Tuesday, August 01, 2023

The High Museum of Art

On Friday we took a field trip to the High Museum of Art to see the Samurai exhibit that has been running this summer. 

It will be there until mid-September and if you haven't gone to see it, you should...because it is pretty spectacular!

This set of armour was from the 1300s!

I just had no idea how elaborate the armour was, and how individualized—with colour, with family crests, with tributes to various animals. Each piece was so elaborate and detailed. 

We learned about the construction of the armour and the transition in the materials—from mostly bamboo and leather to (with the introduction of firearms by the Portuguese in the 1500s) being made largely of metal (we saw one breastplate that seemed to have a couple indentations from musket balls in it, so the armour wasn't useless!). Some decorative details were papier-mâché.

Many of the masks were downright terrifying. I mean, what would you do if you saw this marching into your town? (I'd probably panic.)

But others used elements of humour. One mask we saw included a "Pinocchio nose"—poking fun of European facial structure. The helmet below features an elongated skull shape and big ears, wonky eyebrows, and various warts and moles:

Here's Alexander standing by a child-sized set of Samurai armour:

Children of Samurai families started training in certain tasks very young. This particular child had their own full set of armour, though I imagine this was somewhat rare, in part because this was the only one in the collection, but also because these suits of armour were terribly expensive. Not every warrior had a full set of armour, and relatively few had such elaborate sets as these. Since even the adult Samurai warriors couldn't all afford personalized armour, I imagine even fewer children did. 

Even the animals got armour! Phoebe loved this section of the exhibit with horses dressed up as dragons:

She loves anything involving animals, so it's really no surprise.

Here's Benjamin standing in front of his favourite helmet—one with antlers:

Once we were through with the Samurai exhibit we went through some other portions of the museum. Since we've already been and since we have a pass and can return again, we didn't worry about going through the whole thing (which was kind of nice to not have to worry about). We visited a few of our favourite pieces, such as this reflective dish:

And then we looked for a quiet spot to do some artwork of our own. Sketching is encouraged at the museum—with dry media only—so we brought pencils and crayons and pencil crayons.

We were looking for a somewhat out-of-the-way place that had a variety of artwork to use as inspiration, that was hopefully appropriately-themed. When Andrew came across this wall of floral still-life and abstract art he announced that we'd be stopping here. The kids unloaded everything, spent a few minutes looking at paintings, and settled in to work. 

We failed, however, to look at the other wall of this room, which was full of...nudes.

In fact, we didn't even notice that wall at all! Everyone was just busy making their reproductions.

You'll probably notice in these pictures that Alexander is facing a different direction from everyone else. I didn't really notice because he was spinning all around getting different colours from the pencil case behind him, and then spinning back to his work. And, I mean, we told them they could just pick a piece and draw did it matter what he was drawing?

Phoebe and I were working on a copy of Rebecca Salsbury (Strand) James's "Mexican Gourd Pitcher and Tulip Bud."

At the end we had the kids show us what they'd drawn next to the original artwork. And that is when we realized what Alexander had his eye on: Abraham Walkowitz’s "Rock and Bathers"!

He was pretty proud of his work!

We were just doing our best not to laugh out loud as we talked about his artwork with him. What a painting for a five-year-old to pick?! I can tell exactly what person he decided to draw in detail, as well, so he was very observant while he was making his copy.

I, unfortunately, don't have all of the pictures of the kids' finished work. Andrew took some of them and he's very busy grading right now (the turn around for the summer semesters is so quick; like, my advisor was check to see if it would be possible to still have me graduate in the summer semester, but grades are due August 5 at noon and August 5 is when degrees are conferred...boom, boom, I'll have to graduate next semester). Anyway, I'll see about getting those pictures later.

Or we'll go again and make new ones. For now the pictures are brightening up our dining room.

We also made sure to stop off at the play rooms—and had the place completely to ourselves, which was nice! Here's Phoebe doing some climbing and exploring:

The whole idea is to allow kids to experience various textures and colours; it's a pretty cool play area!

And I just love this cooperative art installation that they have on this mobile. Last time it was underwater creatures. This time it was origami Samurai masks. Miriam went through the process of folding the origami first, so here she is helping Rachel through some tricky bits (while Benjamin and Zoë play with the bigger-kid version of the same blocks Phoebe and Alexander are playing with in the pictures above). 

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