When the Midget and I took the Nonna to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and showed her one of the galleries, she was amazed. She told us that she’d never before been to such a place. I laughed and didn’t understand. How could anyone get so old but never walk inside an art gallery?
The exhibition was of the artist Joan Miró, whose art is a childlike scribble, colouring between the lines with bold reds and blues. It’s fun art and demands a sense of humour. At first, the Nonna, who I believe saw the world as if through a pinhole*, had no idea what she was looking at. There were paintings that people seemed to be staring at quite intently and sculptures that people congregated around for a moment or two to exchange a gently spoken opinion, but to her that was it.
First, in true Nonna fashion, she stated that she was missing whatever skill or knowledge one should possess when looking at art. I smiled and held her arm tight in mine. Then I guided her gently though questions I go through when I look at a piece of art.
When she started suggesting opinions she was hesitant, as if expecting it to be a test in which there was a right and a wrong.
But soon the Nonna’s eyes sparkled. Verbose by nature, the Nonna quickly got the hang of sharing what she thought might be going on in the picture. She was leading the conversation about the art she was seeing. Although a lot of the time the Nonna had a tendency towards the pessimistic, in Miro’s paintings, the Nonna saw sunsets and gardens. A yellow circle here or a green shape there might represent the sun or a tree. She was interpreting the picture in her own way, drawing out her own unique meaning from the art.
And she loved it.
*The Nonna’s many years of diabetes resulted in eyesight that lacked periphery vision. What she saw, she seemed to see well. Most things, however, she didn’t see. To compensate she used her walking stick as a method of attack to clear the way of puppies and small children alike.
The Nonna died in the Spring of 2014.