“Shto takoy istkustva?”
This is one of the hardest questions to answer, not the least of which is because it is transliterated from Russian. It asks: “What is art?” I ventured forth one night to consider this while exploring that regional delight: the hometown art fair.
Yesterday, I took my son to the Art & Chocolate Walk in Grandville, MI. Families gathered to share tidbits and admire local amateur artists’ works alongside school children’s efforts. I will say now, I am no arbiter of art; I have not studied at the Sorbonne, nor could I tell you the effect Prussian blue had on the impressionists. What I can tell you is viewing art at the speed of sound is a blurry challenge. (My son is not known for his love of art–unless it is of the deconstructionist variant and it involves either indelible ink or an expensive piece of technology.)* Destructive self-expression aside, my son preferred gobbling the candy and cookies to exploring the meaning found in artistic media–regardless of what form it took.
Among the exhibits under flapping awnings and propped on rolling stages was the very popular human statue. Parents would lead their unsuspecting child up to the copper-hued sculpture, asking their opinion about the work, only to hear the children yelp, “It moved!” followed by a spate of giggles when the work of art waggled a brush at them before returning to a frozen stance. Is this art? I can’t say. What I will say is the kids liked it and the man did a great job. He was up there the entire time I visited the fair staying in character–except when he broke the third wall–to the delight of onlookers. That shows talent in my book.
The art exhibits were cleverly spaced throughout the local business establishments. The chamber of commerce committee that dreamed this up earned their pennies.
There is something odd, at first, about squeezing into a dress shop or past floor tile samples to view whichever school group or work was displayed, but plucky people managed it. After you grabbed your treat and had your card punched, you could wander through the stock to find the exhibits–it was surprisingly fun.
We zipped through one store where grandfather clocks competed with chiming glass-and-mirrored wall clocks which signaled the changing shifts of visitors to the small table of glue and paper efforts by the local elementary students.**
To some, this marketing of community businesses through parental pride might strike a mercenary note, yet I couldn’t help but admire the effort it took to put this on. Someone organized the local shops, the schools and teachers, the musicians and artists to contribute–time, money, energy and enthusiasm. Behind each cardboard easel you’ll see a deeper purpose–to nurture budding talents and to give pride of place for children who can go somewhere, point to a piece of work and say, “That one’s mine.” while the world looks on.
Everywhere I went, in the brief moments of admiration for some truly talented youngsters, I saw moms and dads escorting siblings and taking candid shots of performances and works by their children. Some children were shy about it, others wore smiles so wide it is hard to imagine a frame large enough to fit all those teeth.
Where does art comes from? What inspiration springs from the soul and dares to express itself in song, sound, or acrylic paints? When does it actually happen?
Was there a budding Renoir or Matisse among the earnest, dramatic and sometimes cute artwork? From what I could see, yes. I was astounded at what was produced–either as a collaborative effort or even a derivative style, it was still very much art to me. Perhaps it was the nascent, newly-birthed foal version of art, just finding its shaky legs and looking for its mother to lean on, but it was art.
All artists start somewhere at a place of beginning, staring at a blank canvas and wondering how they can speak to the world through a charcoal pencil. How does a child scribbling one day turn into a world-renowned artist? At one point, someone put a pencil or crayon in their hand and told them, “Draw me a pretty picture.” This, this is where art starts.
I wanted to include some of my favorites, so scroll below to see what I could see in the short amount of time my son allowed me.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*His first work is entitled “A Study in Red” because he squirted red food coloring all over the cream carpet in the living room. It never quite washed out. I hope the new home owners aren’t standing over the Rorschach-esque designs speculating whether a murder took place.
**If I confuse which grade of art was placed where, forgive me. By my fourth piece of dessert my concentration suffered from sugar overload.
The Art Starts Here