Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Art Mom, second grade and Van Gogh's ear
If you're going to be an Art Mom for a group of second graders, and you sense you're losing their attention, don't try to be clever and mention Van Gogh's ear.
Just don't. Even if you feel you're doing it for the greater good. Because soon you will not be giving a presentation on art. You will be giving a presentation on ears.
Trust me. I spoke today at my son's classroom - finishing a program on color and mood that got cut short last week - and brought in a wide variety of art prints to discuss. I thought I was being entertaining. My audience disagreed.
Yawns. Whispers. Giggles. Uh-oh...I needed something to hold their attention.
So I brought out my ace in the hole - Starry Night. Yes! Ooohs and aahhs - who doesn't love Van Gogh's Starry Night? But I took it too far. Talking about the artist, I decided to clear up a teeny, tiny misconception. He didn't cut off his entire ear, I told them - just the bottom part of it. Now I had their attention. Everyone was very interested in art. Or, um, ears.
"Ewwwww!!! Did it hurt? Did it bleed?"
"That story reminds me of getting my ears pierced. But nothing was cut off."
"My catechism teacher ... I have never seen either one of his ears."
I tried to move on. We talked about other artists, from Mary Cassatt to Jean Honore Fragonard. At the end, I held up another beautiful Van Gogh painting, White Roses, and asked the kids how it made them feel. Calm, they said. Happy. Then a boy in the back raised his hand.
"It looks like he painted that slowly," he told me. "Like, maybe, he was thinking about his ear."