Isabelle has enjoyed doing art for the past couple of years. She’s taken a couple of art classes. However, despite the instruction, most of her masterpieces look like this:
I appreciate these pieces since they feel like modern art. However, there aren’t any discernable objects most of the things she creates. Ever since the ocular motor dysfunction diagnosis, I understand why she struggles. Therefore, when I picked her up at art class this afternoon, I looked at her oil pastel creation and felt tears prick my eyes. But they weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of happiness.
“Is this a self-portrait?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she responded.
“Is this a picture of yourself?” I asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?” she replied.
“Because it looks like you, honey!” I responded.
Sure, her eyes aren’t that big nor are her lips aren’t that red. But I could tell it was a self-portrait prior to reading note the teacher sends home with each child.
“You should be very proud of yourself,” I told my daughter. “This is a masterpiece! We should hang this in your garage gallery.”
“Okay,” she said as a small smile spread across her face. “When can we hang it up?”
“We have lots of other pieces to hang up along with this one. Would this weekend be okay?”
“Yes!” she replied with more enthusiasm.
Progress takes time. Today was a reminder that she may be taking small steps forward, but they are, indeed, forward.
I looked at my watch. We had plenty of time to explore the gallery before heading home.
Isabelle bounded up the museum stairs and pulled opened the glass door to the gallery. I encouraged her to stop since the Philip Pearlstein exhibit was a new installation. I read some key parts of the exhibition overview, which made mention of the “human body,” aloud to her before she bolted off into the gallery.
First, I noticed some of Pearlstein’s wartime watercolors. Instead of focusing on the battle scenes, I encouraged Isabelle to look at the way he used his watercolors. A moment later, Isabelle took off. I looked up and no longer saw paintings of war. Instead I saw paintings of nude men and women. (Well, I was warned of that overview, wasn’t I?!!?)
Before I could say something smart, Isabelle called out, “Look! They’re naked!”
“They sure are,” I replied.
I had a decision to make:
I could go with the flow and let Isabelle take the lead and ask questions.
I could deem the exhibit inappropriate and leave.
I picked option one. After all, there’s a lot of nudity in art.
Today’s gallery experience with Isabelle brought me back to the field trips I took my fifth graders on when I was a classroom teacher. I remember them pointing and giggling — early in every school year — when they’d pass a nude statue or painting. Seeing as I took my students to about four – six art museums each school year, I always noticed how they’d stop snickering at the nudity by each year’s end. While we never examined the nude paintings with our museum educators, we always managed to walk by them. The repeated exposure took the awkwardness out of these art museum trips.
I’m okay with my decision to stay. Once Isabelle saw three or four nude paintings, she no longer commented on the lack of clothes. Instead, she wanted to know what kind of paint Pearlstein used and focused on the background colors in some of the photos.
So, yeah, my kid landed up in a gallery of nude paintings today. Not exactly how I intended to spend the time with her after her art class finished, but perhaps this first exposure to nude art will make her next encounter with it less awkward.
My supplies are being depleted! Specifically, my scotch tape supply. Isabelle has taken a liking to making scotch tape art. I constantly hear the pull of scotch tape coming out of the dispenser! In fact, she’s used three rolls of it in the past two weeks. It’s out of control. Click here to see what I mean!
I swim laps — twice a week — after dropping Isabelle off at school. There’s a pool in the same complex as her school so she likes to accompany me to the locker room before I drop her off with her teacher.
I have no idea why she likes going to the locker room. Let’s be honest: it smells like feet. But she enjoys watching me put my things away in a locker before I take her to class. Most of the time no one is there so we just chat for a few minutes while I put my things away. No one is being hurt by this (except for her olfactory sense) so I indulge her locker room requests whenever we get to the complex with time to spare.
This morning, just before we left the house, I noticed Isabelle was busy cutting the corners off of some construction paper and affixing stickers to the same paper.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “It’s almost time to go.”
“I’m gonna give this to someone in the locker room.”
“Who? There’s usually no one in there.”
“Someone will be there,” she replied.
“How do you know?” I asked.
