“She taught me to see the world with the eyes of an artist.”
“We are all born artists,” the nun said. “We speak with our five senses.” Over the years she noticed that when college students arrived to study art, they knew little or nothing about the language of art, about how art expresses what’s in the heart. She decided to start at the very beginning — with pre-schoolers and their mothers — as well as with college students.
“I’m going to teach you to eat with your eyes,” she promises the children in her classes (aged 4 to 14). She tells children that God made each of them very special. “He made us like a camera. You gotta open your eyes to eat with your eyes.” She instructed them to spend the week “snapping” whatever they saw that they liked.
Children draw what they know, not what they know about, she said. “Art is really a child’s language. What I do is try to develop their creative powers.”
Seeing with an artist’s eyes means learning how to use colors. She asks children which color makes them happy, sad or angry and she lets them explore on paper what makes them cry, laugh or shout.
“Color is God’s gift to the artist. When we see a rainbow we don’t ask, ‘What is this?’ Color is like adverbs and adjectives. We don’t use the same ones all the time.” The three primary colors are to art what the eight notes are to music, she said. It’s in their infinite combining, shaping and texture that art happens.
Fessler believes passionately that “children who create will not destroy.” Her children seem never to forget her. One of them, now a prominent lawyer, nominated her for the outstanding alumnus award at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee a few years ago, an honor accorded only to Golda Meir and some 30 others of the university’s 95,000 alumni. (National Catholic Reporter, October 22, 1999)