Johnny has been in rare form the last few weeks. Perhaps it’s the warmer weather. Or having a large audience of family over the Easter holiday.
Whatever the source of inspiration, Johnny informed us the other day that he wants a different name.
Apparently, he would like us to call him either “Spitgun 2000” or “Cheetah Goddess”.
I think I prefer “Cheetah Goddess” but that’s going to be a mouthful for his soccer and baseball coaches. Apparently this name change stems from some conversations at school. Johnny has some fabulous friends. He also has a great art teacher. I’ve enjoyed the pictures coming home in his little red folder.
Just the other week, he burst through the front door and handed me his latest effort.
Me: “That looks like a delicious bowl of ice cream.”
Johnny: “That’s not what it is Mommy. Look again.”
Me: (Clueless expression)
Johnny: “It’s a famous picture.”
This was my hint. I realized my rookie parenting mistake and flipped the page over. I should have known better. When in doubt, you always turn the page over. Art teachers usually put some clue as to the provenance of the project. This was a copy of a Paul Cézanne still life.
Me: “Oh, I see it now! It’s a Cézanne.”
Johnny: (Emphatic tone) “Of course it is! How did you not recognize it?”
Well, when you look at the two art works side-by-side, there is a resemblance.
Johnny wanted me to notice a few additional features on his version.
Johnny: “I thought I could make it better. I decided to add a sun.”
Me: (Why do kids always draw a face on the sun? This is universal and I’ve never understood it.)
Johnny: “And I added in Becky. She’s up here in the other corner.”
Johnny: “But it didn’t go so good with Becky. She looks like an alien.”
And that was the end of his critique. He was off, like a cheetah. I was left holding the art work and smiling. There’s much to appreciate about his Kindergarten effort. First of all, I love that Johnny thought he could improve the picture. When I was a kid, I would have followed the teacher’s instructions and copied the source material exactly. But Johnny stood back and knew it could be better. I love that the improvements included a Becky photo-bomb in the corner. Finally, I admire his honest assessment of the result. Because she does look like an alien. And it didn’t bother him a bit.
I’ve only taken Johnny to a fine art museum once. He was four years old and not particularly engaged with the art. Until we entered the exhibit of ancient coins. Now here was something he could work with. It’s not that he was impressed with the collection of ancient Greek and Roman coins depicting gods and animals. Boring.
Tetradrachm (Coin) Depicting the Goddess Athena, 490-322 BCE, Greek, minted in Athens, Chicago Art Institvte
But the layout of the exhibit suggested an obstacle course, its affordance screamed RUN. Johnny’s 4-year old body responded. At top speed.
Art Intitvte – Projects
As he zigged and zagged between the display cases, he looked like the ball action of a pin ball machine. Like a flash, he darted around each individual stone kiosk displaying the rare items. At one point, he hip-checked the base of one case. Thankfully, this collision did not set off any alarms. I caught the glare of a docent standing in the corner. But she had no hope of catching Johnny. Or me. I was running too, arms pumping at my side, chasing my little bullet out of the room
I’m thinking of returning to the Art Institute with Johnny sometime this summer. Perhaps we’ll take a train into the city, snacks packed in a bag. No doubt Johnny will be talking the whole time and sharing his observations for all to hear. We’ll walk hand-in-hand to the famous lions guarding the museum entrance. We’ll wander through the galleries, avoiding the coin exhibit this time.
Chicago Tonight – WTTW
Eventually, he’ll find something he likes. I’ll hand him a notebook and some crayons. While sitting on a bench, legs dangling in the air, he’ll make his own copy. I’ll stand back and watch, looking for what catches his eye and any items he adds. And when he’s done, I’ll have him turn the page over and sign his name.