We are very fortunate in the Houston area to have access to a series of homeschool family workshops at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. There are six workshops during the school year, and they fill up quickly, so I’m now in the habit of putting “REGISTER FOR MFAH HOMESCHOOL WORKSHOP 8AM” on my calendar so that I don’t forget when registration opens and lose the opportunity to attend. This Tuesday’s theme was “Travels and Treasures Along the Silk Road.” The workshop consists of a lecture/powerpoint about the topic, a walk through the galleries, and an art project that the Speed Family would never get around to doing at home.
The woman who leads the workshop is an excellent guide; she works well with groups of homeschooled students who are a wide variety of ages. I’m especially appreciative of the different levels of questions she poses, making sure she asks some that will require the older kids to think a bit more deeply and some that are easy for the younger children to answer. She is very patient but also keeps the class on track. The whole team of museum staff are very helpful and it’s a great experience all around.
So the older kids get to answer questions about Marco Polo and where silk comes from, while the younger ones get to tell us that the items on display are made of gold and that the crown might be worn by a king.
The museum has what I think she said is the second or third largest collection of gold items from Indonesia as part of a larger collection of gold items by Houston philanthropist Alfred Glassell, Jr. (I may be wrong about that.) I wish I’d taken my real camera instead of my cell phone. I particularly liked how the red of the Indonesia gallery set off the gold.
After our gallery tour, we returned to the classroom to stamp, paint, and bejewel our plates. I now have three to display artistically on my recently-dusted-for-the-first-time-in-ages bookshelves.
After the homeschool workshop, we ate our lunch outside and then returned to explore the same galleries in a little bit more detail. Wait, first there were Two Incidents of Behavior, and then we all got into the car and Mom stated that if we are not going to behave properly, we are LEAVING, and then we drove three blocks, and then we turned around after a lecture from Mom about how the only reason we are turning around is because Mom wants to see the galleries, not because we earned back the privilege, becuase then what are you learning, are you learning that you can just (REDACTED INCIDENTS OF BEHAVIOR) and then apologize and that makes it all okay? (REDACATED INCIDENTS OF BEHAVIOR) are not acceptable! But YOUR MOTHER wants to not miss out on seeing those gold things after we drove all the way down here. So we are going back. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?
That was not the proudest moment of the day. I think the guitar-playing busker guy was confused that we walked back over to the museum in harmony after storming over to the minivan in…disharmony…three minutes earlier.
Anyway, so then we spent about ten minutes sitting and watching what the kids originally called the “giant screensaver.” The exhibit, by artist Jennifer Steinkamp, is called Mike Kelley Projections.
The series, titled Mike Kelley, now comprises 17 projections, each a variant on a single tree that passes through the four seasons: going from bare, to tender green, to autumnal incandescence, and back to the barren boughs of winter. At the same time, the boughs gyrate in a sinuous ballet, implying the larger earth cycles of wind, storm, and change.
The kids and I sat on the floor and watched as each tree danced in the wind, making a game of spotting each change of season.
In the Japanese gallery, there’s a small room with an installation by Shimabuku - “Then, I decided to give a Tour of Tokyo to the Octopus from Akashi.”
Like tourists, they make visits to the Tokyo Tower and the famous Tsukiji fish market before getting back on the train to return the octopus back home in the Akashi Sea. The artist refers to this work as his Apollo project, involving an adventure far from the natural habitat of the octopus. We easily imagine how weird our world must seem to such a creature whilst being reminded of how extraordinary an octopus actually is.
This was very amusing and also tied into the weirdly cephalopod-themed museum-year we are having, since our last trip to the museum district involved squid dissection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
And in the Korean gallery, we saw “Solitude Tower” – can’t remember the name of the artist, and that might not be the exact title. I think I was supposed to meditate upon the alienation of the modern world, maybe considering how each of us with our cell phone brains is living in a solitude tower while in the midst of the crowd, but really I thought “if I had one of those, I could elevator myself up to five minutes of quiet, except I’m scared of heights.”