She didn’t answer me. She kept on working until I said, “Come in to put socks and sneakers on!”
The pitter-patter of feet came down the hallway with her masterpiece in-hand. I tried not to roll my eyes. There were Bad Kitty stickers all over the paper. Just what a random adult would want from a random kid.
* * * * *
After I swiped my membership card at the front desk, I asked Isabelle, “What will you say when you hand the paper to someone?”
“You’re not going to just shove the paper in someone’s face, right? I know you do that sometimes when you give away your art. You have to say something first.”
“What are you going to say?”
Still no response as we walked down the stairs. Was she ignoring me?
“Are you going to say ‘this is for you’ or will you just shove the paper at the person?” I inquired.
“I’m going to say, ‘I made this for you.'”
“Great!” I replied.
Isabelle insisted on opening the door to the women’s locker room. “After you,” she said.
I giggled. How old is she?
We walked in and Isabelle beelined to the only woman in the locker room — who was in the middle of getting undressed! Before I could even ask Isabelle to give her a moment to get her clothes on, Isabelle walked right over to her and said, “Hi, I made this for you.”
“For me?” the half-clothed woman said.
“Yes!” Isabelle declared.
“Did you make it by yourself or did your mom help?” the gracious woman inquired as she donned her pants.
“By myself,” Isabelle said proudly.
“Well, thank you,” the lady said.
“You’re welcome,” Isabelle responded.
The lady got dressed as I unloaded my swim bag into the locker. Just as she got ready to leave she told Isabelle, “I’m going to hang this on my wall when I get to work later.”
“Okay,” was all Isabelle said. But honestly, I think that made her day.
I returned from a marvelous writing retreat at the Highlights Foundation last night to a sick child. As soon as I heard her wet cough and looked at her red-rimmed eyes, I knew I had to cancel the school visit I was planning for today. While I kept thinking that “reality bites,” my most important job is Mom. So here we are, at home, exhausted (because I slept with her since she was coughing a lot last night) at 10 a.m. on a Monday. We’re just biding our time awaiting her 3:30 p.m. doctor’s appointment so we can figure out what’s really wrong.
With nothing much on the docket for the day, I decided it was time to hang up some of Isabelle’s preschool artwork. Let me admit to something my mother thinks is quite terrible. I throw out a lot of Isabelle’s artwork. (There. I said it. In a public forum.) You know why? There’s SO much of it. I cannot save it all. There are a few pieces I save in a keepsake container in our basement, but the sheer volume of it is too much to physically store.
Just so you don’t think I’m a completely horrible person, know that I take photos of the things I toss and save it in an Evernote notebook. See:
This morning I decided it was time to STOP letting the artwork pile up. So I asked Isabelle, “Would you like to help me display your artwork in the garage?”
“In da gawaj?” she asked.
“Yes, on the walls of the garage. This way you can see your works of art every day when we come and go from the house.”
She considered it. “Okay! I’ll help you!”
“Put on some shoes,” I commanded.
“Can I weah silwuh shoes?” (Silver shoes are her part of the signature look she’s created for herself.)
“Sure, you can wear your silver shoes into the garage.”
And so she did.
We spent the next 20 minutes creating a gallery of her work. From the life-size Isabellsaurus she created with her teacher during their class’s dinosaur unit to the paintings she creates on the easel to a glittery skull she made at Halloween, it’s all up on our garage walls. She helped me hold the paper straight while I placed the tape loops behind the artwork. She helped me choose the places where each piece would hang on the wall. She brought some of her stuffed animals out to the garage so they could admire her work on the gallery.
When we were finished, I asked her what she thought.
“I love it!” she responded.
“Would you like to hang more of your artwork in this garage gallery as you bring it home from school?”
Her face lit up. “Yes!”
So apparently, the garage gallery will be a compromise, of sorts, for us going-forward. It’ll be a place for Isabelle to proudly display her preschool artwork. And it’ll be in a place I can both live with (i.e., not on the walls of our home) and not feel guilty about (i.e., by tossing). I think this garage gallery will be a win-win, don’t you?
