December 14, 2010
Our Henry Moore
We do not own a Henry Moore but we have adopted the large sculpture that you can find on the lawn facing the Museum, in the Old City of Geneva, as our own. When I was a teenager, I used to sit and admire the statue, read my paper and have lunch there. It was the beginning of my love affair with art. Naturally, as soon as they were old enough, I took my children to the statue. They grew up visiting it and interacting with it, but I never had a real conversation with them about its artistic attributes. Recently however, the moment did come up when my eldest son was sent home with an assignment to write an essay on either Arp or on Henry Moore.
Sometimes blog stories resurface in my daily reality: you may remember the time I wrote of the typical French teacher, sitting on a wall in a parking lot, refusing to budge for my 4 year old, all the while crunching a green apple. In a strange turn of events, it turns out this same woman is my son's art teacher this year!
As parents, we struggle with the amount of help we should give our children with their homework. How much help can a parent offer his/her child with a school assignment? My answer is clear: all the help he needs. Although some parents prefer to le their children live and learn, I am of a different school of thought. So, although I am neither artistic nor handy with my hands, I am happy to sit and assist him on his projects. After all it becomes a learning experience for both of us. With his science projects or history presentations, we research, put together, explain, share, study, trouble shoot etc. In my mind, these are the beginning of study groups. Last year, this same son was given an assignment on Mohammad Ali.We studied him with enthusiasm, looking for the milestone fights and their significance, understanding the essence of his personality. The journey turned out to be a bonding moment for him and me, filled with discovery, but the end result was an average grade. The teacher evaluated him (us) as scattered. Does anyone ask a child if he got parental assistance when he fails?
It is the journey that matters, not the destination. With the Henry Moore assignment, the teacher presented all the issues that would need to be addressed in the essay, and required an analysis of the sculpture of his choice by either artist. My son, enthusiastically, selected the Geneva statue he was familiar with.
We both examined the Henry Moore and we answered each question diligently. We discussed the appropriate vocabulary, we detailed the shape, the occupied space, its symbolism. For this exercise I took my son to the owl by Adam Hennein in our entrance and I asked him the same questions. The advantage of copper sculptures is that they are not fragile. They are safely touched and stroked by inquisitive hands.
Finally, we got to the personal question: "what do you think of this sculpture?"
My son smiled with delight: "Every time I see it, I feel sad...because the woman is cut into two." I was surprised by his answer but of course that is what he put down in his essay. He received a stellar 18/20 and the apple crunching teacher commented: "very good analysis, if it is your personal work".
She gave him the benefit of the doubt.
The grade was an accolade for me. I am a good art history tutor. I also think my son will integrate all the new concepts we learnt from that project. He will never straddle that Henry Moore in the same way. And I too have come away from this project a changed woman: I will always consider it with a certain sadness. After all the woman is cut in two!