Comets Across The Sky

Forms Of Telling

Artwork: Forms of Telling by Helen Redman

The Miracle of Art

Sue Marquette Poremba

I'm a mom and as a mom, it is my right to drag my kids to places that they don't want to go. Like the grocery store or church.

Or to the arts festival. My husband was at work, and my babysitting daughter was babysitting somewhere else for pay. That meant if I was going to go visit the arts festival, my almost-seven-year-old son was going along by default.

Not without a lot of whining. In his mind, arts festival was worthwhile on only one day out of the five, on children's day where everything is geared for the under-13 crowd.

"Adult's day is boring," he grumbled, his arms tightly folded against his chest and his bottom lip puffed out in a pout.

"Yeah, well, children's day is no picnic for me, kiddo."

Good thing the streets weren't crowded that day because no way he was going to let me hold his hand. He kicked at rocks when I paused to look at paintings. He sat stubbornly on the ground when I stopped to try on rings. I knew he was really annoyed when I offered to buy him a strawberry smoothie and he refused it. I bought myself a lemonade and told him that we were only halfway through the festival. He sighed. He whined. He reluctantly followed me across the street.

There is a cartoon where a man is working on a complicated mathematical theorem, and in the middle of it, the scientist writes "and then a miracle happened." It's one of my favorite cartoons because it explains so perfectly how life takes turns that defy any reason or definition or logical sequences. Because, you see, when we crossed the street, a miracle happened.

My son saw the art.

He stopped to investigate a pottery stand. At a photographer's booth, he was as fascinated with the way the artist caught the reflection of the sun off the John Hancock Building as he was with Michael Jordan frozen in mid-dunk. A pastel watercolor of Caribbean beach houses caught -- and permanently kept -- his attention. He admired the print so much ("I don't know why I like it so much, Mom. I guess it's my style.") that I bought it for his birthday present.

We now wandered through the festival at a relaxed pace. With a child's fearlessness, he approached the artists, telling them what he liked and what he didn't like about their work. He asked questions I've always wanted to ask but lacked the nerve.

We walked by a booth of an arts festival regular, an artist whose work never impressed me. I tried to use my mom prerogative and began to pull my son to the next booth. But he would not budge. At the bin holding prints, he carefully investigated each one. The artist eyed us warily. He came over to us and gruffly asked if he could help. He did not trust a child with his art.

My son pulled out a print. "What is this supposed to be?" he asked.

"What do you think it is?" the artist replied.

My son cocked his head and investigated the print from all angles. "It looks like bugs and monsters running across a table," said my son.

"Then," answered the artist, "that's what it is."

For a moment, my son pondered this idea. His eyes grew wide as the realization filled him. "You mean, art is anything you want it to be?" The artist nodded, and he engaged my son in a wonderful conversation, an artist sharing his craft and a small child drinking up every word.

A miracle happening.

Artwork: Forms of Telling by Helen Redman

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