Wednesday, January 20, 2010
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled." Plutarch
High school art is barely sufferable at best and mine was no exception. I took every class available; in fact, my senior year was a continuous stream of art classes with one exception-typing- first period. What do I remember? I remember assignments, an endless stream of assignments illustrating, symbolizing, decorating, etc, etc, etc. I particularly liked photography even though an overly attentive classmate that had a wee bit of crush on me printed most of my projects. I’m not proud of this but there it is. Truth is-I wasn’t one of the high school art intelligentsia, (but then I never have been). I could hold my own with the disaffected, mostly stoned and very groovy art crowd, I even flirted with a few of the art bad boys but mostly I was participating in my own small world of suburban misbehavior befitting an adolescent growing up in the ‘70s.
When it came time for college I fantasized about becoming a fashion designer and going to some fashion institute in Florida, which seemed exotic enough for my tastes at the time. I had probably seen an ad in the back of some magazine. But my folks could barely afford state school so I was bound for the State University College at Buffalo to become an art teacher. Growing up in the Town of Tonawanda, a blue-collar suburb of Buffalo, New York, did not present a wide range of career options for someone with an aptitude in art. My only role models were, in fact, my art teachers so I signed on the dotted line with good-natured enthusiasm and blind optimism.
The first year of college, at the ripe old age of 17, was mostly a blur. I was in way over my head and I knew it. The reality was that SUCB was a pretty decent art school and I quickly learned that I was now an even smaller fish in the proverbial sea of talent. My first photo professor was Les Krims, (yes, he of misogynist infamy) and after the first week I felt like Dorothy muttering, “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore “ except I hadn’t even bothered to leave home. Les Krims was not exactly present in either mind or body throughout the semester. I imagine he was busy collecting pretty and willing coeds for his now infamous tableaus. Thankfully I had a few years of high school photography to carry me through and I think I passed pretty much unnoticed.
Of course there were the cliques and I began to understand that “townies” were viewed differently. Students had come from all over especially from New York City and its neighboring boroughs to study here. Little did I know at the time that a few of my fellow classmates would go on to achieve almost incomprehensible fame, included in the roster: Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo.
Looking back, I did have one photography professor, the one that introduced me to historical processes and mixed media, that seemed to enjoy teaching and cared about ideas-your ideas. Barbara Jo Revelle was fresh out of grad school and eager to enlighten us. I didn’t know it then but she had sparked a small but significant flame in my burgeoning mind.