It will come as no surprise to you to learn that I am not a great art lover. Don’t get me wrong, I love art, but it’s that I don’t have a great deal of education in the subject, nor have I taken any art appreciation classes, although I did watch Sister Wendy Beckett’s history of art T.V. series, so I’m not completely uncultured. Several years ago I did see the Rembrandt exhibition when the tour passed through town, as well as the contents of a British stately home that were on the road while the building was being refurbished. However, the name of the home escapes me. I also saw an exhibition of Peruvian art covering the period from before contact with Europeans up to the present day.
I will also admit that Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” is my favourite painting of all time, and I have a deep appreciation for the work of the Pre – Raphaelite Brotherhood, although that may have more than a little to do with my appreciation for tall, curvy redheads. Just in case you think I don’t have a point, I do, and it is this:
I attended an exhibition a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was an installation, and I just loved it. You see, my daughters’ school has a year long project involving the eighth graders. They work all year on a project with a single subject, and this year it was “What are we made of ?” I was able to finagle an early finish so I could get to the school in time for the start. This involved all the parents filing into what passes for an auditorium/theatre at the school while the art teacher enlightened us as to the nature of the project, what it had involved, and a brief overview of the work. Then, each kid stood up and gave a one sentence definition of what we are made of. So far, so good.
Of course, the room was packed, and I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with the stench of preciousness, white privilege and petit bourgeoise entitlement. I had to listen through grated teeth as a father behind me bleated on about his charity work in Rwanda, and I couldn’t help but notice all the high end labels on the coats and handbags used to reserve chairs as the chattering classes chattered amongst themselves. Just to give you an example of how twee the whole thing was, the art teacher made a comment to the effect of “How wonderful your children are, and thank you for sharing them with us”. Yeah, I nearly puked.
After this, we were split into three groups according to the colour of our entry ticket and thankfully I was in the group that was first to see the finished installation. I know the other two parts, seeing the “Making Of” video and reading the timeline wall would have been interesting, but let’s be honest: I was only there to see my daughters’ contribution, as, I’m sure where most parents. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pretty sure it would be impressive. All the kids had worked very hard over the year for this day, and of course, you know how much I admire my daughter’s artistic ability.
To be honest, it was all very impressive, and there is a lot of talent among the grade, and I was particularly impressed by the piece that mimicked the Sistine Chapel, with God stretching out his hand to Adam. It involved a figure leaning down from the ceiling with one arm outstretched towards the viewer whose foot placement was marked on the floor. Of course, the figure was far enough away that even with arm outstretched, the viewer couldn’t reach the pointing finger of the figure. Not a good description, I know, bu I’m sure you get the picture.
I thought the interactive headsets were a very clever idea, but of course, I made a bee line for my daughters’ piece.
She is nothing if not a perfectionist, and she was working on it right up to the last minute. The outer shield represents how people try not to think of themselves as being the same as other animals and wall themselves off from thinking about what they actually are, while the skull lays bare the reality. And yes, those are horse teeth in the skull. I was impressed but by no means surprised that she’d put so much thought into her piece and that she had such a strong insight into human nature. Let’s be honest, we all like to think of ourselves as being more than other members of the animal kingdom, we all try to deny our own mortality and cling on to some vestige of our youth.
I will admit that I bailed after my daughter had shown me the other pieces that impressed her, but I could see how much effort and thought each artist had put into their work. I doubt that any of them will put Damien Hirst out of work, but at least they are being given a chance to explore how to represent their worldview through art. I’m just glad none of them produced a piece involving a dead shark or a tank full of urine.