Lyda here. It’s Tuesday, time for the Weekly Random Weirdness of Humans. Hurray!
The Weirdness of Art – or “Wherefore ART Thou?” (once again, my apologies to the Bard)
1) Humans have never agreed on the question, “What is art?” Probably the first artist to take burned stick to cave wall stepped back to look and heard the first critic say, “You call that art?”
Of course, the artist no doubt had a club nearby, which might have silenced the critics. Literally.
Draw softly and carry a big club.
2) Is this art? Is it counting? Some scientists think the purposeful parallel lines carved on these bones are the earliest example of symbolism yet discovered.
3) The next time you are in Portugal, be sure to check this place out. “The Upper Palaeolithic rock-art of the Côa valley is an outstanding example of the sudden flowering of creative genius at the dawn of human cultural development.”
In fact, wherever you travel, check out any local rock art. It is incredibly powerful in person. “Local rock art” is a weird phrase. As if there is “wandering rock art” to be distinguished from “local rock art.” As if wandering rock art travels around the country like wandering rock musicians. “Hey, the Coa Valley Rock Art is in town, let’s see the show!”
But I digress again…
“Creative genius.” I’m guessing there were still humans who looked at it and said, “My five-year-old could do better than that.”
4) For some of us, a liberal art education included surprisingly little exposure to fine art. That’s why I love PBS. Well, that and “Dr. Who.” And “Mystery.” And “This Old House,” and… Okay, one reason among many. Moving on from the digressing… PBS covers it all, from ancient treasures to 21st century art, from familiar works to pop and folk art.
5) For a insightful and funny view of art, check out Sister Wendy. In her first PBS series, she took us through European art history. In her new PBS series, “Sister Wendy’s American Collection,” she shows us treasures from six great museums in the U.S., including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (close to me!).
6) Just like you do with yarn and books, seek out the art you love. For more resources and links on art and art history, check out this website.
7) Many artists now universally considered brillant artists were not appreciated or understood in their time. Vincent Van Gogh, for example.
Something to remember when looking at art in a museum or gallery, especially a modern piece. Maybe we just haven’t caught up to them yet.
Something to remember when our own Inner Critic starts to attack our artistic efforts.
Maybe our Inner Critic doesn’t recognize Art.
8.) Or maybe it’s drek. Just because it’s in a museum, or popular, or “in” – that doesn’t make it Art. It could be the art version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” If you have forgotten how silly humans can be, look at fashion through the ages. Silly, silly humans.
9) And here’s my own two-cents. Or, “OMG she’s pontificating again, run for your lives!”
No one knows who the earliest artists were. We may know that a certain pot was made by a female (because the fingerprints are still in the clay – isn’t that cool?!), or this painting was done by someone with hands of a certain size (because they put their handprints on the wall). But we know almost nothing about the artists.
In our closest relatives (I mean the apes), the juveniles are more active than the adults. When well-fed and safe, the juveniles are also more likely to come up with innovations, new tools, and new amusements, while the adults tend to sleep in the sun.
This is also true in humans. Humans, particularly children, are curious, adaptable, and inventive. This is why we have to keep close tabs on the kids. We adults have all these crazy rules about “not electrocuting yourself” and “not destroying things” and “not bashing the other kids on the head.”
Ya’ll see where I’m going with this.
Juveniles are more likely to see a wall as a blank canvas waiting to be filled.
Think about it.
Cave painting could have been created by five-year-olds. Pottery, weaving, painting, knitting – young people could have invented them all.
Children could have invented Art.
So – – maybe your five-year-old CAN do better than that.
10) So, what are you going to do about it?
How about feeding our children’s creativity as carefully as we feed their bodies?
Give them interesting art supplies to play with. Take them with you to museums and listen to their reactions. Check out books on art from the library. Check out children’s books with wonderful illustrations. Sit on the floor and color with them. Draw with them in the park, at the zoo, at the museum.
11) When I was teaching preschool, I learned to stop saying, “What a great dog.” Because maybe it wasn’t a dog, maybe it was an elephant or a hippo or a space alien. I learned to say, “Tell me about your painting.”
And I banned coloring books. No one ever got anywhere coloring inside the lines.
Except stuck inside the lines.
12) And yes, I’m talking about nurturing your Inner Kid too. Because inside every adult is a five-year-old artist who just wants to come out and play.
P.S. And all kids, including Inner Kids, love fiber. Ya’ll already knew that, didn’t you?