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Go Ask Mom

Destination: N.C. Museum of Arts' Still-Life Masterpieces

Posted December 13, 2012

Here's what I like about the special exhibition Still-Life Masterpieces: A Visual Feast at the N.C. Museum of Art: At one point, you're looking at gorgeous, classical paintings. They are the kind of still lifes pictured in countless art history books - beautiful bowls, colorful fruit, bursts of flowers.

Then you turn the corner and see this: An orange-red plastic Hawaiian Punch pitcher and matching cups that look like a pineapple.

As the art museum's Natalie Braswell tells me, this exhibit is very accessible, making it a great stop for families with grade schoolers and up. The exhibit pulls in big names in art history such as Manet, Renoir, and C├ęzanne. But the subjects of many of the paintings are everyday objects, making the works relatable for kids.

Still-Life Masterpieces comes from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and features more than 70 European and American paintings and pieces from the past 400 years.

The still life typically features inanimate objections and has served as one way for artists to express ideas on time, life and nature (witness the browning fruit or wilting flowers in some of the pieces). But it's also about beauty too.

"It's about the pleasure of looking," Braswell tells me of the exhibit. Still-Life Masterpieces at the N.C. Museum of Art Destination: N.C. Museum of Art's Still-Life Masterpieces

The pieces depict things most kids might see in their own homes - flowers, food, even a bathroom sink. I always like to start up conversations with my kids about what we're looking at when we visit the museum (where is the princess, with my three-year-old, and what do you think is happening in this scene, with my seven-year-old).

Braswell suggests parents do the same in Still-Life Masterpieces. Ask kids what do they see in the pieces that is familiar, what do their neighbors have, what does the painting say about the owner of the objects. Were they rich or poor, for example.

"The mix tells you a little bit about the owner and really what the tablescape and houses would look like," she said.

There are plenty of pieces here to point out to your kids, but I definitely recommend seeking out these:

  • John Singleton Copley's painting of a corkscrew, which he actually painted on a door frame of the house of a client, who couldn't find one to open a bottle of wine.
  • Jan Jansz van de Velde's "Still Life with Goblet and Fruit," which sits at the end of the exhibit. Notice how the blackberries on the stem of the goblet look like they're actually popping out. That's skill.
  • The video piece, which shows fruit decaying over time. It's kind of gross, which might be enough to interested more than a few kids out there.
  • The case featuring porcelain pieces in the shapes of various vegetables and other foods (including an eel).

Still-Life Masterpieces runs through Jan. 13. The museum has a special admission deal right now. Tickets are $10 for adults, $3.75 for kids ages 7 to 18; and free for kids 6 and under. For ticket details, go to the art museum's website.

Show your ticket and get 10 percent off at the museum's stores, Iris restaurant and Still-Life Cafe, a casual cafe that's an extension of the special exhibit. The menu includes a kid's peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fruit salad for $5, a hot dog and fries for $4, along with soup, salads, a cheeseburger, sandwiches and sweets.

As I wrote in my Weekend Plans post earlier this week, kids will get in free to the exhibit Friday during the museum's Holiday Family Fun Friday. Click here for all the details about this free event.

Looking for things to do with kids? Check our reviews of parks and playgrounds and posts on Triangle family destinations. Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday.



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