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May 30: hot wall labels at the deYoung

Museum wall labels are generally pretty humdrum, but not in the Martin Family Gallery at the deYoung in San Francisco. Here, each label includes a poem by an elementary school student responding to the piece in question. This is new to me. Clearly, these kids had a rich experience, and we have some teachers/docents/curators/administrators who are on to something wonderful. Three examples:


Mary Cassatt  "The Artist's Mother"  ca. 1889
Mary Cassatt “The Artist’s Mother” ca. 1889


Untitled, by Julien B. Fifth grade, the San Francisco School

Her hand crushes the handkerchief

as she becomes ashen,

pale with secrets buried in her mind.

Her beautiful, folded, crisp white cloth

becomes crumpled up into a ball.

Her memories, her thoughts, all her life

everything that has ever happened to her

Rushing through her mind

like a cheetah through the jungle.

Her silky shawl cloaks her, protecting her

from the brushing clear wind!

She tries to be peaceful,

but her thoughts trouble her.




William Merritt Chase  "Portrait of Miss D." ca. 1900
William Merritt Chase “Portrait of Miss D.” ca. 1900


Midnight Depress, by Lucy B. Fifth Grade, Frank C. Havens Elementary School

I stare into space

My tattered champagne coat is rough

but falls delicately to my leather shoes,

my lime chiffon scarf settles,

and my coal colored hat

with its shiny buckle tilts to the side,

but my face stays the same, a bored depressed look,

or I do not care what has to come









Everett Shinn  "Outdoor Stage, France" ca. 1905
Everett Shinn “Outdoor Stage, France” ca. 1905


Untitled, by Kendall T. Fourth grade, Ohlone Elementary School

I softly express winds of cold, dark rage.

My face is red as fury. It escapes my emotions.

A fine lady ignores me.

She gossips as if I am not here.

But I am. I feel rose expressions

On my face growing hot.

I am still graceful as the music.


End of scene.