A few weeks ago I was fortunate to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit - Infinity Mirrors - in my home city. This touring exhibition by an imaginative and unusual- perhaps even eccentric - artist has had our city enthralled, judging by the challenges of purchasing tickets as well as the long lines into and through the 'rooms' of the exhibit.
Even the new red streetcars here sported huge black and white polka dots in homage to the show! And the kaleidoscopic views into worlds of mirrors reminded me of those old view masters of my childhood. Anyone else remember those? :)
|I'm in there...somewhere!|
I was entranced. While art critics differ in their reviews of Kusama's work, one cannot deny her boundless imagination. For me, it was all about the experience rather than the meaning.
Days later, I read a newspaper article about a 13 year old musical prodigy, a girl composer who began to play serious music on a toy piano at age two. She has already composed an opera and plays concerts around the world. She explained in a radio interview that she's always heard music in her head.
These two very different and gifted artists got me thinking about the imagination and how lucky we humans are not only to have one (and I'm sure most of us do, about something!), but especially to be able - in most countries in the world - to express it however we chooser. Humans have been using their imaginations since the very beginning of their existence. Those prehistoric hand prints on cave walls alongside drawings proudly proclaim, "I was here! I did this!"
Our imaginations are unleashed by all the arts, but the one most dear to mine is the written word. If all art is perceived subjectively, and I believe it is to a certain degree, then surely books offer the ultimate imaginative experience. In reading, we have to use all of our senses to picture what the author intends - or may not intend - us to see.
There's an annual province-wide contest here in Ontario aptly called The Forest of Reading, sponsored by the Ontario Library Association. It supports our country's authors and is aimed at students from K to 8. Students read the nominated books in their age category and vote for their favorite. The cool thing is, only they can vote. No adults. At the awards ceremonies, the finalist authors file on stage and are greeted like rock stars, with cheers, screams and applause by kids from every background from all over the province. Taking students to that celebration was the highlight of my many years of teaching.
But these musings about imagination and the arts had a reality check with another recent article announcing more cut-backs in the arts in education. Most schools here already do not have a full-time music teacher or librarian. As for drama and visual arts? Forget it. If we can't afford to have the arts in all our schools here, what hope do countless other education systems have in less affluent places worldwide? The arts should not be considered 'frills' in the curriculum.
In the meantime, we can only keep on doing what authors do and what we love to do. Write books. Read books. Buy books. Give our children and their children every opportunity to write, paint, sculpt, draw, play and sing, using their boundless imaginations.