Interlude: Graduate School

My Grandpop was an artist, and thanks to him art became my thing too.

Ever since watching him paint flowers in his dining room I wanted to know the secrets of the canvas. When I finally try my own hand at painting, I lose myself for hours in the studio. I’ve heard actors say the stage is the only place they really feel at home. The art studio, with the sweet spicy sweet smell of buttery oil paint, always feels like home to me.

Flowers by Grandpop

While I owe him my introduction to the arts, I owe my career and continuing passion in the arts to the unlikely Pennsylvania Power-ball lottery.

While managing a swim club, me and all the staff poole our money for a shot at 60 million dollars. We dream with each other of what we will do if we win. Lifeguards propose things like, “Buy Hawaii,” or “a Masarati.” I think. “I would go to art school!”

The numbers are announced, 14, 37, 06… Silence. We do not win, but it occurs to me that I don’t actually need to win millions of dollars to pursue my dreams. Winning sure would have helped with those increasing tuitions though.

The lotto is the catalyst to my Bachelors in Fine Art and that leads to my career teaching art in public school. I never stop making art for myself, but I know I can go deeper and I’m not having the conversation I really want to be having. Shape and color are demanding aliens and they are frustrated with my failed translations. I have plateaued. I need a wider vocabulary, more tools, and I need advice and the challenge of external measures.

Grad school is the dream the lottery promised.

Graduate school is thinking through materials. We deconstruct images in layers of abstraction and then excavate them into idols. We declare! And, we doubt. Behind every studio door is the energetic fury of materials in the process of becoming – it’s exhilarating! We travel to the Philadelphia Medical School to draw cadavers, we hang art shows, visit the biennial, we sweat, cry, and we create.

Interesting and slightly embarrassing view of me bumbling about the studio, though my friend Jeremy did amazing filming/editing.

I leave the program thinking of myself as an Artist and an even more inspired educator. All impossible without the wonderful people in the photo below; look at those smiles. We really liked each other.

I think a part of making art, including writing this blog, is a desperate act to connect. A way to share experience. Be it a painting or an opera, art is a great intermediary that lets humans connect over a common focus of attention; the work of art.

All performances are meaningful, if not all equal: Rebecca, me, and Aaron rocking karaoke.

I believe everybody has a thing, and the beauty of a thing is that one thing leads to another thing and to another thing and you can never predetermine where those things might take you and who you might meet along the way. My favorite personal example comes from an art history professor in community college who inspired me to travel out of the country for the first time.

She was a sprite of a woman alternating between red and silver Reebok sneakers. During her presentations she shows us pictures of herself beside important artworks like The Mona Lisa and Mask of Tutankhamen. I think this is just unfuckingbelievable that she visited all these places. I never knew anybody that traveled like this before. I want to see them too.

I’m proud to write I have stood in front of all those works of art myself now and the experiences around those trips were transformative. I have tried to find her to thank but to date have not.

To tie this all back to the thrust of the blog, opera. The art of music is my guilty pleasure where I can completely let go of the pressure of being the creator and to be a part of the audience. Don Carlo is the only opera I’ll see for the three years it takes to complete my long time goal of earning a Masters of Fine Art.

Art is my thing.