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Monday, August 24, 2009

This is art?

This morning we visited the National Gallery of Canada. That is not somewhere I would normally go on my own, but with my stepmother along to help I decided to brave it. So off we went with two kids, a double stroller, a diaper bag and many, many snacks to walk through room after room of art that we could not touch.

Before we entered the Gallery I considered my options. I decided the best course of action, and the one that might see us lasting the longest, was to visit the contemporary art exhibits and then the cafe. See some art and then have a snack. The best of both worlds. I have to say that by the time we were done eating the boy's shirt did very much look like some of the abstract paintings we had seen. More Jackson Pollock than Andy Warhol though.

The kids seemed to enjoy the art. The girl lead the way as we whizzed through room after room. The secret to a successful gallery visit seems to be to walk at warp speed and glance quickly at whatever you can as you pass by it. As I walked I thought to myself here a Thomas Nozkowski, there a Picasso, everywhere an impressionist painting I would like to stop and look at but can't.

Each time we walked into a new room I said "Look with your eyes but don't touch because this is art". I said that about the phallic statue covered in dice, about the simulated bricks crossing the floor, the faux gas station scene arranged against the far wall. I even said it about the shovel hanging from the ceiling and urinal sitting on a stand.

"That's a potty" said the girl.

"It's a potty" I said, "but it is also art."

"But it's a real potty, so it's a potty. It's not art" she explained to me.

"Yes, it's a real potty but it is also art".

Shortly before we adjourned to the cafe the girl did manage to touch one of the contemporary art installations. I was following closely behind her as she wandered past it because I had caught a little glimpse of mischief in her eye and was determined to prevent whatever attempts she might make. Sadly she was too quick for me. As she turned towards me her hand brushed the art. I heard it give a groan as her fingers gently pushed at it. My heart stopped. Once it started again I ushered us all out of the room as quickly as possible, ever so thankful that the gallery attendant had been speaking to a colleague in the hallway. Being escorted from the Gallery would not have been an ideal way to end the visit.

Later that afternoon we sat recounting our day to my dad. While we talked the girl traced outlines of her hands. Somehow my dad began to explain to her the nature of art. How what she had drawn is art. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, and I am sure he will correct me if I have it wrong, but this is what I remember.

Art is anything that you have created and infused with emotion or meaning. He pointed to the picture of the outline of her hands. See how they are overlapping and the thumbs have created a heart. That is art.


  1. So sweet! I miss my dad...I wish we could live closer to him!! But he is a faithful reader of my bad I don't put any pictures of the kiddos!! :) He gets emails for those!
    I am impressed, she did a really good job in the Gallery...only one teeny could have been!! :)

  2. I love your dad's explanation. I'll have to remember that. I love the Contemporary Gallery at the NAG. It's my favorite place. I brought Max when he was wee, still in a stroller. Haven't braved it again since he's been mobile. There is just too much temptation there. Sounds like the girl did great!

  3. I haven't been in so long, and I can see the gallery from my workplace. Some afternoon I am going to play hookie and go over there, iPod in hand, and just wander. I haven't done that in a long, long time.

    I love your dad's explanation of art! In essence, putting your happiness, sadness, anger, or love down on a page with a pencil or crayon can be art! Awesome!

  4. Your Dad sounds awesome. As I mentioned yesterday I have never taken the boys to the gallery. My sister sent her 7 year old to a week long day camp there this summer and said it was very cool.

  5. The Boy, my little art geek, really enjoyed our trip to the Gallery. I, myself, have a thing for Maman (the big spider.) There are a few installation in that you are supposed to touch.

    Great definition of art...