Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Eyes of a Child

This morning, as I was checking out some of my favorite blogs, I ran across this article, courtesy of Pam RuBert on her blog, PaMdora's Box. It's a summary of a piece John Stossel did on 20/20 Friday night (March 11) essentially slamming modern art - abstract expressionism, in particular. He showed various people, both online and in person, pictures of famous artworks along with artwork created by people who are not famous artists, including some paintings done by 4-year old children, and asked them to choose which pieces they thought were "real" art. He was surprised (shocked perhaps?) when some of the pieces created by children were chosen over and over again as "real" art. If I'm not misunderstanding, his conclusion seems to be that museums should stop buying abstract art, and in particular public funds shouldn't be used for such purchases, because "any 4-year-old could create something great". Ok, call me crazy, but I think he's completely missing the point. I wrote an email telling him so, but got to thinking later that I probably didn't get MY point across either, because I don't think I really explained my thinking. I threw a quote at him and just expected him to "get it". Here's the quote (which kerrismatic Adrienne uses as a sig line in her emails):

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." --- Pablo Picasso

I believe that. I believe young children are naturally creative and expressive and not embarrassed about putting themselves out there on paper because they haven't learned The Rules yet. They haven't learned what things *should* or *shouldn't* look like. They haven't learned to censor themselves. If they want to draw big scary monsters, they draw big, scary monsters without embarrassment, and without worrying about if such things exist (which, of course, kids know they's grown-ups who don't understand about monsters, and convince themselves that such things aren't possible). If little kids want their trees to have purple leaves, and a fish with wings and feet to sit in the branches of the purple-leaved tree, they DO it...until someone, somewhere, sometime teaches them that it's *wrong*...that the leaves should be green, and that fish live in the water, and don't have wings or feet, and they start to believe that what they can see and touch is more important than what they feel or imagine. I think what makes a person - an adult person, that is - an artist, is the ability to hang onto a small fraction of the ability to see the world the way a child sees it, and to filter that vision through years of experience, and give it a tangible form. It's easy enough to learn the principles of design, but much more difficult to know how to really SEE. I don't think the fact that a lot of people perceived the work of 4-year-old children as "real" art diminishes the artwork of the adults. I DO think it says we should value the artwork of children more than we do. And I think we should value the artwork of adults who remember what it is to see the world as a child sees a place of wonder, and horror, and beauty, and frightfulness, and magic.