Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life Imitates Art

The weather here in southern Ontario just keeps getting stranger. The temperature Sunday was around 26 degrees and sunny. We visited the McMichael art gallery today mainly to see the Robert Bateman exhibition which closes on - oh according to the website it has been extended an extra week until November 4, 2007. Today on the other hand was a wet and chilly morning.

I have wanted to bring the girls to the gallery for quite awhile, but was weary of the priceless works of art and you know my KIDS in the same room. Papoosie Girl had a science project recently on birds and she choose the Blue Jay. In my excitement of her first project, I love me a project! During our her research I wanted to show her some paintings of Blue Jays and we ended up on the Bateman website. I had forgotten how much I love his work. Then I heard about the Bateman exhibit and decided that we should visit the gallery. For good measure and an extra set of adults Nana and Papa (my Mom and her husband) came along for the visit.

I am fortunate enough that my step mom has several original Bateman prints that were my Dad's. I also bought my Mom a very tiny Bateman print of a chipmunk from an art sale when I was a cool office dweller working downtown. They had an art sale nearby and I could not resist the small framed print and wanted to surprise my Mom with a real grown-up gift. She still has it and it is up in her bedroom.

The Robert Bateman exhibit did not disappoint. The paintings were so amazing, his talent is really like no other in capturing nature. Many of the paintings were accompanied by his own words, why he did what he did or how he did it and that was so fascinating. His attention to detail and his vast knowledge of plants and wildlife is beyond compare. There was a painting titled Pacific that was so real I studied and studied it and declared it wet.

There is a quote on his website and appeared in the gallery literature that is worth sharing:

"I can't conceive of anything being more varied and rich and handsome than the planet Earth. And its crowning beauty is the natural world. I want to soak it up, to understand it as well as I can, and express it in my painting. This is the way I want to dedicate my life."

Despite my hotel tendencies and general lack of enthusiasm towards any kinds of roughing it, I feel a pull towards nature, towards trees and rocks and blue skies. If I am in the city for too long without any nature time I crave it as much as food. Visiting the gallery and seeing all the people marvelling over Bateman's work confirmed that I am not alone. We have advanced so far away from our natural roots as modern, twenty-first century people; yet we pay money and line-up to see paintings of the natural world. It is like we can somehow absorb life through these paintings.

I have not visited the gallery in ages and had forgotten how much I love the Group of Seven artists. I felt like I was taking a walk down memory lane as I meandered the gallery taking in the works of A. Y. Jackson, Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris. Images so familiar to me, I guess in part because my school used to make at least one trip a year to the gallery, but also because I am seeing my country in these images, through my adult eyes.

The gallery was pretty busy and we waited about 5-10 minutes to get down the driveway to pay ($5) for parking. The grounds are actually just as nice as the gallery itself, there are several paths to walk and artwork throughout the grounds, the girls loved the Inukshuk. It was so pretty with the gorgeous views of the Humber Valley and we got some great shots of the girls romping along the paths.

The gallery is mostly stroller friendly for those of you thinking of visiting with the munchkins. Rosebud was tired and insisted we go back to the van for the stroller before we even started which actually was better since having her loose near the paintings was making me sweat. The paintings are not roped off in any way and I saw many toddlers get too close only to be told by the many staff to not go any closer than the lights on the ceiling. Um, yeah like a three year old is going to understand that. I did see many frazzled parents trying to keep curious hands off the artwork which is definitely within reach of little hands.

All the bathrooms had change tables and the lobby sold drinks, snacks and sandwiches. There was a restaurant downstairs (I never saw an elevator so you might have to carry your stroller down) but the buffet was $16 dollars so we opted for a few snacks and water before heading out for a walk. There is a small Discovery Area for the kids at the end of the gallery tour and the girls loved it, but it is pretty small, not more than two families would fit comfortably. I would definitely take Papoosie Girl back and since we got a membership that seems likely, but I might not take Rosebud if I was alone. It is hard for them to understand that there is no touching when we have taken them to so many kid-friendly museums and such.

Papoosie Girl was fascinated with the First Nations and Inuit art and loved the totem poles - just like on Little Einstein's! There were artists on hand and an art sale and one of the artists let her roll clay and spent a lot of time explaining to her what she was doing. I was grateful for an extra set of hands so she could spend some time with the artist. She was definitely in her element.

Even if this wasn't the most leisurely visit, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We got off to a late start and didn't arrive until 12pm, I usually prefer an early start for day trips, but this was a pancake morning - with our new Halloween shapes thanks to our evening visit to Yorkdale last night (quick trip to the Apple store for Hubby) and our visit to Williams & Sonoma. By the way, I don't make pancakes, well hardly ever. Daddy is the master pancake maker and loves his shapes, this is the second set we have bought and have had the first set for over a year now.

Just so you don't think we have piles of money lying around for such important things like pancake molds. For those of you kitchen obsessed, Yorkdale is getting a Crate & Barrel in 2008! Yes American friends we are still missing several of your wonderful stores, including Victoria's Secret (best underwear on the planet), Bath and Body Works, Target, and let's not forget Olive Garden -which we had and lost. Hence, why I need to make my frequent visits to my favourite stores family in New York.

I love when we introduce the girls to something new, it feels like such an accomplishment. Art and nature and history are so important to me and I want to share that and those feelings with my girls. Imagine my pride when Papoosie Girl would surprise us with some little gem of knowledge throughout the day, see I am doing a good job I would think! As I glance at my fridge covered in artwork I understand, how indeed, life imitates art.


bubandpie said...

Whoa, psychedelic wallpaper!

This post reminded me of a memory. I can't place when it happened - somewhere between grades two and four. I was sitting at the front of the classroom in a circle with other children and we were talking about art. The teacher asked if any of us knew any artists and I said "Robert Bateman." (My parents had his prints on our living room wall.)

The teacher explained that some people don't consider Bateman to be a great artist - his painting is too photographic - it lacks the artistry of more abstract or impressionistic styles.

I'm amazed that I still remember that conversation in such detail - I think it was grade two, though it seems like an unlikely conversation for a grade two teacher to have with her students. I think I remember it because it was so surprising - to me it seemed obvious that no artist could possibly be greater than Robert Bateman.

Mimi said...

I love the McMichael gallery. I'm not sure why though: my first experience of it was NOT going there with my sister and my parents when I was in university -- they took off without even asking me, and I was offended about that for YEARS. Second, Pynchon and I went there once, and had a MAJOR fight (one of our few) in t hecar on the way home.

So, to sum up, the art is FANTASTIC which is why I still love the McMichael despite these bad experiences.

My god, your girls are getting big!

Beck said...

It sounds like a very fun weekend.

Mad Hatter said...

We took Miss M to the ROM recently and though it was a bit tiring having a two-year old in a museum it was overwhelmingly rewarding. She loved the birds and reptiles and woodland animals... I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I didn't live so far away.

Christine said...

i have to admit i had never heard o batemen until now. when i clicked dover to his site i was so impressed!

what lovely works of art. and it sounds like you guys had a great time.

i so know what you mean about nature. i NEED it in my life. daily.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a great weekend. It rained here. And we did squat. Just watched movies and folded laundry. The OMan will flip when he sees that cool canoe toy. He is obsessed.