If you have a child of two or three, or can borrow one, let her give you beginning lessons in looking.
—Corita Kent and Jan Steward, Learning By Heart
This weekend we visited the Umlauf Sculpture Garden here in Austin. Towards the end of our visit, I spent at least half an hour at the very edge of the garden with my back to the beautiful art and scenery, watching the cars whiz by on Robert E. Lee Road.
Going to an art museum with a two-year-old will make you rethink what’s interesting and what’s art. (After all, what are cars but fast, colorful, kinetic sculptures?) This, of course, should be the point of museums: to make us look closer at our everyday life as a source of art and wonder.
After I posted about the experience, Roberto Greco sent me this great picture of some children in the 1960s looking through a grate at the San Francisco Art Museum:
It reminded me that ten years ago I’d spent hours at the Art Institute of Chicago when I came across this weird sculpture:
I asked the museum guard, rather innocently, “Can you tell me more about this piece?”
She looked at me and said, “It keeps the paintings from melting.”
I smiled, thanked her, and snuck a picture.
“For so many years we have been learning to judge and dismiss — I know what that thing is — I’ve seen it a hundred times — and we’ve lost the complex realities, laws, and details that surround us,” write Kent and Steward in Learning By Heart. “Try looking the way the child looks—as if always for the first time—and you will, I promise, feel wider awake.”
Borrow a kid. Spend some time trying to see through their eyes. You will discover new things.