Through the eyes of Calder

When I first started teaching preschool art in 1994, I had a student who could make uncanny gesture drawings of lions in motion.   She could draw horses and other animals, too, but lions were her preferred subject.  This happened to be the year the Disney "Lion King" movie was released.  It was as if this little girl had somehow climbed inside one of the animator's heads and was seeing through his eyes.  I wonder if she was equally gifted in other ways, if her lion obsession continued, and what she studied in college.

Alexander Calder has been one of my favorite artists since before he designed Braniff airplanes in the Pucci hot pants era.  His work is so full of play!  What an incredible gift he had  for translating his kinetic observations of people and animals into art. Who else could inspire me to give pipe-cleaners to three year olds?

I zoomed into D.C. focused on graduation events, without my usual tourist preparation.  The Woolly Mammoth's dear friend-girl suggested our visit to the Calder exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.  Fabulous!  Calder's 3D wire sculpture portraits are genius!  Some of the portraits were hung so they moved in the air, gradually giving the viewer a  sense of the subject from every angle.  Other wire portraits were mounted to be viewed from all sides, so the viewer could look on the countenance of the subject, then step behind the sculpture to look through the eyes of the subject.  Mind-blowing!

Could I take non-flash photos in this exhibit to inspire my teaching and show my students?  The gallery guard grunted a "not in this exhibit.  No photos."  I had barely turned away when he was blocking the exit and snapping cellphone glamor shots of a cute lady guard batting her big eyelashes. They bantered and  flirted loudly.  The pair had definitely missed the Intro to Gallery Guard orientation class.  I was looking through the eyes of an annoyed museum visitor/art teacher as the pair interacted with unprofessional sinuousity.  How would Calder have captured them?  And what about my lion student?

[Later in the trip I got to see Calder's "Mountain and Clouds" inside the Hart Senate Office Building.]

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

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