Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Vacation Ends/Prophecy Revealed

After a month's vacation, I return to chronicle my rise to artworld superstardom.
To get newcomers up to speed, I will flashback to 1997, when my young mind was undergoing slow negotiations with my decision to pursue a career as an artist. I was 20 years old and in my third year at the local university in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I was young and free, bristling with creativity and hope.

(Don't worry, the picture is damaged, I wasn't attacked.)
An assignment given by my drawing professor asked us to pursue multiple self-portraits, 7 in total, which would serve as fodder for our final critique. My solution involved combining the images into one single composition. For no particular reason, the theme I chose involved New York City.

I started with a sketch of my face, approximately lifesize, in which I held my mouth aghast. I used charcoal, and heavy weight paper. The page was then inverted, and my hair was drawn to approximate gravity under these circumstances. Held in my hand was another me, holding an even smaller third. Behind my head is the Manhattan skyline, to the best of my then uninformed imagination. Although my hair obscures the WTC site, at the time of the drawing the Towers still stood.
The original, lifesized me was gripped by yet another, larger fist.
Pulling away from it all, it becomes apparent that the largest person I am happens to be the Statue of Liberty, and my dangling succession of replicas are being held aloft in lieu of the standard, familiar torch. The drawing is on 3 large sheets of paper, each 24 by 36 inches. Then entire composition is 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
A zoom-in to the windows in the crown reveals "me" #5, the spectator.

Panning to a badge on my shirt, we find a naive reference to the only other thing I associated with New York. At the time, my thoughts regarding cities were rife with fear and disinterest, especially NYC, where I assumed I wouldn't make it 10 minutes.
Ted Stanke #7 is subtle, pondering something else from the reflection of my eye, perhaps gazing knowingly into the future, perhaps thinking about bills.
Until I found this drawing in my parents' closet this spring, I had entirely forgotten about it. I was back for a week from Brooklyn, where I've lived since 2004, and seeing it was like discovering a prophecy that had been hidden for 10 years.
The path I've followed has put me up against great odds, a midwestern outsider trying to make it as an artist in an artworld filled with obstacles, and the struggle continues. If I could go back and tell myself anything, it would be: cut up your credit cards, and cut your hair. Other than that I was right on track and am still.

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