Sunday, December 30, 2007
From the Dust of the Earth
Her favorite gift from Mom and Dad was a little play dough factory. You put the bright dough into a squeezing machine and from the other end you could cut long ribbons and snakes of yellow, blue, white or red. She played for hours that Christmas at the dining room table under grandpa's watchful gaze, rolling the dough into balls and forming shapes of stuff. She was three years old.
Today my second daughter still plays with clay, hours and hours of it. Only now she is an art major at college, trying to find a profession that she fits rather than squeeze into the mold of other professions. It's not an easy proposition, and the term "starving artist" takes on new relevance when one is in the family. I can see her job application now:
"Do you like working with math?
as a salesman?
"absolutely not. I'm never cheerful. I hate talking on the phone, dressing up, and smiling--unless I want to smile--and then I certainly don't want to explain to anyone why I'm smiling."
All that to say, I think I'm seeing some real growth in my daughter's skills. When she began as an art major, she was years behind the others. She had not taken art since elementary school, and the few lessons she managed on the side were short-lived. Her term papers, however, were about her heroes: Thomas Gainsborough and Charles Dickens (who while he wasn't an artist gave descriptions as vivid as paintings). So she struggled through drawing drafts and piles of paintings, some fair, some fine, and some...well...finished.
This year, in her third year of pottery and her second year of sculpture, she produced an amazing likeness of one of her art student friends in a bust of clay garnished with triple layers of acrylic. His name is otherwise, but she calls him Des. He is gorgeous--I'm talking about the statue, not the guy (Hey, I don't even know the guy, but I did recognize him one day in the art lobby)-- from his long pony tail to the collar of his tunic-looking peasant shirt. Now certainly there will be a market for this skill. Aren't there hoards of people out there who wish to be immortalized and made to sit on a grand piano or on the shelf of a library?
I can see her now, not in a dusty fourth-floor corner of her shared studio in the old art building on campus, but in her own little messy studio, slaving away at creating men and women, not having to smile and nod, not bothering to answer the phone--or at least not politely--hiding that long signature on the back collar, beneath the pony tail.
Yes, that's my daughter, the artist....the one with clay on her shirt and paint all over her jeans.