Before I went on a diet, there was the Grandville Chocolate & Art Walk. My annual attempt to be artsy as well as fartsy.
And then when I came back to WordPress, they’ve up and changed the editor on me. Gads. I hate upgrades.
Enjoy my struggles to learn a new system and, oh yes, the art. Let’s not forget the art!
Every year in April, the little township of Grandville, Michigan hosts a gathering wherein the local school children’s artwork is displayed—sometimes on cardboard, hanging from the ceiling, flapping like giant, dull wind chimes as you pass.
In 2016 in my first review of this annual event, we experienced warm weather under mostly sunny skies. Not so today.
Area businesses open their doors, handing out various chocolate treats, to entice visitors to peruse the works and goods on display. It’s a very cagey business strategy, luring parents in to admire their progeny’s output and enticing them to check out custom-made tables or flooring samples at the same time.
I try to go every year and, every year, my son tries to put a stop to this outing.* But this time, I managed to get it designated as a goal of his ABA therapy, so things go a bit more smoothly than they have in the past. (No E.R. trip this year!)
“Let’s hit as many venues as we can.” I chirp enthusiastically. “We’ve only managed to do six in past years. Let’s see if we can beat that number!”
“We can do more than that.” Martina** snaps a quick picture of us in front of a wall of nylon mesh butterflies. “I bet we can do twice that many!”
We get our Sips & Bits cards—$3.00 each—and we’re off.
We walk the promenade between butterfly walls and chalk outlines that don’t make me think of a C.S.I. episode, and instead, bespeak the joys of spring.
There are tons of people milling about—despite the brisk weather. The winds are what seaworthy folk might describe as ‘choppy.’ In fact, the community orchestra saws away doggedly at their performance, ignoring the flapping sheet music that threatens to take off mid-note. Several clamps are used to keep this from happening.
My son is making his usual happy sounds, quite loudly. I’m sure the mom nearby recording her kid was thrilled to hear him squawking in the background of her musical progeny’s performance.
We stay for one song and then, onward we go toward chocolate adventures and creative enlightenment.
We enter Johnson Carpet where elementary art exhibits vie for space with lovely Stainmaster carpet samples. The store is on Chicago Drive—the main diagonal street running through downtown. Almost all of the venues are within walking distance along this route.
Immediately, I snap this photo, laughing. It is the only art likely to tempt my son: Pizza in all it’s lovely, mix-media glory. Also, it uses his favorite pastel art crayons for a sauce. It is likely the presence of black olives, mushrooms, and red onion slices which prevents him from taste-testing the piece. Kudos to the artist for making her work not only delicious but a healthy, food pyramid representation.
I’m always impressed by the imagination children bring to an assignment. Even if they are required to follow instructions, you can spot the individual within the formula.
Be it playful, goggle-eyed arachnids or soulfully stern self portraits in pastel, each artist’s work is unique.
I’m drawn to the colorful, the chaotic, and the questions each work brings to mind.
There are several worthy works to draw the eye, but the next one really speaks to me.
Perhaps it is the look captured in the artist’s self portrait. The symmetry between the solid dark lines outlining a heart-shaped face and mouth surrounded by contrasting colored hearts in blood red, purple, and violet on the aquamarine and royal purple background. Maybe I only think the work is the tempered combination of light and dark/joy and fear found in childhood—pastel on construction paper.
I think that Savannah definitely steals hearts with this one!
I snap what pictures I can with my cell phone to admire later. I have to move quickly to keep up with my son, who tolerates a lot of noise and chaos as families move through each quadrant of the Art Walk venues, to get each promised treat.
For me, the real treat is getting a glimpse into a child’s mind.***
Beyond the gothic pleasures of a haunted night complete with bats and reanimated graveyard residents, there are OCD pleasures to be had in neatly crafted squares, circles and rectangles arranged in bright colors under a blood-red sky or on a starred, blue matt background.
Behold! Here are some very talented youngsters. These are pieces by elementary school children, under the age of ten, you get that right? If you aren’t marveling at the stuff they’ve produced, you obviously are missing art appreciation genes or something.
Martina squires my son from place to place. He is slowly losing whatever patience he has for the experience. He is kept happy with Starburst jellybeans. (A find post-holiday, half-off candy sale.) Me, I’m carb-loading on Crayola creativity.
As I walk, I begin to see patterns in what catches my eye. The self portraits each child draws reveal almost as much as they conceal.
Be it not-so-simple pencil portrayals or color-drenched glimpses into the mirrored souls, there’s a lot to take in.
I love the world-weary ennui captured in the royal familiar, named Rosco, in the above portraiture. I would hate for you to miss his dogged, doggy patience. It is valuable to note, no matter how high and mighty we may get in the world, we will still be ruled by our pets.
