Students at All Nations Community School “visit” France
Edward Wilson, educator, publisher, and storyteller extraordinaire, captivated the students at All Nations with his stories of the Dordogne Region in France, particularly the cave paintings at Lascaux. Following up on the art history lessons conducting by art instructor Chelsea Swenson, Mr. Wilson, looking like a cross between Santa Claus and your favorite aging college professor, shared slides of these famous caves.
“This is the entrance to the hall of the bulls,” Mr. Wilson says as he shows the first slide. This gets the boys’ attention. “How big are the bulls?” asks Julian. And so begins the students’ journey to the famous caves. The rattling of the antiquated slide projector did not dampen the enthusiasm of the kids. They were entranced by the slides of horses, aurochs, and other Paleolithic and Mesolithic animals prancing across the front of the room.
Then, like an ancient wizard, Mr. Wilson produced a scarf that was commissioned by Hermes to honor Lascaux. Brandishing it high, the kids could see in even more detail the cavalcade of mares, ponies, and ibexes, but it was the single hand on that scarf that drew an audible gasp from the kids. Mr. Wilson, holding up his hand to emphasize his point, said, “Experts think the hand on the cave wall is a woman’s hand. They think women did the cave paintings while the men went on the hunt. Perhaps this was her signature.” The kids were awed. “To make the hand, they put ink in their mouths, placed one hand on the cave wall, and blew the ink through hollow bones onto the hand to get the exact proportional outline.”
To further the wonderment, Mr. Wilson invited two students to open and close the blinds rapidly. In the darkened classroom, this re-created the flickering of the oil lamps in the caves. The students, using the rich imagination of children, could “see” movement: horses running, deer swimming, and arrows piercing the stallion.
In closing, Mr. Wilson described the Sistine Chapel of Pre-historic times. “It was a chamber with thousands of drawings all over the walls, but the spectacular sight was the painting on the ceiling.” He left the kids wondering, “Did that ceiling inspire Michelangelo”? Does art beget art?
As the kids filed out, Alexandra said, “This was great! It gave me an idea for a story.” That’s what happens: Art does beget art.