When I heard that there would be an MC Escher exhibit at the National Gallery during March Break, I knew I wanted to bring the boys. Two love art and one loves math – how could we go wrong with an exhibit about a “Mathemagician”? We added an extra kid for good measure – in for a penny, in for a pound, right? And then when I thought about all those wonderful corridors and leading lines everywhere inside the National Gallery, I knew it would be an excellent place to have some fun with my new fisheye lens.
We didn’t even make it all the way to the Gallery and I was finding new ways to look at familiar things (which is really the most fun part of a new lens, IMHO.)
I have always loved the work of Dutch artist MC Escher, and I knew the kids would be intrigued by some of his more surrealistic later work. They were actually really engaged with the whole exhibit, though. They were intrigued by the difference between the pencil sketches and the woodcuts, and loved some of the pattern progression pieces where negative space actually becomes the dominant subject.
Turned out that the most difficult part of the afternoon was not getting the kids engaged in the art, but in helping the littlest overcome his compulsion to trace over all the lines with his fingertips. “No touching, sweetheart, remember? (pause) No touching, please. (pause) Seriously Luke, no touching!”
(And yes, in case you were wondering, you ARE allowed to take photos in some of the exhibitions. Not all of them – you need to watch for the signs where some pieces are forbidden, and of course no flash. But I was delighted by the fact that we were allowed to take pictures pretty much everywhere we went. And so I did! And once I had the fisheye lens on the camera, I just decided to roll with it for the whole afternoon, odd distortion and weird framing be damned. Because art!)
Visiting the gallery while wrangling four kids is a little distracting, but I did manage to see my longtime favourite MC Escher sketch called Relativity. I tore this out of a communications textbook when I was in university and it was pinned to my work cubicle wall for years.
So the Escher exhibit took us a while longer than I would have expected since the kids were so engaged, and we were just talking about which other galleries might be interesting when we came upon the Artissimo program in progress in the main foyer. I’d read about the Artissimo programs on the National Gallery’s website, but frankly, they didn’t do the program justice. It is AMAZING!
Three of the kids decided to go on a scavenger hunt where they selected a costume, dressed in it, and then had to find the piece of art containing their character. The fourth child chose a mystery feely box scavenger hunt: you are given a box with holes on the sides for your hands, but you can’t look in. You guess by feeling the objects what they are, and then try to guess which work of art they relate to.
Here they are with their costumes and their paintings – and no, Tristan is not wearing that expression because I made him wear the dress. HE chose the dress, and the serious face is supposed to be miming the painting.
One of the kids was a slightly more sophisticated art connoisseur while the others were a little more goal oriented, so I had three scrambling through the galleries looking to solve the puzzle and one laggard saying, “But, wait, can we look at this painting? Hang on, look at this. Okay, after this can we go back and look at that painting?” It wasn’t the most leisurely browse of the Gallery, but the kids sure were engaged with the art.
And then I had a bit more fun with the fisheye lens.
There may or may not have been a visit to another downtown Ottawa icon, just to round out a perfect day out.
So if you’re looking for a wonderful day out with the kids, don’t overlook the National Gallery. Admission is an unexpectedly affordable $24 for a family, or $12 for adults, $6 for youth, and kids under 12 free! MC Escher: the Mathemagician runs through May 3.
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