I could go on. I could gush about talent. About community. About the binding effects of art on and through the ages. But there is just too much to see.
If you can’t read the above sign, it is commenting on the wall of tissue paper that I mistook for a number sign. Instead, it is a case of art imitating art. The local public school students made over 1,000 flowers to complete a design reminiscent of an outdoor sculpture “Love” by Robert Indiana which is located in the neighboring downtown Grand Rapids. I have not seen the original, and now it is on my list of must-sees, once it stops pouring rain here.
Young and small, everyone has at least tried to convey what drives our mental processes—if not always with the clarity or creativity we would have liked. There is always a piece not to be resisted, a lesson to be learned.
Calvin Middle School manages to impart some of the methods and lessons behind their inspirations. Small, informational squares accompany the exhibits. It has to be hard to find God in Picasso, but they managed. One of the above portraits was apparently drawn in a style of cubism imitating the famed painter:
This tempera painting follows [Picasso’s] techniques of using angular shapes, blocks of color, and areas of patterns.
The art lesson is paired with an appropriate scripture, for those who take the time to read, sometimes the work draws a direct line between art and religion.
“Lead me, O Lord…make Your way straight before my face.”
I’ve never wondered before what it must be like to fit a creative, tempestuous study into a religious setting. Though, I have viewed many works in museums devoted to religious imagery. But here are children, being asked to do what many would fear to try: to find a bridge between the soul and the page. Incorporating the divine into lines and curves.
And to manage with a simple, still-life study of a Starbucks at the same time? Just imagine.
Perhaps the message is hidden. Or maybe it’s a cry between dark lines? It may just be in the eye of the observer.
Don’t fear, Rachel E. is not a member of the Illuminati, nor is Ethan H trapped like a ghost in the machine. Though, I can see why you might think so!
They are not playing on fears, but expression the imagery of their age. One cannot escape the literary or pixellated influences of one’s childhood. Had I ever been asked to draw a self-portrait, no doubt Little House on the Prairie or the Partridge Family would have played parts in my self-expressionism.
And self expressionism isn’t the only theme of the day. The fears and hopes hide behind representational selfies.
You’ll find it in dark and light landscapes haunted by a solitary black balloon.
Are we floating lost by night or found by day? Perhaps both are true. Perhaps it is the opposite. According to placard nearby, I’m somewhat on target:
“When I was making this piece, I was thinking about the light and dark in the world. The balloon represents someone who doesn’t know where they belong. The balloon is floating across the sky with nowhere to go and no one to be with.”
I sadly, in my haste, I missed the artist’s name. Such is the impermanence of artistic expression, the work speaks for the creator but gives more credit to the muse that inspires than the name they are known by.
And the art does go by quickly. Very soon, it is all I can do to snap a shot of something that catches my eye.
Like an Eye to Art or the Raindrop to Rainbow as seen in the progressions below:
The power pours out.
I am struck as if by lightning by image after image that has so much to say.
I only wish I could give it the time it is worth.
And there is always room for turtles:
My son is trying to drag us to his favorite hangout–the bar with the pool tables in the back. He has forgotten it is a Friday and that it will soon be overrun by locals enjoying a brew or two.
I am about to cave to his demands when I see it—the answer to a question I’ve been asking since he brought it home. Staring out from a window front I’m confronted by unblinking eyes, un-faced noses and lips. The disembodied cardboard creatures that haunted my son’s book bag one day.
Here it was. An answer to why my son brought home a piece of art that I stared at, somewhat repulsed by, and asked a million questions that had no answers until now.
I asked myself:
“Is this how he sees the world?”
“Is he terrorized by the parts of the face that he can’t avoid?”
“Is this the only way he can manage to look at anyone? By dividing them up into their component parts?”
“What does it all mean?”
It was an art assignment, plain and simple:
While there were many more pieces to be viewed. Wonders to be seen, this was the exhibit that made it worthwhile. For once, I knew why my son did something. Even if it was so prosaic as to follow an art lesson.
So, when we get home, I made my son show me his artwork one more time.
I had so much more to show you, but life can be distracting and sometimes unkind. I’m going to use this summer to recover and find my way back to art and life appreciation.
Thank you for keeping the internet going in my absence.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*It’s an Autistic versus Artistic cage match—everyone comes out wearing crayon shrapnel as a badge of honor for surviving.
**Names changed to protect the tech’s identity, but, to give her oblique copyright acknowledgment, she took the really stunning picture of the butterfly wall on an angle. I immediately stole it for the Featured Image.
***Yes, yes. Make whatever creepy insinuation of that you like. I’m referring to the fact that I can’t tell what my child is thinking because he can’t tell me. I hope you feel bad now about your sick, twisted take on my innocent, vicarious pleasures.