I recently had the unexpected pleasure of accompanying a few teenagers to the art gallery. It was a last minute replacement for their original plan, and I feared boring them to bits. “We love art” did not convince me, but we were out of options and set off.
They found Canada’s great Alex Colville “creepy,” as well as the contemporary light tattooed sculptures of Shary Boyle, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson, although it didn’t stop them from going back for more. We spent several minutes with “Leaves of Grass” by Geoffrey Farmer, marvelling at the thousands of cut-outs from Life magazine glued and arranged on sticks for the entire length of a room.
I desperately countered “Hey, there’s wifi!” with the urge to “Stay unplugged!” But the selfies were to snapchat with Mom, at home thousands of miles away.
We spent several minutes in the dark silent loop of “Mariner 9″s future Mars. “Humans ruin everything,” the teens observed.
Their attention was immediately captured by Marcel Duchamp: a fountain, a bicycle wheel. “I love Dadaism: the art of the everyday.” I was a little taken aback.
“Didn’t you study art in school?” they asked. My entire art education telescoped into glueing painted macaroni to a piece of construction paper, a painted ceramic penguin in Grade 8.
“Hey, you walked right past Picasso!” one noticed. And then they were swirling and snapping, revelling in the sight of their first real life canvases of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Klimt.
We stood where the bold red stripe of the “Voice of Fire” is visible one head turn before the bright jewel tones of a 16th century Venus. We walked through a scene-painted cottage and listened to a sound installation from Salisbury Cathedral in a reconstructed chapel. We looked at the tiny painted panels of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven and discussed the shiny strokes of oil mixed in the forests. We admired Emily Carr for defying the norms of her day and capturing totems in colours that plunged us into Pacific coastal villages so vivid we could feel the ocean mist on our faces.
The teenagers were amazed by the variety of languages they heard. “But how is your English so good?” I asked. “Because, like, we watch American series,” they revealed.
We talked about other museums we had visitied, our pets, Wes Anderson, Wall-E, Alice in Wonderland, writing stories, our favourite pieces of art from the day. (Tie between Dadaism and the Group of Seven.)
We stocked up on souvenirs in the gift shop: art books that will quickly tip a suitcase into the overweight zone.
I always love visiting the gallery; it was incredible to share my favourite spots with companions who were both knowledgable and excited to be there. “Thank-you for taking us,” said the teenagers. “We love art.”