Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Major (Okay, Minor) Fail

After three false starts, Mary H. and I (Jen) still have not completed our Art from Many Places: Ritual and Celebration tour as initially intended! The game plan for this tour has been to start at the Mummy Case; then on to the Persephone Plate, which is officially - and creatively - titled Knob Handled Dish (one of our personal favorite titles, by the way - right up there with Millet’s Peasants Bringing Home a Calf Born in the Fields. Really, Millet? Really?!).

Coffin and Mummy of Paankhenamun, c. 945–715 B.C.

Knob Handled Dish, 1864

Jean-Francois Millet, Peasants Bringing Home a Calf Born in the Fields, 1864

American Gothic comes next, followed by the lovely dancing Shiva. We then fast-forward a few (thousand) years to Robert Watts’s Auto Series from 1971 - 3, ending at On Kawara’s Oct. 31, 1978.

Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), Chola period, c. 10th/11th century

*imagine Robert Watts's Auto Series here*

On Kawara, Oct. 31, 1978, 1978

Last week was our first attempt at this tour, and it began without a hitch. Soon, however, we began to notice a trend: dragons. The kids were wanting dragons. A lot. They had been studying Asian art, and dragons in particular, and had been hoping to see one or two on their trip to the Art Institute. Well, far be it from us to stand in their way. Luckily, I had an ancient Chinese dragon plate lesson handy from our Animals in Art tours, so we quickly revised our plan. But as a result, both of our contemporary pieces - Auto Series and the On Kawara date piece - got the shaft.

Later that week, we eagerly awaited the arrival of our Ritual and Celebration tour-goers... We waited... and waited... Unfortunately for all of us, the group didn’t show up until 11:30! The time that the tour is supposed to end! Well, they were forced to tour themselves around the museum (sorry, guys!) and we were forced to wait another week to give our much-anticipated R&C tour.

Today we got our third (and probably final!) chance to give our elusive tour. Everything was going great until we marched up the American wing stairs to find Terrah - AIC's Kress Fellow - surrounded by an eager group of her own at American Gothic. It was ours no longer! Major fail!

The good news is that we finally made it to both of our contemporary pieces. We started with the Watts Auto Series photographs, which were initially met with some sideways glances. As the kids began to talk about what they saw, however, it was clear that they could grasp the ritual content of the piece. The celebratory aspect, however, was a bit trickier.

Heading up to the On Kawara date painting, I was pretty worried that we would have a rebellion on our hands. And not to disappoint, the first question I got was, “How is this art?” Good question, kid. Let’s talk about that... We discussed the artist’s process of daily creation, and the group, again, was able to see the ritual aspect rather quickly. More than with the Watt’s piece, I wanted to impress upon them the celebratory aspect of this work, so I pushed a bit harder with my questions. All of a sudden, their faces lit up with recognition and they seemed to see it: the work is a celebration of living, of the simple act of being alive one more day.

Well, with a success like that, I think we can both live with a little bit of tour-giving failure. I, for one, would take that compromise any day!

1 comment:

  1. Whoops! Sorry about the kerfufle at American Gothic! It was the 12pm public tour. Kudos for improv!