Art and Children

by mitchellgallery

Children are different from adults. They do not view the art by standing back at a respectful distance to behold the whole of an art piece. They do not scrutinize and analyze. They do not talk about other artists whose styles are similar to the art they see or contemplate the pieces’ historical context. Of course, there are exceptions. But for the most part, no, children are not at all like adults.

They scurry forward nearly, but not quite, pressing light fingertips against the glass of a painting. The glass will fog with their excited breath. They want to feel the very pigment seep from the piece and ink their fingers. They’ll walk backwards, their eyes never leaving the piece, until their little backs almost brush the art on the opposite side of the room. They want to view the piece they are looking at from every angle and distance possible. From the other side of the gallery where I sit, I clear my throat. The young boy or girl will glance back at me unperturbed and continue their going-ons being much too close to the art. We’ve done nothing wrong. Really, we haven’t, their guiltless faces tell me.

In growing up as the years pass, I find that I have allowed myself to separate myself from the experience of art. I try to find deeper meaning in something that perhaps is not there. I’ll look at a sculpture’s title before I view the piece so that I may already know what there is to see. I’ll politely and quietly contemplate the art for a while, then move on at a reasonable pace so that I can get through the gallery in decent time.

Yet watching these children, I learn from them. I pause and spend a while longer viewing the art. Perhaps they are right.

For art must be tasted, digested, internalized. Each piece must be savored, each for its own sake. A piece, while perhaps a part of a series or theme, must also stand on its own as independent from the artist’s previous work, history, or similarity to other artistic styles. A piece should be viewed as a whole within itself. Yes, analysis of art is highly important and does garner deep understanding of art itself. But one must not lose sight within details of the most pleasurable part of art – that is, the experience. Here and now, there is a work art. Drink with your eyes and feel the weight of the piece press against your face, sink into your body.

In watching them, I see the art in a different light, and I become a child again.

Holly Huey – St. John’s College student