By Anne Drescher
People often ask me why I like art. Though it took me most of my life to come up with one answer, I finally found it: art doesn’t discriminate. Each person, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or religion can look at a work of art and come up with an opinion that is entirely original and correct. Art is not exclusive, and museums like the Nasher make art accessible; this summer I stumbled across another way that art is all-encompassing. While great works of literature by Shakespeare or Austen require a sophisticated mind to interpret, art can be understood by some of the smallest members of society, and I mean that literally. While observing gallery tours this summer I watched K-12 students on field trips present some of the most insightful views of the Alexander Calder exhibition.
Adults ponder each piece laboriously and look to experts’ opinions in order to formulate their own. Kids, on the other hand, immediately respond to a piece with ideas that are one hundred percent original. On one tour, I observed first-grade students looking at Calder’s 10-5-4. They saw a whale, a dump truck, a swordfish, a dinosaur and a palm tree. As parents know, kids blurt out most of what crosses their minds because they haven’t developed the fear of saying the wrong thing. That openness leads to some unfiltered and unique interpretations.
In the same exhibition, I observed a high school group of art history students and was impressed with their knowledge of Alexander Calder. Most exciting, though, was how this group represented the best of the adult and child worlds. They were highly educated yet still retained a child-like enthusiasm that allowed for creative interpretations. I, and all of the adults coming to visit the museum, can learn from this dichotomy.
Knowledge of an artist is a wonderful thing, but there’s something to be said for looking at artwork through the eyes of a child. So, take a look at Calder’s masterpieces and allow yourself to be transported back to the days of lollipops and recess. Don’t disregard any of your initial impluses or gut-reactions for fear of them being childish, instead, embrace them, and you’ll find that the whimsy of Calder’s pieces will, if only for an afternoon, keep you young at heart.
Photo by J Caldwell