Friday, January 24, 2014

Art and the 2nd grader

I love words. My husband loves words. Our oldest son loves words. Words are magical for me; I would be perfectly content to hang out on a deserted island for all of eternity as long as there were books to keep me company. (And potatoes. I decided a while back that if I had to live with only one food it would be potatoes. They make me happy.) My husband first won me over with a poem he wrote that secretly hid my name within the lines. *swoon* When the boy came along, I knew it was love when he picked up a board book and backed into my lap on his first night home (in between bouts of hysterical crying of course). He sleeps with books, takes them everywhere he goes, and even reads the cereal box and milk carton at breakfast. Which makes me grin because I used to do THE EXACT SAME THING when I was a kid. So you get the picture. We love words.
Art is a different story. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate beautiful paintings and photographs, and we have several wonderful pieces in our house. Hubby and I enjoy art galleries and were hugely disappointed when we tried to see a van Gogh exhibit in DC several years ago and didn't join the entrance line in time (there were a limited number of tickets). But a general feeling of, "I like this one" or "I don't like that one" is the extent of my art knowledge. When my son's teacher asked me to chaperone their class trip to the art gallery, I knew I wouldn't be much help with the explaining parts, but I went anyway. We had a stern, soft-spoken woman as our docent. She was the kind of person who would not hesitate to rap the knuckles of any child caught too close to the artwork, were she allowed to do that sort of thing. Our group would look at a piece of art, I would try to figure out what the artist was trying to say, and then our docent would explain the meaning of the piece. I was wrong EVERY TIME. Now, I know art, like words, is subject to interpretation. But I was just so completely off it was laughable.
Then it got worse. The students began giggling at the nudity in paintings, and a little girl passed by a Jackson Pollack and said to  me, "That looks messy. How come that's art?"  The docent showed us a painting that was an orange rectangle and a yellow rectangle and my son started making this weird noise, like he was a cartoon character who swallowed sleeping pills. Embarrassed, I reprimanded him, which put him in a bad mood for the rest of the trip. He wouldn't talk to me or any of his friends on the bus ride home, and later he told me it was "the worst field trip ever" and that "some of those paintings were really inappropriate." I tried to explain how nudity in art is okay and that sometimes we like a painting and sometimes we don't. But that's all I had. I looked at him and thought, give me some poetry and I can explain what it means and why it is great, but art...
Is it wrong to have a kid that's just not into art? He likes to draw comic strips and read graphic novels, but his artwork is never chosen to hang in the hallways at school and the bottom line is: he's a word kid. Our youngest has always loved to draw and will spend hours molding play dough and creating elaborate collages at home and school. Hopefully when it is his turn to go to the art gallery he will be inspired and not bored. And he won't ask me to explain what it all means.

1 comment:

Aidan Harper said...

Art is in the eye of the beholder, right? Comic strips and graphic novels are art to me. :)