Thursday before SOFA Chicago opens I’ve got a couple of hours of free time. No brainer: a trip to the Art Institute.
A quick check of the museum’s website tells me that, in addition to the just-opened exhibition of Chagall’s recently re-installed America Windows, there’s a symposium on stained glass scheduled for the 4th.
Bingo. It’s the 4th!
Except that once I arrive I discover – right day, wrong month. Oh well…
Instead of “eight hundred years of the history of stained glass” as discussed by noted academics, I join a class of fifth graders and their guide.
“Who can tell me why the bird is pink?”
None of the kids – nor I, wallowing in the depths of a brain still drugged from install overdose – have an answer. The guide does: “Because it’s art.”
Why didn’t I know that?
“And artists can do anything they want,” she tells us.
Except use those little styrofoam peanuts for packing their work for art fairs. If they do that, we kill them.
Then they look like this. My mind is so much chewed gum on the floor of Navy Pier.
“Chagall has used a lot of symbols in these windows. Who knows what a symbol is?”
“Something that stands for something else,” a kid in the front row volunteers.
“Very good” the guide chimes. “Chagall is showing us symbols of the different arts in these windows. Does anyone see something that might be a symbol for music?”
“Is that red thing that looks like a flower a violin?” The small child’s brain is razor sharp compared to my own this morning.
“Yes it is!” The guide is guiding. “Does anyone see something that might be a symbol for drama?”
Ooops. Silence. Guide backs up. “Does anyone know what drama is?”
“Plays?” Kid answers question with question.
“YES! – does anyone see something you might wear in a play?” Guide glides back onto track.
“How about a mask?….have you ever seen the smiling and frowning masks sometimes used in theater?”
Or at art fairs? You wanna talk Drama, lady?
“Does anyone see any other things in these windows that could be symbols?”
I can feel the kids starting to loosen up.
“What’s that banana mean?” one of them asks.
“What banana?” the guide needs guiding now.
“The one that’s inside the guy’s foot” Kid in row two is sliding into the driver’s seat.
“He’s an artist. Remember.” Ten year old in the back row has just taken the wheel. “He can put his bananas anywhere he wants.”
I probably won’t be back for the symposium next month. I learned everything I needed with the fifth graders.
Now to SOFA.