Mama Madison: The home gallery

Art is in the eye of the beholder

"They are not all Picassos. They are not all Picassos," I keep telling myself as I wade through the ever-amassing stack of original artwork taking over the living room. I am trying to sort out which of my 9-year-old daughter's "masterpieces" I should keep from those that will need to be tossed (or at least find themselves on permanent loan to Grandma's "gallery"). I'd been keeping the beast at bay for months, but on the last day of school enough stuff came home in her backpack to fill the entire first floor of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Add that to a prolific stint at a Monroe Street Fine Arts Center drawing class last week, and I think we've got a genuine fire hazard on our hands.

I've already switched up some of my travel routes around town to avoid the Art Cart. My daughter loves the free outdoor program, but I can't bear to bring another "project" into the house. And we're heading out to Art Fair on the Square this weekend. I don't doubt for a second that with all the cool-sounding activities in the kids' area we'll be coming home with yet another full-on exhibit for her personal collection.

Trust me, if the Disney Channel ever wants to do a kids spin-off of Hoarders, do I have a place for them to start.

There are only two options -- carefully curate (my euphemism for toss), or build an east wing. But construction is expensive, and let's face it, they are not all Picassos. I need to find the strength to separate the wheat from the chaff (sometimes quite literally with some of the mixed-media pieces she's created).

I've really struggled to find the best approach. I can try to do something chronological, perhaps saving one representative piece from each year since she's been able to wield a crayon. This method appeals to my chronically organized side. Or I can ask my daughter to help me decide what is her best work, giving her a chance to develop a critical eye. Her involvement would hopefully let me off the hook for not realizing that those tissue paper flowers stuffed into a juice box container were her "very favorite creation off all time." I've been down that road before. I would prefer not to return.

As much as my daughter hates to part with anything, I need to take this opportunity to teach her that quantity is not necessarily quality. I can tell her the story of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, famed for having produced relatively few works.

I won't let on that I'm pretty sure I know the truth. His mother threw out the "Girl with Two Pearl Earrings." There just wasn't room in the house.

I must remind my self that there are lots of things from her childhood I haven't saved. I haven't kept every tooth or lock of hair. I need to move away from seeing each thing she produces as a part of her, because it isn't. Sometimes it's just four pieces of yarn stuck on a sheet of construction paper with Elmer's glue.

But as I take the first bag of "not-quite-Picassos" out to the garage, I am reminded of a quote from the cubist master.

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

Needless to say, the bag hasn't quite made it into the recycling yet.

How do you approach your kids' art achieves? Do you try to save as much as possible? Or have you figured out a way to surreptitiously say good-bye to some of the excess?

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.