Her name is Aelita Andre and she is the latest “it” girl in the world of abstract art. No less a publication than The New York Times asks if she is the next Jackson Pollock. Her work is described as mesmerizing. A top gallerist in New York calls her a genius. She is 5-years-old. Look at her stuff, the critics are right. It’s bold and passionate and explosive. Just like Pollock. Just like a handful of other abstract-expressionist masters.
And just like thousands of other 5-year-olds. See, the grown-up superstars of the current art scene, whose work sells for millions of dollars, and the barely-out-of preschool painters whose work adorns their parents’ refridgerator doors have one other thing in common: They are fearless with a paintbrush in their hands.
For the kids, art is a pure expression of joyful creativity. Hand a 3-year-old a box of crayons, or watercolors, and nothing stands in the way of their artistic creation — except maybe bedtime. I’ve seen this hundreds of times with inner-city children at the regular art-in-the-parks workshops I hold. It reminds me of what art is supposed to be. Free of judgement, free of doubt, just plain free.
But before long, someone.. another child.. a teacher.. even an insensitive parent looks at one of those baby masterpieces and says, “What’s that supposed to be?” and suddenly there is a little hesitation in the hand that holds the brush, the first brick in the wall that will soon totally separate us from the innocent wonder of creation. By the time we’re adults, most of us have lost so much of that artistic free spirit, we say things like “ I can’t even draw a stick figure.”
Now, for the masters whose work you’ve seen in the great galleries and museums, their drive and passion to create great art overtakes the self-doubt and inner critic that we develop as we grow older. But that is so rare.
So when I see Aelita paint, it takes me back to when I was that 5-year-old,and the world literally was my canvas. I hope it stays that way for her. For me, well, I’m constantly struggling to recapture those feelings. It’s a battle worth fighting.