i tried to culture my children, but rodin butts are too funny

It’s Christmas vacation. I am challenged daily to keep two little girls busy. Today, we decided to visit the Cantor Art Center and the Anderson Collection, museums both located on the Stanford University campus. Usually, we visit the California Academy of Sciences, the zoo, the Exploratorium, or some other kid centric museum.  I thought to myself, let’s up our game and visit a little more sophisticated level of museum.

I soon discovered, it would be a journey of giggles and snickers because butts and headless sculptures are funny, especially if you are five and six years old.

Several times, Mia pointed and yelled, “WHAT IS THAT?”

We started in the garden. Ava ran from sculpture to sculpture attempting to read each brass plate. Life size human forms often headless, arm-less, sometimes even missing a body.  I rushed to explain the importance of Rodin’s work; an artistic pioneer and the critical link between traditional and modern art. Rodin was also interesting because there is no right or wrong way to interpret his art. This is a good thing when you have kids appreciating a Rodin sculpture.


When we entered the actual museum, we were greeted by the thinker. For whatever reason, she recognized it. I was hopeful her Art in Action class at school was paying off!


Sculpture after sculpture lined each wall. Some in glass cases, some free to touch. Love. Sadness. Anger. Hate.

Soon, we wandered into the rooms covering ancient Egypt to modern Africa.The girls were particularly interested in the Egyptian sarcophagus, cat statue, masks, and some other mystery items. Foreign, fascinating, and interesting to study.

We were crossing the main lobby when Ava saw the horse. The bronze horse. She loved it. A docent at the front noticed her interest and shared the history with her. Although it looked like it was made of driftwood, it was actually made of bronze. There was also another horse by the same artist in the other museum next door. Immediately, Ava wanted to go see the horse located at the Anderson Collection.

We stopped along the way. Pausing and posing by the giant statue at the front of the Cantor. Sitting on a metal installation at the entrance of the Anderson Collection. We explored a large old tree with a giant hole. All good things to stop and explore.

We walked into the clean open space of the Anderson Collection. It is a modern art museum. I asked the front desk where the Butterfield horse was located. She kindly sent us to the reference room where it was tucked in to a windowed corner of the quiet room. It was much smaller and made of chicken wire, rebar, bamboo leaves, paper pulp, and pigment. Ava studied it closely. She held out her hand as if to offer a cube of sugar and pretended it was real.

We stretched out into the rest of the museum; filled with both modern art sculpture as well as paintings. Now that Ava can read, she ran up to each small plaque and read the title. I loved hearing her impressions on a particular piece. Hands swooping up and down, describing what she was seeing with great detail. Sometimes, we would stare at a piece for a while and still have no theory about what art was trying to portray.

I was embarrassed to admit, my first thought on this piece was that it was a goose. Then I read the plaque which clearly stated it was a nude. Now I see it, but can you really fault me for thinking this was a goose head?

Mia liked the sculptures and spent her time examining the large installations scattered around the museum.

Overall, this was the girls’ favorite work. Probably because it had recognizable animals in it. We identified and counted all the animals. We marveled at the bright swatches of color painted across the canvas.

It was finally time to leave as the museum was closing, so we wrapped up our visit. Ava climbed trees on our way back to the car. Because there is always time to climb a tree.

On the way back to the car, we passed by the Rodin sculpture garden. The ground spotlights were beginning to glow.

Beautiful. Still. Powerful.

Amongst the statues, Ava was spinning and twirling in the blush of twilight.

As I reflected on our afternoon, I smiled and agreed with Mia that Rodin butts are funny.


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