Monday, June 11, 2012

The Artic (no, that's not a typo...)

Talking with Sophie about Chagall's American Windows
Talking with Sophie about Chagall's America Windows

It was one of those very special moments that I wanted to bottle up and preserve forever. Sophie will likely not have any memory of it when she grows up but I always will. And I will remind her of it as she gets older, that we once stood together in front of Chagall's America Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ever since I saw it in person in 2004, America Windows has been one of my favorite pieces of (public) art ever. I've always been a Chagall fan and have seen a few of his original artwork, but nothing quite prepares you for the stunning magnificence that is America Windows. Calling it stained glass is like calling the Taj Mahal a house- it's so much more than that. I only managed to see it twice before it was removed for restoration in 2005. It took 5 years of intensive conservation treatment and archival research before the windows returned in 2010 as the stunning centerpiece of a new presentation at the east end of the museum’s new wing. And the moment we walked into the Art Institute yesterday, I made a beeline straight to it with Sophie in tow.

And it took my breath away. Again. Sparkling, shimmering, glowing. I asked Sophie what she saw in the windows, which sections she liked, and I told her why it's one of my favorite pieces of art. It wasn't like I gave her a crash course in art history or anything- we just talked about the windows like we would talk about a picture in one of her storybooks- the colors, the "characters", what we thought was going on, how the images made us feel, etc.

In fact, that's how we spent the next hour or so at the Art Institute. Visiting the Art Institute was one of the first things we've done with Sophie that was more for Jude and I than it was for her. Usually, on our vacations, we'd stick to things Sophie enjoys-- the children's museum, the aquarium, parks, etc. But this time, we wanted to go to the Art Institute and we took it as an opportunity to share with her something we love.

And it turned out to be really fun. And funny. Trust almost-three year olds to be the harshest art critics. The Art Institute was having a Roy Lichtenstein retrospective which was great- we thought Sophie might enjoy Pop Art a little more than say, the Impressionists. Sophie had very honest-- and VOCAL-- opinions about several of the pieces that caught her eye. "Why is the lady not wearing a diaper?", she asked, as we stood in front of Frolic (which prompted the woman next to us to say, "You must write this down in her baby book- how precious!"); "Oooh... I like hotdog. But I like it with ketchup, not mustard." (Hot Dog with Mustard); "I like some spaghetti too!" (Ball of Twine); and my favorite, "Why is the lady crying? Maybe she's in the shower. I think she has shampoo in her eyes." (Drowning Girl). Like I said, it was loud and hilarious :)

We had a wonderful time even though we obviously didn't visit all the exhibits. We're actually looking forward to some local and regional art when we move back to Singapore. Jude and I really enjoyed the National Museum of Singapore after it reopened a while back and I have a feeling Sophie might too. Here's to more museums to discover and explore together!

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