Once or twice a year we’d head to The Plaster Fun House on Shaker Road, select an albino figurine from the metal shelves, pick a palette and settle in to paint at a long, newspaper-covered table.
One time I chose a stately Indian chief, painted a regal scarlet and emerald headdress, a mustard robe and tawny moccasins over the white plaster and then watched warily as the lady behind the counter slid the proud warrior into the kiln. He still stands in the cellar window well in my parents’ home, presiding over my dad’s workbench.
Aside from those rare outings to The Plaster Fun House, we mostly did household projects together, my parents, my sister and I. We stained the floor of the screened porch and hammered nails into sweet-smelling two-by-fours on the back deck.
We sprayed Windex on the plate glass window until cobalt pooled on the sill.
We buffed the white walls of Goodyear tires while my dad blasted Dave Brubeck from the eight-track, the doors of the pea-green Duster wide open and ready to be toweled dry as the last of the sudsy water drained down the driveway and into the sewer.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved these practical family projects, this family time. It was how we operated, and it was just fine by me.
It wasn’t until I had kids that I reluctantly began to experience art again. I tried to persuade them to color in coloring books. And when they refused, I deep-breathed through the mess of scattered sequins, plastic cups brimming with muddy brush water and sticky patches of Elmer’s glue on the hardwood floor.
My kids, I’ve noticed, are willing to own their art and define it as such.
“Hey…what’s my art doing in here? Who put this in here?” demands Rowan, pulling a motley creation of colored paper, magic marker and glued confetti from the recycle bin.
“Oh. I’m sorry, honey,” I say sheepishly. “I didn’t know that was your art.”
I cringe, wondering if resistance to art begins with this moment: the moment a parent even unintentionally redefines what is art…and what is not.
Just recently I spread newspaper over the dining room table, and the four of us – my husband, the boys and I – made art together. A rare quiet descended as we concentrated on our individual projects, heads bent low over paper and brushes. I painted a watercolor of a bird’s nest – two blue eggs suspended in twigs and twine. I doubt I’d deem the finished product art, and I certainly wouldn’t call it good. But I don’t know that any of that really matters, simply because of this: long after the boys and my husband had finished their paintings and wandered off to other activities, I still sat at the dining room table, painting by myself.
(yes, beautiful michelle… this is what it means to own your art. please check out michelle’s grace-filled site here, where she uses words to paint pictures of Christ)