Saturday, August 06, 2005

#61 - Art for the Sake of Education

The benefits of homeschooling have been well documented in numerous places, and I just can't think of a better way to prepare my children for the future. It's planning time for our Academy (yes, we have an Academy; at least the State of California thinks so!), and Mrs. Woody is deep into planning activities for the coming school year. Jelly enters the 3rd grade this year, and Doodle is now a 1st grader. So, their teacher is doing her plans, organizing her materials, and generally just going through her nearly 100 gigabytes of electronic references and mountains of paper and books that constitute the bulk of her life now.

I have little doubt that my Woodyettes are among the best-taught children in the world today (and I say that in a totally non-competitive way). And they're in for a neat treat this year; Mrs. Woody will be teaching them about art.

I freely admit it: I am an ignoramus del arte. It's true. For some reason, when I was in school, I never once attended a class where art was any more than an exercise in clay ash trays (even though my parents had both quit long before I ever made one) or construction paper chains. Probably the one year that they actually trotted out the complete history of art and the grand masters who created it was when I spent two lousy weeks at home with the measles. Otherwise, art was something that textbook editors inserted into history books to give me an idea what Queen Elizabeth I looked like (answer: Not someone I would want to meet in a dark alley).

This is not to say I don't appreciate art. Quite the contrary. My grandfather was a painter (among his many other talents) and I have several of his works here at home. Notice I do not say that I have his works hanging in my home. The Move From Hades precludes our having more than one or two paintings up on a given wall until the dust settles, which means sometime around the return of Halley's Comet. Still, Grandpa was a very talented artist, and his seascapes really resonate with me.

Also, I have deliberately visited art museums in various parts of the country. One memorable field trip as a boy took us to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It was particularly memorable because at the time, they had a settee made of some funky material that would make glowing impressions of one's derierre for all to scoff and scorn. Boys, of course, thought this was the highlight of the entire trip. The girls were all off studying Renoir or Michaelangelo.

However broad my artistic taste, however, I still have to 'fess up that I know next to nothing about artistic styles, historical periods, or the artists themselves. I have a general idea, of course. If you show me a Botticelli, for example, I can readily identify it's period (Old) and it's style (Dark, Unless You Turn Up the Brightness Control on the Monitor). Picasso was the master of the Weird period and the Desperately in Need of Glasses style. Cubists were, I'm assuming, artists who escaped from Cuba just prior to the Bay of Pigs faux invasion.

Knowledgeable art lovers will, of course, see through my attempts at erudition. That's why I'm excited about this coming school year. Art will be one of their new topics, and Mrs. Woody has procured an Art Appreciation curriculum that has her fairly excited as well. I'm really looking forward to being able to discuss art intelligently (or, at least, less ignorantly) than I can today. Also, I do appreciate art in its various forms; the one exception being art paid for by taxpayers such as you and I. No matter where you go in this great country of ours, municipalities seem to be pathologically incapable of purchasing anything but ugly art. This is art that I wouldn't want to step on if I found it on my lawn. I would, in fact, get angry at the artist for not curbing him or herself and putting the art in little disposable baggies. That's the kind of art most cities seem to purchase for public display. Maybe this is so we'll appreciate the stuff we find in actual museums, and be willing to pay through the nose to see. Aha! A conspiracy!

Anyway, sometime during the year I'll update you an my newfound artistic knowledge. Try not to laugh at me. You might find some art on your lawn the next morning if you do.

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