Saturday, February 26, 2011

When does a child's perception of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa become your own?

Mona Lisa by unknown Spanish child; A-3, acrylic on paper.

A few months ago, while walking past our small library in Canillas de Albaida, Andalusia, I saw children's art exhibited. 

I walked in.

Children were reading, a librarian-teacher, smiling and monitoring, greeted me.

"Are these for sale?" I asked. She nodded.

I assessed the group show of A3-size drawings and paintings, about 20 of them.

But one, for reasons that still perplex me, stood out. I wanted it. 

Some child had taken acrylics to paper and created his or her intimate vision of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Why did I like it? What made me part with three Euros?

Was it because of a luminous, simple palette of1956 Dodge blue and Dutch World Cup Football orange, replicating my undergraduate college's school colours (Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota)?

Perhaps it was a flashback to my hippy days when I worked and played in Darmstadt, Germany (c. 1967-68) with now well-known German international artist, Uwe Poth, who lives and works in the Netherlands? 

He designed and we jointly painted my 1959 VW bug the same vivid colours. We provided a slow-moving but hugely vivid statement in the far right lane of the Autobahn from Frankfrut to Copenhagen.

Or, could it be the larger left eye balancing the puffy right lip with the polished rose-blossomed cheeks, that certain bright optimism children often express?

I don't know. I've previously opined: "Art is a state of mind and perception is meaning." 

Yes, that's original, I think. At least, I did not knowlingly poach it. 

A UK professor of bioengineering at the University of Leicester asks the same question but puts it in scientific context: What processes in our brain lead us to appreciate a piece of art?

Enquiring minds need to know and a £30,000 grant will help Prof. Rodrigo Quian Quirogo, bioengineer, and Dr. Sandra Dudley, expert in visual culture and the senses at Leicester's School of Museum Studies, explore answers in a study that will produce an exhibition of arts-science works this fall ("Arts & Science"), according to a news release.

Artist Mariano Molina will create canvases reflecting principles of visual perception from the study.

This journey into the murky matter of visual perception continues the work of the pair in their previous undertaking: "Perception and wellbeing: a cross-disciplinary approach to experiencing art in the museum." 

What do you think about the Spanish child's "Mona Lisa?" Like it? Why or why not? 

Please comment or write me privately: stefanvandrake@gmail. com. (We'll conduct our own anecdotal study and I promise to report back findings. If you don't want your name mentioned, say so, or if you want the entire message off-record, please indicate. Muchos gracias!)

Rock on and practice peace and love.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." Jimmy hendrix.

Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM).

Competa Valley from Villa Chile, photo by Liz Paris

ArtTraveler videos may be viewed on YouTube. Follow the final days of the 1,000-km. Via de la Plata (Way of St. John) pilgramage from Seville to Santiago de Compostela by Dutch walkers Rob and Joost.

Interested in a week-long mosaics or sculpture workshop in a beautiful studio perched atop a hill in our Andalusian mountains? Or a walking holiday? See: and


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