Last week I told the story of my grandmother, Nan.
Rose, My Nan, the Log House and Stories
She was born and raised in a log house in West Virginia. She was kind and strong. She was the same age, and had the same name, as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. Rose.
There is much more to tell.
Nan lived in an apartment when I spent Sundays with her as a child. Her walls were filled with art. Not family pictures- art. My favorite was always “Leaving Home” by Gilbert Gaul. It tells a story of a young man leaving to join the Confederate Army in the Civil War. Every family member has a different expression. Storytelling is so important, and art tells stories. Art can evoke emotions. It teaches the soul. Clearly, this particular art made me fall in love with Norman Rockwell. Nan and I would love looking through her big book of Norman Rockwell art. I passed that love along to my children. They are the kindest people I know, thanks to Nan and her art.
When you entered Nan’s apartment, the first thing hanging on the wall was a Picasso, “Girl Before a Mirror”. I remember thinking how funny the painting looked and having many conversations with Nan. While this became familiar to me in her apartment, so did other art, such as Gilbert Gaul’s “Leaving Home”. It opened my eyes to art that tells a story with the scene and characters. I’ve been a history buff ever since.
I came face-to-face with a Picasso at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. Nan came flooding over me.
The Currier Museum interpreted the painting:
Picasso executed this painting during World War II while living in a small apartment in German-occupied Paris. While the distortion of form and space through simplified shapes reflect Picasso’s earlier Cubist period, the bright color and emotional charge is the continuing influence of Expressionist art.
Emotionally charged, indeed. This was real. I crept close and looked at brush strokes. The white circles on the woman’s dress are thick, raised paint. I thought about Picasso painting this, perhaps looking out his window at the Germans in the streets of Paris and feeling angry.
And, I thought about Nan. She was only five years older than Picasso. How did she come to like Picasso art? After all, his painting greeted everyone who entered her home. But, Nan’s life was far from modern. It was rural West Virginia, in the oldest two-story log house west of the Appalachian mountains. She was more akin to Laura Ingalls Wilder than to Pablo Picasso. She had a hard life, outliving her brothers and sisters, two husbands, and her children. By the time I came along, all she had were her grandchildren. Yet, she was ever happy and strong.
I teach art to my preschool class in a way that admires and respects the art of well-known artists. Learning from greatness is a good beginning. Young children are enthusiastic sponges when it comes to art, and I introduce many styles of painting. Real is best, therefore children paint with authentic watercolor paints squeezed from tubes onto a palette. Each April we host an Art Show for the community. Children paint in the style of Picasso, Kandinsky, Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, Carle, and others.
I often think of the power of art and how that transcends to others. Art had an influence on Nan, Nan had an influence on me, and now I have an influence on children. Thank you, Gilbert Gaul, Norman Rockwell, and Pablo Picasso.