“And this,” I pointed out the life-sized, breath-taking oil on canvas to my nine-year-old son and his friend, “is a Caravaggio.”
I turned to look at their faces, which appeared as if one was trying to divide 428,562 by 3 and the other was wondering what we’d be having for lunch.
Not quite the spectacular reaction I was looking for.
So I tried again.
This time with a little theater because sometimes you just gotta sell it.
I waved my arms ala Las Vegas-show style and repeated “Caravaggio” in a breathless way where I sped up the “Cara” and dropped into the darker tones of “Vaggio.” I ended with a proper “Ta-da!”
“OK,” I snipped. “What’s the deal?”
My son shrugged and said, “It’s just a painting.”
Uh, excuuuuuuuuse me?
“It just so happens to be a very famous painting,” I said.
“The ‘Mona Lisa’ is a famous painting,” his friend added.
I decided to try a different tactic. “Do you know who it’s a painting of?” I asked the two Mr. Smarty Pants.
The two Mr. Smarty Pants merely shrugged.
I silently pointed to the nameplate strategically placed to the right of the canvas.
There were gonna have to do some of this themselves, you know.
My son shuffled over with all the enthusiasm of a death-row inmate picking out his last meal. He leaned over and read, “St. John the Baptist.”
Then he jumped back in excitement and shouted to his friend, “Hey, we know that guy! He’s the dude who lost his head!”
Sure, I was ecstatic their private Catholic school education appeared to be paying off. But shouting still wasn’t allowed in the art museum.
The snarky lady standing next to us apparently felt that way too.
Oh, stuff it, Lady. We’re making a memory here.
I nodded, “Yep, that’s him.”
It was a beautiful moment, seeing the boys take in a remarkable piece of art, attaching it to some knowledge they held, making the connections, being all grown up and mature and stuff.
It was a truly beautiful moment.
And then my son muttered, “Too bad that Carvogianonelli dude didn’t paint one where his head was cut off. That’d have been waaaaaay cooler.”
So we wandered over to the special exhibits section where we stumbled across a couple of paintings by El Greco
“Oh, yeah!” my son exclaimed. “I’ve heard of him.”
Color me shocked.
“Really?” I exclaimed. “How?”
My son nodded in excitement, “He was a wrestler, right?” He paused then added, “Or maybe I saw him on ‘SpongeBob.’”
Then he ran off to join his friend who’d already abandoned me for something shiny up the hallway.
Now they’re just messing with me.
Eventually we wound up next to a few smaller pieces by Rodin. And, thanks to “Night at the Museum” introducing my son to “The Thinker,” we were off to a better start with this one.
Until my son threw up his arms and sang, “Boom. Boom. Firepower.”
That earned us a queer look from the security guard but a nice smile from the docent.
I considered that a draw.
At least his friend was using his brain. After a quick tour through the modern art gallery, he stopped and said, “I just don’t understand it.”
I smiled and asked, “What’s that?”
He said, “Well, when I paint with blobs and stuff, it’s not considered art.” He waved an arm around the room and added, “But this stuff is. Just because someone said it is. It’s just not fair.”
I nodded and said, “Well, the interesting thing about abstract art is it’s different for everyone. Each person can see or feel something different about it.”
He wrinkled up his nose at my explanation and grumbled, “It’s still not fair.”
Yep, one person’s valued art is another person’s unloved blob.
Enough with this artsy stuff.
It’s time for lunch.