Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Ever since last summer I have been mulling over a conversation I had with my granddaughter Emma about art. At the time we were on our way back from a ferry boat ride to Kingston with most of the family. All the clan had gathered at my house and then trooped down Main street to the ferry, where we walked on and rode over to have breakfast. Mostly it was an outing for all of us and a fun thing for the grand babies to do. The cousins see each other only a few times a year and so, when we all gather, we try and do some "kid friendly" fun activities. Anyway, that was what brought us together this particular Saturday morning in July. On the walk down I pointed out to Emma that her Granty had artwork for sale in a local home decor shop and there was a lovely glass and shell mermaid window of Granty's prominently displayed in the store's front window. Other pieces were just visible, if you peered through the shop window, hung on the wall inside. Emma seemed rather interested in what Granty had done so on the way back Emma, Granty and I stopped to give the art a closer work. (And to compliment Granty, too, of course.)

We showed the shell artwork Granty creates to Emma. She looked at it, very interestedly. Granty told her a little bit about how she made them. Emma, big blue eyes wide, took it all in. Finally I asked her what she thought about all this art.


I pushed a little. Emma announced it was pretty and she liked all the shells and the way the colors looked. And that the shells were shiny. And the sand Granty uses as background in may of her works.....but, they were not art. Now, Dear Reader, this was said in a firm and exceedingly confident voice. Emma knew what was art and THAT WAS NOT IT. I am the first person to defend any one's take on what constitutes art to that individual person. Art is, we all know, very subjective. If Granty's work was not art to Emma, so be it. Four-year-olds aren't usually that, er, what's the word I want here.....critical? Secure in their own taste? Emma, however, is. Very sure. Very, very sure.

Granty's canvases were pretty and she truly liked them, but THEY WERE NOT ART. Nope. Not art. Not at all.

We had to know what was Emma's definition of art and why didn't Granty's things live up to that (apparently) very high, Emma set, bar!

After a lot of questioning and conversation it came out that art is sparkly. Art is glittery. Art fairly glows. Disneyland is art. The opening credits of any Disney movie, with the castle and the fireworks and the fairy dust and the glitz is art, to Emma. Granty's work was, alas, pretty but not glittery or sparkly. It did not shriek of fireworks and Tinkerbell's fairy dust or anything. It was just shells.

So, the photo below is art. To Emma.

(It's a lovely photograph of Disneyland taken by someone with the Flickr name of 'Mastery of Maps'. Please give the photographer due credit for a lovely photo.)

And how did I come to feel the need to share this with you, you ask, Dear Reader? Well, every time I look at my Christmas tree and my eye falls upon a glittery ornament, or I look at the beautiful silver glass glitter stars I both saw and bought when I was at Wendy Addison's Theatre of Dreams last August, or a bit of glitter falls from a Christmas card I received in the morning mail, I think back to Emma and her very sure definition of art.

Christmas is an arty time, isn't it? I hope your Holidays are twinkling and sparkling and joyful. And full of art.


diane b said...

That is what is great about Art, we can all appreciate something but not everything. I like Emma. She has a definite opinion on the subject.

Gwen said...

What a beautiful essay, great subject, beautifully written. Emma is a gem, and so are you!

Merry Christmas!

Meri said...

How fantastic that you memorialized this in writing. Now make sure that it gets permanently saved into the treasure chest marked "Family Lore." It will delight Emma when she's all grown up, just like it delights all of us who read it.

Sandra Evertson said...

That was adorable! Season's Greetings!
Sandra Evertson