Our youngest daughter brought home an interesting brochure from her school fieldtrip to our local art museum, so we decided to take a family trip to the museum, bringing along my mother, too. Now, the adults in our family are not big fans of modern art, so the stroll through that area gave us mixed opinions. My daughter and I marveled, however, at Tara Donovan’s “Haze” which is a wall of white soda straws stacked to look like a cloud, or like choppy waves. The open ends of the straws face viewers and although the surface of this piece actually looks solid, by moving our heads to look at different sections, the open straw ends would appear like magic, reminding us of honeycombs.
We also saw Tara Donovan’s “Plastic Cups” exhibit where a whole small room was filled with stacked cups arranged to form a low mountain range. We all wanted to touch the cups to see if they were glued together. The museum guard must have had quite a job making sure a roomful of school kids didn’t touch that exhibit! It was really fun to see what can be done with mere plasticware.
My mother and I spent some time looking at a wall-sized work by Anselm Kiefer called “Burning Rods.” This is a charred landscape of paint, ceramic, iron, copper, lead and straw that is meant to portray Chernobyl – land ravaged by nuclear disaster. This work attracted us like moths to a flame; the burnt colors, the peeling flesh of paint and metal. It reminded my mother of the horrors she saw at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum fifteen years ago. For her, the Anselm Kiefer piece spoke to her of the unspeakable.
Finally, we journeyed through a special exhibit of wood carvings done by the natives of New Ireland, a small group of islands a ways off Australia. The carvings were beautifully and amazingly intricate. I read the plaques to my daughter and tried to explain the culture to her and my mother. I had to laught as my mom kept refering to the pieces as “modern art.” Together we learned about the fascinating, colorful, and imaginative life of another world.
I wasn’t sure how this trip to the art museum would set with my young active daughter and my elder mother, who only likes conservative paintings, but it went well. My husband was able to disappear and visit the old European paintings which he is happiest exploring. I think we all had an eye-opening time though, learning together, exposing ourselves to something different. Every once in a while we need to grow our minds.