Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the eye of the beholder....

When I took my girls to the Dallas Art Museum yesterday, I was surprised (as I always am) at what they liked and what they didn't. Keep in mind, they have all been to this same museum at least once before, so most of what they saw was what they had already seen before. This time, I really wanted to find out what they thought of the art instead of just pointing, "Look at that!"

Yesterday, the museum was a very different place from what I remembered. I have never been there during a "Free on 1st Tuesday of the Month." It was very crowded with families who normally would not have been able to go. Large families, families with toddlers, families with lots of kids... it was a zoo - and that was just the courtyard! In the garden there were guards constantly asking kids not to run under, over, and through the exhibit pieces. I can't really blame the kids, though. Most of the art is gigantic, bronze, and just perfect for climbing and hiding in.

I mean, seriously! Look at these things! I can't imagine a more fun thing to play on, except, you know... they're ART, and you can't do that.
My favorite piece out there was a new one. I didn't see who it was created by or what it was named, but it looked to me like an Ode to Construction (or something like that.)

Once we got inside, it was even more loud and chaotic than the courtyard was. The noise and crowds were mostly centered around the Center for Creative Connections. This is also known as the "Kids Room." It is the only room in the museum where you are allowed to touch anything. It is actually a huge section of an entire floor dedicated mostly to letting kids create art. There are bright colors and textured walls and interactive displays everywhere. One area has a few dozen giant building blocks, and another area has buckets full of cloth and paper and just about any other material you can imagine and kids are encouraged to glue, tape, staple, tie, and connect whatever they want to build two and three dimensional art.

I have to admit, this place is pretty cool. It is also geared towards children slightly younger than mine. As much as I wanted to give them a chance to create, I took one look at the people pouring in and spilling out of the area and I knew there was no way I could handle that. Being in downtown Dallas in an open access museum already had my Kid Safety Alarms going nuts. Crunching into a mob like that would likely have caused a conniption of some sort. All it would have taken would be for me to lose sight of one of my girls or see some creep "accidentally" brush by them and I would have brought the whole place down on our heads.

So, I carefully steered my girls in a different direction and they took the bait. We headed toward the summer exhibit devoted to coastline art from many different artists. Half way there, my knee gave out. Now, I have been having a lot of trouble lately with my right knee and I have had to walk slowly or take long sitting breaks before, but this was not the sort of pain that was going to go away quickly. Both knees are in pretty bad shape. When the pain starts kicking in, usually it hits me in the knees first. Unfortunately, that causes me to limp slightly, which causes my back to hurt right across my hips. This causes walking of any sort extremely painful. I had a tough decision to make. Leave or stay? Put up with more and more pain throughout the day, stopping for long periods to rest? Take enough pain meds to knock out a horse and push through (making it unsafe to be responsible for all three girls, let alone drive home)? Leave and disappoint my girls? I didn't like any of these solutions, so I found a compromise. I went to the front desk and politely asked to borrow a wheel chair.

I admit, riding instead of walking was embarrassing, but I would rather be embarrassed than have to cancel a trip like this. I thought my girls might be embarrassed too, or even start to worry about me more. It turns out they are smarter and cooler than even I thought. All they were concerned about was who got to push me around first. They all took turns wheeling me from gallery to gallery, in and out of the elevator, up and down the halls. When they got tired, I wheeled myself for a bit, and then one of them would take over again. As much as I have to admit it, it made the trip so much better than I anticipated. Instead of leaving when I got tired, the girls wore out before I did!

One of the activities I asked them to do (to make the trip a little more exciting) was to take down or at least notice the names of the artists that they especially liked. I told them that we would be going to the library to research more about the artists and then Friday, they can recreate one of their works in a different medium (take an oil paint and sketch it or use watercolor to paint a sculpture.) This also let me get a good idea of what kind of art they really liked so I would be able to find more things to interest them. Again, they surprised me with what they liked and what they wanted to steer clear of.

The ancient artifacts and statues seemed to freak them out the most. Something about the little statues of men and the masks created to scare away spirits gave them the willies. While they seemed to like the Native American Art, they asked to leave the Pacific Islands Art exhibit in the middle. They wouldn't even walk through the African Art. They seemed mostly bored by the European and Early American Art and Sculpture. Although, the furniture that was displayed alongside many of the portraits was really beautiful.What they all seemed to get the most excited about was the Modern and Contemporary Art.  They liked Georgia O'Keefe and Jackson Pollock, as well as anything that was a photograph - even the ones that looked like nothing more than a black and white blur (until you got close enough to see it was a picture of the ocean without any landmarks whatsoever.) The new exhibit called Through the Eyes of Our Children - Something Beautiful is a collection of photographs taken by Dallas area students and it is both moving and inspiring.

By the time we made it through the last display and headed for home, the museum had started to empty out considerably. Most of the activities for children ended about 30 minutes before so we were just in time to see the last weary moms drag their exhausted toddlers out to the parking lot. We were fortunate enough to get a spot right outside the museum door at a parking meter and we got out to the car just as the the meter ran out.

I was very stiff an sore on the way home. Sitting still for two and a half hours will do that. I wasn't exactly still, but I didn't move my legs at all, and I am still feeling the strain of it now. I have been tired and sore all day. I still think that the wheelchair was a wise choice. Without it, we would only have been able to enjoy half the museum before heading home.

Today was supposed to be a day for swimming, but the rain in the forecast made us find other things to do. Apparently, they didn't want to wait for the library to start their personal recreations. LH made her own mini-replica of some of the sculptures from the courtyard. She used whatever was on hand and today, it was copy paper, tape, a shoe box, a wooden dowel, and some extra playing cards.

LH was still inspired to create so she kept building with the playing cards and created a wearable vest with a button closure and everything! EG is here modeling it.

EG said she felt like Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place.

Tomorrow I hope to feel good enough to actually take them to the library so they can look for more information on their chosen artists. Who knows what they will decide to create tomorrow?

Debbie "Artist" Lollar

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