By Lillie Hart
It’s safe to say that most people’s first experience with a mobile is early on, perhaps too early to remember. The first time I walked through the Calder exhibit, I completely forgot about my early relationship with mobiles. Unlike me as a baby in a crib simply gazing up at them, enjoying their graceful movements, I was more so staring the pieces of art down, trying to figure out what they were.
My most recent visit was different.
I walked through the gallery and was surrounded by children who couldn’t have been any older eight years old. They sat around Nineteen White Discs in a position I remember being called “criss cross applesauce”. The boys and girls were wide-eyed as their gallery guide told them who Alexander Calder, the great contemporary artist and inventor of the mobile, was. When their guide asked them what they saw in the mobile hanging and swaying above their little heads, every child’s hand shot up except for one, he instead blurted out “caterpillar!” I surely didn’t see a caterpillar, but I honestly wasn’t sure what I saw in this intricate and delicate piece of art hanging over me. It was refreshing that they so assertively stated what they saw in the piece of art I couldn’t quite “figure out”. The class then sat criss cross applesauce under Four Boomarangs and shouted different things they saw: primary colors, a chair, circles, and somehow even a triceratops. In the other pavilion another group of slightly older children mused over Nathan Carter’s Traveling Language Machine with #3 Frequency Disruptor and Disinformation Numbers Station. Their guide asked them if they saw an elephant. The kids shrieked, laughed, and said “oh yeah” as their little eyes finally make sense of the twirls of blue.
The Calder show is unique and accessible, some of the best qualities in art. This is truly an exhibit for all ages; maybe you’ll sit criss cross applesauce and behold the gentle sways, feel the joy of discovery or simply marvel in the fine craftsmanship and intricate genius of each piece.
Nineteen White DiscsPainted sheet metal and steel wire, 45 x 53 inches diameter. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Gift of Ruth Horwich (1991.91). © 2012 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.