I took Maggie last Wednesday for her visit to an art museum. As I posted earlier, there is a Wayne Thiebaud exhibit currently on display at a local museum, and I thought it would be perfect for a five-year old because Maggie does love cakes and pies and all things pink and purple.
We arrived at the museum, and Maggie was thrilled with just that. I'm not kidding, she was all beside herself to be going somewhere alone with me, somewhere she'd never before been, somewhere full of promise. I love seeing the world through her eyes because it reminds me that life is still exciting and wondrous, and seeing her so pump
ed to go to our little museum made me feel badly for thinking I had to put this visit off until I could take her to a "real" museum in New York, San Francisco or even DC.
Well, we arrived and got our tickets and each wore a little blue square sticker indicating we had paid our dues.
Right off the bat, Maggie was full of questions. There was a large wooden sculpture in the entrance of the museum made into the shape of an animal - antelope, deer, etc. - and she was very curious about this. When I told her it was made of wood and that art can be made of many different materials, well she was all obsessed with this idea for the rest of our visit. We walked past the wooden sculpture. Then, she ran over to an African mask and some clay vases. She was running up and down the halls, before we could even determine where the Theibaud paintings were housed, asking me, "What's this made out of? How about this one Mom?"
We finally did get to the exhibit. We looked at a few paintings on display outside the main room, and Maggie was fine with that but it was hard for her to stand still for very long, which meant that I only got a cursory glance at each piece. We did stop and look at one painting, a man in a tree, in a park, at night. Maggie was curious about this painting, because she couldn't figure out why a man was in a tree, in a suit, in the middle of the night. But then, just when I thought we'd have some sort of existential conversation about the meaning of life, Maggie was gone, running up and down the exhibit and saying, "Mommy, you have to see this painting. It's totally amazing."
That was her phrase for the day: totally amazing.
She liked Thiebaud's art and especially liked his work done in pastel-colored paint. She kept thinking the paintings were still wet, because the paint was very thick and still glossy looking. I tried to explain the concept of oil paint, but really I think I was just talking out of my ass because I have no idea why the paint still looked wet, if his thick brush strokes mean anything and how his paintings come out looking like something when, if you look up-close, it's all just a smattering of this and that, all half-hazard.
Then, Maggie came to a drawing, and it was hung next to a painting.
Maggie: "What is this one made out of?"
MamaP: "Pastels. They're like crayons. What do you think of it?"
Maggie: "I like it."
MamaP: "Does it look different to you, different from this other one?" And I pointed to the painting.
Maggie: "Yes, it's different."
MamaP: "How is the crayon drawing different from the painting?"
Maggie: "Well, the crayons stick to the paper and stay there. The paint just kind of drips down."
I wanted to kneel down to the floor and bow my head in thanks: she's brilliant. It's true.
We breezed through the exhibit, and I was at times a little frustrated that I couldn't linger, read about the work, decide how I felt about all of it. But Maggie was running amok and some other patrons (there was a van drop off from a local assisted-living facility) were giving me dirty looks.
We wandered around the rest of the museum, and for some reason Maggie was totally enthralled with the elevator. Now, the elevator was quite large and seemed somehow really modern and cool, but really, she's been in a thousand elevators. Still, this was really "great" and "cool."
There were, as I said, a lot of "totally amazing" pieces of art, and each room we entered I had Maggie point out which painting drew her attention first. They were usually paintings of flowers, and I don't really like flower paintings, but whatever. It was very cute.
I have to say that a lot of California art looks a lot like paint-by-numbers landscapes. But hey...who am I to say?
Then, just when our visit was coming to a close, Maggie entered the modern art section of the museum, and she fell in love and was utterly taken and mesmerized by a sculpture of a cowboy riding a flying horse that was attached to another flying horse, and the horses' eyes were made out of red light-bulbs.
This was truly, truly "totally amazing." This was stop-and-stand, mouth open in amazement amazing. Maggie walked around the entire thing, oohhing and ahhhing and asking me if I was actually seeing this thing.
I was. It was horrid. Wretched. God-awful.
But hey, who am I to say?
Then, when I thought it couldn't get worse (there was a ceramic sculpture done in that blue-and-white Dutch tile kind of ceramic - and the sculpture was a semi-automatic rifle and a grenade), Maggie fell in double-triple-love with a sculpture that was depicting a death-row inmate being put to death, and there were a bunch of protesters with signs depicting each side of the debate. And to top it all off, there was a foot pedal on the floor, and if you pushed the pedal the whole thing started flashing lights.
Dear God, Maggie pushed that pedal a thousand times.
When we left the exhibits, we headed downstairs to the cafe where Maggie chose a cupcake and chocolate milk. We split the cupcake and she sucked down the milk.
I asked her later what her favorite part of the day was, and she said the paintings and the cool elevator.
I have to say, my favorite part of the trip was seeing her so excited about the modern art stuff. I call it stuff. I should call it art, but I can't bring myself to type that out. Sigh....
Anyway, I loved it because she loved it without any preconception, without any idea of what she was loving or if it was the right thing to love or what other people (me, for instance) might say about it. She just loved it, red lights for eyes, foot pedal, everything aglow. It made me look at all of the art differently, because I realized how much we like or dislike what we experience based not on our own taste but on what society says is "right," and (to be honest) how we like to think of ourselves.
All-in-all, it was a lovely day. Maggie bought a Thiebaud post card in the gift shop and drew a heart-breaking picture of herself and her father, holding hands underneath a rainbow to send to him in Afghanistan. I nearly cried when I saw it.
And then I thought: now that is art.
Quote of Inspiration
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar