In my freshman year of college, my professor was a swinging sadist. I had no first hand knowledge of his sexual proclivities other than that he was sleeping with two of my classmates who were already going steady with each other, “Peter” and “Ann.” That he was a sadist, I knew first hand from the classroom.
He taught Life Drawing, a class that required as its only materials an 18 x 24″ pad of newsprint and pencils of our choosing (I was a #6 B pencil kind of girl). We were required to sketch a model who shifted position every few minutes and capture in the brief time we had the model’s movement and mass. As we drew, “Professor C” would stroll up and down the aisles and stop at a student’s desk for only one of two reasons: To offer instruction, or to tear a palm sized hole from the middle of the student’s drawing – a vivid indication of his disapproval. He never said a word but would walk away, and the dejected student would fold the page over the pad and start again with a new sheet.
I went through so many sketch pads in the course of that class that the art store accused me of using the paper as hand towels, Kleenex and toilet paper. The toll on my wallet was nothing to the years shaved off my life, startled as I always was by a hand coming out of nowhere to rip the soul out of my drawing. When I had the chance to reflect on it, I wondered, too, how it was that he managed to tear a hole from the middle of the page without also ripping the page off the pad. I don’t know. Practice?
Though I was occupied with my own troubles, it wasn’t lost on me that “Peter” and “Ann” finished each class with every page of their sketch pad intact, and that at the end of each class, they smugly packed up their belongings and left with the professor, presumably to do lurid things with each other in triplicate. I was a freshman and it was a bitter pill to swallow.
I didn’t like the man and resented his blatant favoritism. I wish I could tell you that he was eventually brought up on academic ethics charges and humiliated out of the profession, or that he contracted a disfiguring disease that caused his genitals fall off. Both could be true, but once I transferred to an out of state school, I put him behind me and out of memory. His influence on me, however, remained. As much as I despised him, the only positive thing he ever muttered in my direction caused me to consider a different direction for my life. I did graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, but his words, “You should write, you’re not bad,” made me realize that a person could paint vividly with words as well as with oil paints. I hated that a person I so disliked at a visceral level could be right.
I hadn’t thought about this guy since bell bottom jeans were popular the first time around, and I probably could have finished my life without having done so had I not spotted this at a New York City flea market a few days before Westminster: The drawing caused me to stop in my tracks. I recognized the paper and was all too familiar with its size. I could even guess the type of pencil used. Before me, I saw the work of an artist who put pencil to paper only as many times as it took to convey the fleshy weight of his subject. No more, no less. This was talent and the drawing was good. Really good. It looked nothing like what I remembered of my sketch pads. Once I returned home to Colorado, I unearthed those old sketch pads (and yes, I saved them – foolishly, I suppose; I was proud of some of the drawings Professor C hadn’t eviserated): The sketch pad was as I remembered it: The cannibalized remnant from my freshman year.
In what I hoped was a sign of good mental health, I put the sketch pads away, content with my life, and hoped that Professor C was a miserable shell of a human being with no hope, no dreams, no life, and withered, useless genitals.
An interesting juxtaposition of radically different political views:
A puppet doll so creepy that it ranked alongside circus clowns as something only a twisted adult thought a child would like. To this day, I don’t know any kid or adult who wasn’t disturbed by clowns. The dog miniatures were appealing if you collect that sort of thing.
The only other thing I saw that I would have taken home with me besides the drawing was this old trunk (which I do collect). Trunks have become too expensive since the days I refused to pay more than $25 for one. It was time to go. I had a fashion show to attend.
As I left the building, I noticed this display in a storefront window next door. I made a mental note to come back for it.
Next: The New Yorkie Runway Doggie Fashion Show – or how I saw my drawing come to life