Let me just say right off the bat that I know nothing about art, which probably makes me well suited to be an art critic. For years I thought Impressionism was the art of imitating Jack Nicholson, Art Deco was a detective on television, and an artist that painted nudes was an Exhibitionist. The only thing I can draw is a poor poker hand, and the only painters I can name are in the Yellow Pages. But this doesn’t stop me from being the authoritative critic of art in our household. As curator of our kitchen, it is my responsibility to decide which pieces among my children’s prodigious portfolios hang on display and which pieces get shuffled to retrospectives at the city dump. My discriminating eye has earned me the well-deserved title of World’s Harshest Art Critic.
Like many kids, ours began their art careers when they were old enough to sit at the table and brandish small weapons,
sometimes referred to as crayons. I refer to these years as their Tableist period, and it incorporated a variety of techniques including decoupage, woodcuts, and monotypes washed in emulsions of crayon wax and milk. Their artwork is permanently preserved in our house, primarily because we still need a place to eat. It is my theory that much of the primitive cave art in existence today was created by children: I believe that most parents aren’t inclined to carve stick figures of horses on the walls of their homes. The problem is, my kids are too prolific. I can put a large sheet of paper on an easel and another under their feet, and in two minutes I will have a Picasso and a Pollock ready to hang, as well as a T-shirt suitable for a Grateful Dead concert. Since I have three children, over the course of a school year I accumulate approximately 900 pieces of art, all of which competes for gallery space in our galley. These pieces are in the form of sketches, paintings, and an assortment of sculptures made of cotton balls, felt, paper plates, misplaced cell phones, and other loose objects that accept Elmer’s glue.
Before I became a ruthless philistine, the likes of Joseph Stalin or Simon Cowell, our kitchen was continually plastered in manila poster paper boasting blobs of paint, smeared handprints, and random scribbles. It got so bad that I started spotting flyers for lost kittens and local garage sales. And then one day I cleared the kitchen completely. I was surprised to learn we had wallpaper. My wife was incredulous. “How could you do that?” she asked in the same tone of voice she used the day I threw out the wad of expired coupons she had filed in our junk drawer.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure twenty years from now when I look at a yellowed painting of an extraterrestrial hanging on my refrigerator I will think back and say, “Which of the children made this and why is it here?” Call me sentimental. And so my resolve to remove clutter remains firm. Bracing for a major collection triggered by the start of the school year, I again purged our kitchen. The kids were upset. “Hey, where did my picture of the horsie go?” my daughter asked tearfully. “I am replacing it with your newest master work,” I told her, quickly grabbing a crinkled watercolor from atop a large heap of her summer projects and holding it out in front of her. “The more painterly representation of a watermelon floating in air is reminiscent of Renoir or Dali in their early years. Notice the cross hatching and the artist’s use of pointillism to depict seeds. The brush work is brilliant.” “Really Daddy?” she said with shining eyes. “Really, sweetheart. It is worthy of the Louvre.” She seemed puzzled, but smiled proudly. “I louvre you too daddy,” she said wrapping her arms around my legs. You can see this exciting new work on our refrigerator. The World’s Harshest Art Critic has sentimentally placed it on permanent display.
John Christmann is a freelance writer and all around good guy. He lives in Summit, NJ with his very tolerant wife and three children. His favorite color is plaid and he is afraid of machines and small dogs. You can check out his unique take on parenting at www.dadinthebox.com or fill up his inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.