is."
I'm trying, people. I really am.

My eleven-year-old pipes up. "That one is really speaking to me," he says innocently.
Oh? Which one?
He points. The lit-up, red "exit" sign.
Should I slap the child here or wait until we get back to the van?

The first floor is a complete bust, but we proceed to the second floor. We've been on museum grounds for approximately 38 minutes...and I'm already tired of art.

I'm very thankful for the second floor.  We walk into a Hudson River School of Art exhibit. Oh, thank you, whoever you are who put this here. This is real art. My heart is warming. Okay. We can do this. There's a "Go West" exhibit in which I see recognizable things like homo sapiens, cows, horses.
Flora and fauna.
I get this.

Other rooms on this floor display Renaissance paintings. And there is the occasional piece that makes me stop and...well, appreciate.  But...what is the sixteenth century artist's fascination with fat, naked women? Half of these pictures contain at least one bared breast. And the kids are starting to notice.
Besides, Brett says, "If you have seen one, you have seen...two."

Proceeding to the sculpture room, we are waylaid by an empty room with one bench facing one painting. It's a long, lean black and white of a long, lean woman who has the smokey mystery of Gloria Swanson...
So I stop and look,
And my kids stop and look.
I don't know what's more important here...the fact that there is a good piece of art...or the fact that nine Adams are all standing and staring in respectful silence--in an art gallery!

Give me a minute to bask in the glow of this culture moment.

Then, the woman blinks! We gasp. We continue staring. Mesmerized, the kids are actually difficult to steer to the next room. Be still my heart! A positive art experience!

Moving on to the sculptures...
We are surrounded by beautiful sculptures of 8 foot tall marble men.
Naked, marble men.
These men are eight feet tall. Several of my children are of the four-foot variety. Their eyes are about three and a half feet off the ground...
You do the math.

So, I hustle them to the next room before one of my four footers with a mouth to match exclaims something that will embarrass me....
and we appear to have come full circle on the Cycle of Stupidity, for we are back in a modern art exhibit.
And I can smell Jackson Pollock.
My spidey-senses are tingling.

But I never get a chance to find out if I'm correct. Alas, they want to make dioramas across the street.

Later that evening, I drive Jake to football practice.
Football. Feel the love.
My nine-year-old, along for the ride, is staring intently at something on the windshield. Finally, she bursts out, "Mom! I see pictures in the bird poop!"

Someone pass me the pork rinds.

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