Gentle readers will recall that Kongo loves field trips with his two granddaughters. This week the monkey climbed aboard a school bus with 22 budding classical scholars from Mrs. Hutson’s 3rd Grade Class and a handful of chaperones to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles. What a trip! Most adults may think that art and 3rd graders won’t mix. Not these kids! They were all over this like Rococo on Versailles.
The Getty Center is a wonderful place for children. There are plenty of fountains, gardens, and outdoor things for them to experience. Inside … well, inside it’s a constant refrain of “don’t touch, don’t touch, DON’T TOUCH!” They just can’t seem to help themselves and want to get as close to the art as they can. Of course, Getty security guards are watching like Hawks. We got to know a few.
Kongo led a group of four around through several pavilions. While standing in front of a giant portrait of Louis IV we went through a Q&A period. “So, what kind of job do you think this guy has,” the monkey asked innocently. Without hesitation they knew this was a king. “But why a king?” They keyed in on the way he stood, the haughty look, the hand on the hip like he was strutting while standing still. The “poofy” hair seemed to them to be somehow kingly. The boys zoned in on the high heeled shoes while granddaughter opined that her grandmother would like those shoes. We talked about the jeweled sword. Figuring out what country he was king of was a bit harder. This is third grade after all. Kongo finally pointed out the fleur-de-lis on the royal blue coat and Lily picked up on the fact that that sounded French. Voila! There you go.
In front of this Venus torso the children discussed how it might have gotten broken, what the face may have looked like. They figured she may have been dancing because they caught the fluidity of the body, the positioning of where here arms may have been going and the likelihood that her legs could have been crossed. The more they got into it the more they could imagine whole from only seeing the partial. They got it. Isn’t art great?
Being a docent at the Getty Villa where he gives architecture and garden tours, the monkey couldn’t help himself and had to point out the architectural concept of framing and axial alignment. He showed them how the architect created pictures for us to look at by framing the buildings in a way that allowed views. From then on, they were pointing out frames all over the place. Even when it was just a great view, like below, it somehow became a “frame.”
Of course, they’re still third graders who bubble over with energy. They slid on the travertine floors, bounded up stairs, and wanted to climb on just about EVERYTHING. Kongo had his hands full.
One of the themes of the museum visit was to identify art that was “attractive” or “repulsive.” (The children are studying forces in class.) This bust of The Perplexed Man by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt drew they children in like bees to honey. As they closely studied it (DON’T TOUCH, DON’T TOUCH) they all agreed it was “repulsive.” Kongo attempted to point out the irony of how they all were drawn so close to the art and seemed to ignore the surrounding pieces so how could it be “repulsive?” One replied that they had to get close to know how “repulsive” it was. Third graders don’t do irony.
The gardens were one of their favorite spots. The Getty Center gardens are spectacular and we had one of those perfect Southern California days to best appreciate it.
One of Kongo’s favorite parts of the garden is the barrel cactus collection. The kids thought they looked like a bunch of eyeballs and as their imagination kicked in it morphed into an alien monster with dozens of eyes looking at everything all the time. Hmm. Art and Star Wars are more related than you might think.
Lunchtime is a favorite part of any field trip and the children ask about once a minute about when they’re going to eat. You’d think we starved them before loading them on the bus.
Riding the tram was a highlight. For many of the kids who had visited the Getty Center before this was the thing they remembered most. It was a “ride.”
Some of the kids wore themselves out as this little girl below.
The Getty Center is open every day except Monday 10-5. On Saturday’s it’s open till 9 PM and you can get some great sunset photos in the late afternoon. Entrance to the museum is always free. Parking is $15. Visit getty.edu for more information.
Travel safe. Have fun!