At the elementary school they have a PTA sponsored contest called "Reflections." Every year they have a theme (that they also have a contest for creating) and then the students create a piece of music, dance, photography, film, literature or visual arts that reflects the theme. Elie heard about it on announcements at school and decided that she wanted to participate. The theme this year is "Wow!"
So we kicked around some ideas. First she wanted to do a painting of herself, in a dress, in front of some trees. "Alright," I said, "How is that 'Wow!'?" She didn't really have any idea. So then I suggested that she could use a camera and take some pictures. She wanted to have Isaac pose while saying wow. Hmmmmm. How the hell to explain this? Then she wanted Isaac and Talia to do tricks, while saying wow. Uhhhhh. Then she got the idea to take a picture of the massive tomato plants that are currently taking over the side of the house. The tomato plants are amazing and they are really big, but I just wasn't sure how they conveyed "wow".
I wasn't really sure of ANYTHING. I don't know what "wow" is. I don't understand how/what anyone would create that would reflect "wow". The things I think are "wow" are things like love, happiness, a great hike, amazing scenes in nature. How the heck do you make art representing those things????!?!?!?! I suppose this is why I am not an artist. Because I don't understand art.
I understand what I like. I understand why a painting or photograph appeals to me, or doesn't. I can even articulate those feelings. But I can't explain to my six year old or my husband what makes "art" and how the photographs we take, or paintings we paint, reflect some predetermined theme.
It was an extraordinarily painful process for me. We finally settled on explaining that photographers take a whole bunch of pictures of lots of different things and then from those photos, they decide which one(s) are the best visual representation of what they are looking for.
She took many photos. And lots of them are cute. And what she decided to print and submit is a picture of some pretty neat, large, orange mushrooms that appeared in our backyard. I don't know if it is "wow!" but she is proud of it and happy with the way it turned out.
But I still don't know how to explain "art" or creating it. And I feel like I've somehow missed the creative process that could have been explored in doing this project, but I don't, for the life of me, know how to grasp it, teach it and learn from it myself.