In Tuscany, we visited two site-specific art collections, Marco Pallanti’s collection at Castello di Ama and the Gori Collection at Fattoria di Celle. In both cases, the collection is built by commissioning living artists to make a new work for their property. The place becomes part of the artwork. You see both where the artwork is and where you are. It is an opportunity to sense your presence and action in a new way. But you can also miss it. You can miss the invitation. You can miss the surprise. You can miss the point. As I spend time parenting and seeing art with my children, I’m learning that this is not just about art. Knowing how to be attentive to the forms and mysteries in each artwork, is also about learning how to access the richness of our work and living.
Last week, it was time to go to preschool. I had “reviewed” the steps for getting dressed many times and my volume was escalating. I march to the bottom of the stairs to ask (again) what was taking so long to get a pair of socks. My four year old looks up peacefully from the stairs and exclaims, “Mom, did you see that the sun is coming through that window and shining on this wall?” The light swelled, and I kinda regretted that I want him to be attentive to the forms and mysteries of the world.
Attentiveness is a skill that we learn, and one that we can neglect to practice. At the core, it is the discipline of sensing what can and cannot be seen. It requires slowness and desire. If the next generation is going to make good, be brave, or right injustices, then they are also going to need to be able to find beauty that can sustain, identify fear that hides and adapts, and know inequity even when it doesn’t hurt. In other words, there are parts of life that are hard to see. Art is not just the beginning of expressing these, but also how we learn to observe them.
I take my children to see art with me because I like to see art. But as they learn to see art, I am reminded why art is so important to being human.