I know about most field trips in advance and can do lots of preparatory book reading. Last week, I found out that a good friend of mine would be in town from Seattle and she had a free day to spend with my children and me.
She is a married woman with no children, so I suggested the Museum of Fine Arts, thinking about the huge sections of artifacts that my children love to pore over. (I do usually have to tell them to stop exclaiming so loudly and to walk, not run, between exhibits, but that’s almost cute.)
She loved the idea, but wanted to look at artwork. (Oh boy! How do I get my 5 year-old interested in flat paintings on a wall? And get her to be still long enough for my friend, Heather, to enjoy them too?) Heather is a patient woman and I am an optimist, so it was planned.
The day before the trip, I finally made it to Groton Public Library. (I just love that place!) With the children’s’ librarian’s help, I left with the perfect books.
That night, I found all of my old art books and we read as many library stories as we had time for.
“The Little Dancer” by Anholt about one of Degas’ statues was Katherine’s favorite. Strangely, Frida Kahlo resonated for Laura. She loved the story about her life and her many self portraits. We also read about a couple other artists like Mary Cassatt.
Wednesday morning, we arrived at the MFA and met up with Heather, only to be greeted by fire alarms. (Oh no! I’m spending our “good behavior time” outside instead of inside!) So we asked the girls whose artwork they wanted to find.
Katherine wanted to find Degas and Laura wants to find “Frida with the eyebrows.”
After searching high and low, one curator told us that they only had one work by Frida Kahlo and it was not on display. Laura dissolved in a puddle of tears. (Why is my 5 year-old completely enamored with an artist who paints some really tortured looking pictures?)
We decided to move on and look for Degas after taking Laura by some Mary Cassatt pictures so she could calm down. (She liked her too, just not as much.)
Inside the Impressionists’ room, Katherine gasped. Right in front of her was “The Little Dancer” — the sculpture she read about!
She asked the curator “Is the girl in the statue really named Marie? And is this the real statue that Degas made?”
The curator assured her that she was and it is! (The Web site actually says that it is not the real one, but a copy. I won’t mention that now!)
After this quite serious exhibit, we happened upon a very interesting series of photos. A performance artist had rolled his entire body, sans clothing, in honey and then rolled in bird seed! Then he sat in a cage with some birds while they ate the seeds off his body. Frida was now completely forgotten in the bliss of this fantastic space! (Has anyone else found themselves trying not to have a laughing fit in the MFA?)
Then we entered the space of a “Private Collector” complete with a curator with an attitude. My girls were quite surprised at the quantity of naked women on the walls drawn in many different styles. We walked around, behind one such display and found a painting of a person urinating upside down! My admonitions of “no potty talk outside the bathroom” were rather hard to stick to while staring at this piece under the watchful eye of Monsieur Curator!
We ended the trip sitting on the floor in the Asian artifacts section, drawing some items from the Han Dynasty, a subject we just finished in our world history.
Heather and I had a good time, we all laughed a lot and there was hardly any crying except for the loss of Frida with the eyebrows. Thank God for the library!
Rachael Barlow is a married mother of two who lives in Groton. She is a retired lactation specialist and software engineer. She is active in New Song Community Church and one of the directors for the All Together Now Family Chorus.