It is slowly becoming abundantly clear to me how artistic abilities are little recognized or encouraged in young people. I have a story about a childhood friend so remarkable, that we are planning to write and publish a joint memoir as a book. But that's another story for another time.
I had another childhood friend, who shall remain nameless, who was quite sarcastic and cynical. Our community was doing a small performance of Alice In Wonderland. I was unaware of this production until it was nearly time for performance - hence I had no opportunity to audition or perform in the show. I took a last chance to ingratiate myself with the woman in charge and offered my services to make any figures needed from paper mache. I told her in front of my friend, "I'm really good with paper mache and working with wire."
Once we were alone, my friend was uproarious and quoted with great pleasure, "I'm really good with paper mache." Apparently, he found my skill set to be inconsequential and my statement of such, ridiculous. He took every opportunity subsequent to that incident to torture me with that quote. In hindsight, it does smack of a young boy desperately trying to win approval. But what is wrong with a young student who shows a creative interest?
Supporting a child who has an artistic temperament and abilities is a tough call. On my recent interview with Professor Gurland (see story Part 1 here and Part 2 here), he told me not only of his work as a jazz musician, but also of his son's interest. He made a deal with his boy - graduate from college and he can do anything he wants as far as pursuing music. A degree will provide a safety cushion for future employment. A reasonable compromise for the concerned parent.
For myself, it has taken the better part of my adult life to recognize my interest in creative pursuits - writing, photography, graphic arts. The evidence has been there throughout my life - building a darkroom as a child, crafting various objects and models, origami and designing products for my business.
I was however, steered towards a career in mathematics as is the case. My life might have been very different however, had someone just recognized that I'm Really Good at Paper Mache :)
Photo Note: Two Too Large Tables are located at Hudson River Park. The two works, designed by Allan and Ellen Wexler, were constructed from stainless steel and ipe wood and fabricated by Polich Art Works. One is comprised of 13 chairs, 7 feet tall, supporting a 16-foot-square plane. The other, also 16-feet-square, is 30 inches tall with integral seating areas. One serves as a shade pavilion and the other a community table.
“The seemingly random placement of chairs directs and focuses our views of the river, pathways and landscape. Pathways cut into the tabletop lead to clusters of chairs. When people sit they are completely surrounded. Their unconventional placement brings people together in unexpected groupings.”
Allan Wexler and Ellen Wexler are Chelsea residents and collaborate on public art projects; Allan teaches at Parsons The New School for Design.