All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a book by Robert Fulghum, and for me, the titular phrase is quite true. I learned to tie my shoes, I learned to share – and I learned that I have a passion for art history.
My kindergarten teacher introduced the class to the wonders of art history in a delightful way: She had each student paint his or her own rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Perhaps my artistic skills were not on par with those of the legendary painter – why did I leave out the cypress tree anyway? – but my love of art history was ignited with more fire than van Gogh’s glimmering stars.
Following this art project, five-year-old me begged my parents to take me to New York City to see the Post-Impressionist masterpiece at the Museum of Modern Art. (This must have not come as much of a surprise to anyone, as I had dragged my family to Plymouth Rock after the teacher’s Thanksgiving lesson on the Mayflower.)
About a decade later, in a seemingly unrelated turn of events, my family made plans to vacation at the Iowa State Fair to experience that quintessential slice of Americana. A week or so before the trip, I happened to come across the Wikipedia page for the Dibble House, the white home with the iconic Gothic window that Grant Wood immortalized in American Gothic. My fates were aligning: the Dibble House was in Iowa. “I see an amazing photo op!” I gushed to my family in an email asking if we could add the Dibble House to our itinerary.
That explains why on August 21, 2011, I found myself in a quaint town called Eldon, where a small house with a steep roof serves as the center of attraction. The American Gothic House Center supplies replica pitchforks and costumes so that visitors can pose as the famous man and woman in front of the actual house that Wood depicted.
After my brother and I snapped our own keepsake photograph, I wanted to have a use for my American Gothic re-creation – after all, what fun is a re-creation if it serves only as a unique Facebook profile picture? It dawned on me that I could make an art history blog.
At first, I was a bit wary. Would anyone read my blog? Would I essentially be writing for myself? Nevertheless, with a year of AP Art History under my belt, I decided to enter the blogosphere by creating Heartwork.
On Heartwork, I blog about my creative adventures in art history. These adventures have included picture re-creations (American Gothic, Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want, Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, James McNeill Whistler’s Whistler’s Mother) and edible artwork (The Starry Night in cupcakes). I have also blogged about my visit to a nearby park with sculptures of famous paintings, and posts about my trips to museums are coming.
The response to Heartwork has been incredibly rewarding, and many individuals have kindly tweeted about the blog. Excitingly, within its first few weeks of existence, Heartwork has been viewed in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
My great wish is that Heartwork will continue to grow not only through me but also through my visitors. If they email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) photographs of their endeavors in art history like picture re-creations, I will be thrilled to post the photographs on the blog.
In my mind, there are two possible paths for the future of art history: If we fall prey to the notion that art history is comprised merely of antiquated relics with no importance to today, both museums and societies will suffer. But if we embrace art history as a meaningful and vibrant subject matter, we will find that works of art can reveal profound truths about us and our cultures.
To choose the latter option, we each need to forge our own connections with artwork – to make art history our own. I sincerely hope that Heartwork inspires viewers to make art history a fun and relevant part of their lives. After all, putting heart into art history is really what Heartwork is all about.