Sunday, January 04, 2015

Artnotes: Clowning Around

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Artnotes:  Clowning Around

A  curly-haired cherubic girl tried to give Harika bits of her foccacio, as we sat down to our second breakfast at Serafino on Saturday.  Harika, ever prudent of Greeks (in this case, Italians) bearing gifts, hid beneath my chair.  I accepted the 2-1/2 year olds’ offering and pretended to feed it to my dog.

A few minutes later another family, with two boys, joined the fracas.  The older boy, maybe 6, was a real clown.  He liked making the little girl laugh, and pretended to stumble over chairs, and bump into things, often sprawling on to the pavement on the restaurant’s terrace.  It was all very “Three Stooges”, and you couldn’t help but laugh at him.  

I’d not seen kids act like this – the three of them laughing and carrying on uproariously – in, well, maybe NEVER, or at least 40 years.  The little girl had that overwhelming laugh, bigger than herself, as only little kids can have.  Kids are king in Italy – treasured, indulged, and ever so evident.  

It reminded me of my own youth in Winsted, Connecticut – a town full of Italian families with at least a half-dozen kids each.  “Horsing around” we used to call it – making the other kids laugh with stories, crazy behavior.  And most importantly we could all laugh at ourselves.  

I’d have put these feelings aside had we not gone to visit the Villa Grock in Imperia that afternoon.  Villa Grock is the creation of the famous Italian clown, Grock.  It is a completely crazy house and garden dedicated to CLOWNING.  

We watched a film of Grock, the man, talking about what it was to be a clown – how you make people laugh, or cry, or you never know what they would feel.  There was no time for complaining, talking about your own problems…  It was quite inspiring, a little like art – you paint your picture and how people react is up to them.  You can’t say it will make people happy or sad.  Intention is only to entertain, cause a reaction.

My nephew H, as a small child, was a “clown”.  He’d ride on his swing, make believe he was flying – or he’d engage you in some way to make you laugh, working at it until he succeeded.

I have mixed feelings about circus clowns.  They can make me nervous, or feel embarrassed, awkward; or even make me laugh out loud.  That’s the goal:  to make me feel something.

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