The first Nobel Prize-winning analysis came from my kindergarten teacher. I made the grave error of drawing a dead black rose in a black vase on a black table with a black drape next to it. The other kids were drawing their families, their pets, and their houses.
My teacher, Miss “Sigmund Freud” Spinster, kept me after school.
“Why did you draw that flower that way?” she inquired.
“Because that’s the way a dead rose looks.”
“Why didn’t you draw a live rose?”
“Because live roses aren’t black.”
“Why didn’t you draw your family, like the other children?”
“Because my family isn’t black.”
“Well, what about your pets?”
“My dog is brown and white, not black.”
“All right, then, you could have drawn your house. Lots of children drew their houses.”
“My house isn’t black.”
A parental conference was hastily arranged behind my tiny back.
After my parents returned from “visiting a sick friend.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) they sat me down, turned on the hot lights, and the interrogation began.
“You drew a black rose?”
“In a black vase?”
“With a black drape and table?”
“Because I like silhouettes.”
I was so traumatized by this experience that I didn’t pick up art supplies again until well into the second grade. It was at the tender age of seven that I learned about the political correctness of that time.
I had drawn a monkey . . . complete with penis. And I couldn’t understand why my teacher wouldn’t put it up on the bulletin board, with all the rest of the drawings.
Rebellion was fomenting in my young mind after that parental conference.
“You drew a monkey?” my mother asked.
“With a penis?”
“Of course. It was a boy monkey. Boy monkeys have penises, don’t they?”
“So what’s wrong with that?”
“It’s just not polite to draw them.”
“I’m sure this will be news to Michelangelo,” I snorted. I was a precocious little thing.
The compromise arrived at was that, though penises were not shameful, they should be clothed. I’d never seen a monkey wearing clothes, but, eager to oblige, I drew clothes on both monkey and penis.
So much for realism in art.
My teacher never trusted me again around the crayons, however, so while the other kids got to draw, I was restricted to the finger paints. It’s hard to get much detail out of finger paints when you are seven, so the rest of the year continued in peace and harmony, though I was beginning to lose my taste for creative pursuits involving pigment.
After that year, I left off the artwork until I reached high school. Our first assignment was to illustrate a favorite poem. Some poets whose works were chosen included Emily Dickinson, Rod McKuen (gag!), Walt Whitman, and H.W. Longfellow.
I chose to illustrate Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
Following that parental conference, I was forbidden to do anything but doodle until college.
For our final exam in Sculpture 101, we were charged with creating a plasticine bust of ourselves . . . a 3-D self-portrait, if you will. I worked on it for weeks, and finished it the day it was due, just in time. It was the best thing I’d ever done, and it looked just like me.
On my way to class to turn it in, I tripped and dropped it on the pavement. One whole side of the face was now mashed to the point that it looked like I had a split personality, half of which was Freddie Kruger. Unfortunately, time didn’t permit my doing anything but picking it up and hoping that my professor would understand.
He took one look at my self-portrait and backed away from me...very slowly.
Stop by and visit me sometime, won’t you? Between 4 and 6 on Saturdays is good.
That’s the only time they let me out of my straitjacket.