This weekend our local school system held its biennial art fair, a celebration of the efforts and creations of students of music and art from all age groups. I had one or two drawings on display in my junior year, though two decades later I no longer remember which ones. My wife and I were pleased to learn that my son, now in his final month of high school, would have several pieces on display this year. We made a point of checking out the fair not just for the sake of parental beaming, but because we knew this might be our last chance to view his works.
Of all the projects he’s completed in school, perhaps one in ten come home with him. For a time I thought it was because he kept forgetting them in his locker, but classified sources have given us reason to believe humility is to blame. Of the few works we were allowed to witness, we could see attention to detail, signs of patience, and evidence that he’s worked much harder at his craft than I did during the brief period when I thought art might be my thing. I still have a portfolio in the garage with select assignments I’ve saved for posterity, nostalgia, a reminder of an optimistic time when my right brain was a lot less interrupted, or whatever. There’s also a folder in our library containing self-produced comics only one other human has ever been allowed to see. Nothing from my oeuvre comes near the same area code as what he’s accomplished away from home.
We weren’t sure what sort of work to see in his name when we walked into the fair. We’d received no concerned emails or phone calls from his teacher about missing assignments or social issues. We take complete lack of teacher inquiries as a sign that all is well. On the other hand, none of his friends ever ring us at home to tell us, “Your son is killing it up here in class.” We didn’t know if his works would be obligatory assignments posted as a courtesy to celebrate the non-art of baseline class participation, or independent creations allowed to flourish without narrow syllabus guidelines.
“Pleasantly surprised” is a gross understatement of our response.
As far as I know, all of these are untitled and all meaning is left up to the individual viewer to discern. When you ask him about details — names, meanings, technique, media used — every response is “I dunno”, his pat shorthand for pleading the Fifth. When it comes to art appreciation, I’ve found sometimes it’s more interesting to rely on my own instincts for determining my personal reaction and opinion, rather than demanding the artist spoon-feed me all relevant context. It seems fair to afford him that same latitude.
The only additional insight I can offer beyond what’s visible is that (1) the anime-head triptych is the oldest of the bunch; (2) I never noticed the second mouse in this sculpture until I uploaded my pics hours later; and (3) the samples I’ve glimpsed of his digital art — created on his own free time for his own purposes — haven’t been too shabby, either.
When he heads off to college in the fall, he’s aiming to produce more such works, possibly pursuing related fields further into adulthood. One relative has already gone behind my back to try talking him out of his dreams. My son is well aware he’s not exactly following the easiest of paths, but it seems more than a bit distasteful to try selling him on becoming an assembly-line cog or a cubicle pet instead. Let’s wait and see where his walk takes him before we start nagging him about course corrections.
In the meantime, here’s hoping we’re privileged enough to see at least a little of his college-level work in the years ahead. Until then, we’ll have to content ourselves with what you see here. If any or all of them are allowed to come home with him, you can bet those’ll be on display here for loved ones and unappreciated doubters to come gaze upon anytime they want.
I’m gonna need a bigger refrigerator. Maybe an entire walk-in freezer.
[All paintings in this post are © 2013 the artist in question, whether he cares or not.]