We show up at the art museum without any real plan. Two of us brought cameras; one of the kids packed a sketch pad and pencils; our eldest stuffed gadgets into her pockets to listen to music, text friends and check Facebook; and my husband and our son carried nothing, free to consider the artwork unencumbered and undistracted.
We wander through the European gallery, pausing here and there to admire a piece that catches someone’s eye.
My son favors three-dimensional art like vases, bowls and sculptures.
My camera-toting daughter is capturing her favorite works in megapixels, often murmuring, “I really like that one.” Curious, I slip over and take a look. She seems to prefer muted colors, landscapes in soft grays and browns.
The sketch-pad girl creates her own quick pencil-on-paper version of a blue boat against an other-worldly yellow background and later, a sculpture of two gamboling deer.
I prefer paintings, leaning in to admire thick brush stroke’s texture, wondering how the artists saw not once but twice—first the actual scene or subject matter, and then the version in their minds that they committed to canvas using lines, curves, splotches and color.
Along the way, I find I’m unexpectedly moved by some of the works, though I don’t have much time to ponder why. The effect is as subtle and brief as the tapping of a pond’s still surface, which stirs a series of ripples that nod and flatten. I feel it, and then it fades.
I know that art can do this: it can tap the water’s surface and even cause a splash.
Art, I’m told, can awaken, unlock and touch deep and secret places inside us. I feel that these artists invite me to stop and stare. I can stand where they stood and see what they saw…or what they want to reveal.
But I don’t have time to explore this deeply or wonder about its power, because on this family outing, not everyone is drawn to the same thing, so we keep moving along.
As we work our way through the American gallery, the kids’ interest fades dramatically each time we turn a corner and encounter another collection. I am lingering near a Tiffany stained glass window, pondering the words—a passage from Ephesians 5, to be precise—and soon hear someone in our party sighing heavily. I leave the window to find the youngest actually curled up on an empty bench as if to nap.
Art can awaken, and art can put some to sleep. I notice that even the sketchbook has been slid into a bag and the camera tucked away.
It’s time to leave.
As we pull away, the kids are visibly tired; yet, though I can’t explain it, I find myself more awake than ever.