“Dina, tomorrow is Wednesday, your favorite day of the week. I bet you can’t wait for your next art class,” mom said as she sliced a cucumber and smiled at her daughter.
“I guess,” Dina and took the sliced cucumber off the cutting board. “We need more tomatoes, and where are the peppers?” She arranged fresh vegetables on an ivory-colored platter and searched the fridge for multi-color peppers. “Do we have carrots? I need some orange color on this plate.”
Mother pointed to a lower shelf. “Dina, you’ve always loved your art class, and come to think of it, you’ve barely mentioned it at all since last week. Tell me what’s bothering you, baby.”
“We’ve got a new teacher, Mrs. Phillips. She showed us posters of different paintings and told us about the artists who painted them. I liked the stories and looking at the posters.” Dina washed baby carrots and put one on top of each cucumber slice, so they looked like small exclamation points. She finished her job and looked at her mom: “But then Mrs. Phillips passed around a box with postcards and told us to pick one. By the time the box reached me only two postcards were left. One of a Picasso painting. You know how much I don’t like Picasso! The other one of Mondrian’s.” Quiet again, Dina finished the platter and watched her mom prepare a salad. They always had a salad for the older members of the family and fresh cut vegetables for the younger ones.
“Mondrian? Oh, I love Mondrian. So what do you do with the postcard?”
“I don’t know, really. The teacher said we will do our “own version” in class. I don’t understand what she meant by that. She is so totally not like Miss Green. I loved it when Miss Green brought in flowers and vases or leaves and twigs for us to paint and to draw. Her arts and crafts projects were the best!”
“Well, darling, you might enjoy this new project. Mondrian is a great artist. We have a book about his work on the art bookshelf. Remind me to find it after dinner and we can look at it together.”
“I still don’t understand what his paintings mean!” said Dina after they leafed through the thick art-book. “All these lines, and colors, they don’t look anything like people or streets or animals or furniture.”
“Do you like them? Do you like to look at them?”
“Kind of. I liked this one: Broadway Boogy-Woogy, but still, do you see a Broadway here?”
“Well, I like the rhythm of it like in music. Can you feel it?”
Mom didn’t make any sense to Dina.
But Dina couldn’t sleep. She tried very hard to put her art problem out of her mind, but it kept coming back. She remembered that Piet Mondrian was born in Holland and came to New York before World War Two. She wondered whether or not he liked New York, because she loved it.
“Why don’t you ask me a question? Go ahead.”
Dina heard all of a sudden. Who could that be? And why did he talk funny?
“Who are you?” she managed to ask.
A thin man with glasses, who looked exactly like the photograph in the book Mom had left on Dina’s desk, sat in a chair and smiled at Dina. He put his thick worn sketchbook on top of the art book.
“Piet Mondrian. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dina. I thought you wanted to know something about me or my paintings.”
“Well, I wondered whether or not you liked New York.”
“Oh, I absolutely loved it! And you know what I discovered when I moved there?”
“New York looked a lot like Amsterdam! It was called New Amsterdam at first. Did you know that?”
“I learned it in a social studies class.”
Mondrian laughed. “You are a good student and a wonderful artist! Look at these landscapes!” He pointed to the pictures on the wall. “This is a great still-life. Your brushwork is rich and crisp.” Mondrian spoke slowly as if searching for the right words.
“Well, I wondered whether or not you liked New York.”
“Oh, I absolutely love it! And you know what I found out when I moved there?”
“I found out that New York looked a lot like Amsterdam! It was called New Amsterdam at first. Did you know that?”
“I know it from a social studies class.”
Mondrian laughed. “You are a good student and a wonderful artist! Look at these landscapes!” He looked at the pictures on the wall. “This is a great still-life. Your brushwork is nice and crisp.”
“What do all those lines and grids in your paintings mean? I can’t understand them.” Dina asked bluntly, she was not afraid anymore.
“Have you noticed the lines were of different width? I wanted to see the relationship of lines and how they framed different colors.”
“I still don’t get it.” Dina frowned.
“You don’t have to understand. Do you like to dance? My lines and colors dance together. Just start with one line and see where it takes you.” The voice faded.
Finally, Dina slept.
At the sound of an alarm clock she awoke and ran to the closet. A black and white striped shirt suddenly matched with a blue skirt. Never before had she dressed, brushed her teeth, and swallowed her breakfast so quickly. Dina waited for her dad and sisters in the car. “Hurry up! I need to get to school!”
After English class Dina rushed to the art room. She wanted to start her project before her classmates came in. So what if she missed lunch? Dina knew what to do, she couldn’t wait to dip her brushes in paints and touch them to the white paper. Black lines appeared almost by themselves, then crossed and formed a perfect net of squares and rectangles. Now she turned to colors: a bright red, a shiny blue, and a lemony yellow. But where should she place them? Dina closed her eyes and imagined herself jumping from one white square to another. What a game of hopscotch! Suddenly, she knew the next one should be red. She quickly colored in that square, rinsed the brush and closed her eyes again. Landing 3 squares to the right, she saw it as yellow. This was easy! Now it all made sense! About to jump into a blue rectangle, Dina heard kids laugh. She looked up and found Mrs. Phillips smiling at her. But Dina had no time, a big black square showed up in her picture. She simply had to fill it! There! She took a step back and observed her work. The painting finished, but the class hasn’t even started. That meant Dina had time to do another one! This was the best class ever!
“Mom, you should see my Mondrian pictures! I finished two of them. They are awesome!” Dina told her mother in the car on the way home. “I can’t wait for next Wednesday. I picked Jackson Pollack for my next project.”