Abstract Interpretation of a Wednesday

One of many interpretations of Las Meninas by Picasso

In sixth grade plásticas we are looking at Picasso’s works from across the wide swathe of his career – pale blue faces, Guernica’s newsprint cartoon horror, smug mustachioed smiles against a backdrop of sensual curves. The kids worked on their own interpretations, where Picasso went blonde or Las Meninas became Una Menina, with vague features and very detailed shoes. One boy worked on a robot, built of solid geometric shapes, including a little rectangular wang, square balls… and a rectangular tie. (Que profesional – pero, ¿dónde están sus pantalones?)

Blank papers, lips bitten, tapping pencils, ideas waiting to happen. I listen to the teacher’s instructions in Valencian, to kids questions in Spanish, and answer in English. They meticulously outline reproductions, or trace jagged lines across the page.
In third grade we learn the meaning of silly along with the parts of the body. We collaborate on very silly drawings using the parts of the body. One small boy doesn’t understand the directions, and almost falls over with laughter when he finds that the torso of his drawing has become part of the (very long) neck. ¡Ese hombre tiene tetas en su cuello! Other kids are concerned because these are not quite careful enough, and how will they take their work home or receive a grade if there have been four (often sloppy) artists involved with each portrait? I remind them of the meaning of silly, and we decide that we have met our objective.
In fourth grade there are cross-curricular connections – lessons about the parts of a flower and classification of leaves – leaves carried in backpacks, strewn across the table and floor, and finally splayed out onto posterboard in neat categories. I do some quick internet research to brush up on my botanical terms, and explain them English. We find the faint blue lines on our wrists, and the green raised veins on the leaves.
Abstract pieces of language litter our mouths. Fingers on throats to find the voice of vowels. Feeling the puff of air of the bilabial stops.
At lunch time I sink down inside myself again. Concentrate on peeling an orange into a citrus spiral, submerged in an oasis of silence between loud Valencian and more jokes I can’t understand. I understand only the most simple and physical humor – the principal yelling ¡joder! as he races for the last ice cream, or the cross-culturally unintelligible yelp of surprise as water is tipped across the table. But words are surfacing from the trainwreck of my comprehension.



Tot el mon. 


Xiquets i xiquetas.
After lunch two other teachers and I intend to find “un poquito de relax.” In the music classroom, with the door locked against the students doing homework in the hallway, we lay out yoga mats, turn on quiet music, and nos tumbamos.
Tumbarse – If you tumbar someone else, this is violent. You knock them down. If you do it yourself, you lie down – generally for a nap. Positive connotations. But inanimate objects can knock you down, too – me tumbaron en matemáticas. (I failed math. Math knocked me down.)
So on Wednesday afternoons we knock ourselves down for a while. Slip out of the vertical world of speech and sight. Let the classroom rearrange itself – cool tile, vertical silver of table legs, yellow window frames filled with squares of blue from a Mediterranean November. I am reminded of my three o’clock exhaustions, where I locked the door, hid in an invisible corner, and slept with my face on a table for a while, before beginning the long drive home under a sky spitting snow.
After school I have a language exchange. We are making our way through the museums of Alicante – free contemporary art galleries. Submissions of comics by local youth. A distressingly extensive history of postage. A room full of silver geometric sculptures that wink and glitter as they are set in motion by an employee – whose job is to sit in the gallery reading a novel, and set the sculptures in motion every few minutes. We talk – in English and in Spanish – but we also stand in silence, looking at broad brush strokes, earth and bricks jumbled onto canvas, and the dizzying movement of stationary canvasses.

Tierra de Campos – Juana Francés (an artist from Alicante)


One Response to Abstract Interpretation of a Wednesday

  1. dcous says:

    Awesome. Beautiful pictures, beautiful writing.

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