Isabelle had my favorite kind of play date yesterday afternoon since it involved a museum and a craft project! We met up with Joanna and her son at the Susquehanna Art Museum. The museum re-opened in Midtown Harrisburg a few months ago in what used to be a bank. First, we attended story time in “The Vault.” The museum educator read Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold to the kids. Next, we went into the art studio for a craft project. All of the children received a cut-out flying body, like Cassie Louise Lightfoot, to decorate. Isabelle needed some assistance designing “Flying Isabelle,” which turned out pretty well.
If you don’t live in Central Pennsylvania, but find yourself driving on I-81 or on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the next couple of months, visit the Susquehanna Art Museum. “Everyone Can Fly” is an exhibit picture book lovers of all ages will enjoy!
Finally, I was reading the review copy of Beach Houseto Isabelle at bedtime. I always read the author and illustrators’ names and when I read Bates’ name I made the connection. Amy June Bates was one-and-the-same as Amy Bates whose work we had seen at the museum earlier in the day! I pointed that out to Isabelle who said she’d like to go back to look at Bates’ paintings again. Another visit to an art museum? Sure thing, kiddo!
For a chance to win this copy of Beach House, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, April 5th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Tuesday, April 6th.
Note: This giveaway is open to anyone with a USA or Canada mailing address.
Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Chronicle will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
If you are the winner of the book, I will e-mail you with the subject line of RAISING A LITERATE HUMAN – Beach House. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Comments are now closed. ReadWriteThruLife’s commenter number was drawn so she’ll receive a copy of Beach House. Here’s what she wrote:
Um Wow! What an awesome exhibit and opportunity for dramatic play centered around a book. I teach Young Fives and this exhibit makes me green with envy!!! Also, I attended the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference this weekend and sat in on an hour and a half session with Donalyn Miller yesterday. She “whispered” about over 100 books. Beach House is on my “gotta have” list. While I would love to win it, I will definitely be buying it! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience!
I dragged myself out of bed this morning. I promised Marc I’d take Isabelle out so he could complete a work-related project. But I was sick. Not pneumonia sick, but flu-like body ache sick. Sore throat sick. Massive headache sick. I knew I could back out, but I didn’t have to heart to do so.
Halfway through our day out together, Isabelle and I found ourselves painting pottery. Isabelle insisted on painting a mug for Grandma. She picked three colors and began painting. Eventually she dipped her green brush into my white paint. I implored her to rinse her brushes, going-forward, before dipping her brush into my paint.
30 minutes and eight colors after she began painting Grandma’s mug, she was swirling color upon color, layering the glaze so thick. I noticed some non-glazed spots.
“You should paint those,” I said pointing at them.
“I don’t want to,” she replied.
“But the handle needs some paint on it.”
She looked at me, annoyed, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“You’re right. It’s your project for Grandma, not mine. I’m going to mind my own business and get back to painting my bowl for Bubbe.”
“Good,” Isabelle said.
I learned something from this interaction. And maybe I wouldn’t have if I was feeling better. Perhaps I would’ve pressed her to paint those empty spots (or would’ve done it myself) if I didn’t feel so sick. Instead, I stopped bossing my child around and let her continue her art project. It may have 11 layers of glaze and some non-painted spots, but it is her project. She’s proud of it. And she should be. (The only thing I helped with was writing “For Grandma. Love, Isabelle. 2015” on the bottom of the mug.) When she gives that messily-painted mug to my mother-in-law it’ll be her own creation, which I know will make her proud.
I walked out of my office and shut the door behind me.
“What’s going on?” I asked as I walked towards Isabelle’s play room.
Neither Isabelle nor my husband said a word. The two of them were hard at work, on the floor, working on an art project.
I almost fainted.
You have to understand… my husband is not an artistic person. I got him to paint pottery with me once when we were dating in New York. Other than picking up a crayon to color with Isabelle in a restaurant, I haven’t seen him to anything artistic since the pottery painting day.
But there he was, on the floor of the play room, beside Isabelle, facilitating her artistic creation.