Maybe I could have believed it after looking at the odd-shaped photorealistic paintings of clouds, or the conference of nearly a dozen porcelain toilets in the middle of the room, or what looked like an drawing Shel Silverstein would have done while taking acid named something to the effect of “A Beautiful Woman Shaves Her Hairy Gums.”
What stunned me were the pieces of art that looked timeless, looked beyond my ability to conceive of. A canvas, as big as my bed, depicting an armored female set against a descending purple twilight. A classical sculpture, in wood and maybe bronze, of a man wearing a boar’s skull. Painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, all from people who are a part of my generation. Did the student who painted the female warrior watch the same He-Man cartoons as I did? Or, have I lived in a world apart all of these years, separate from the dimension where these artists exist?
In the gift shop I became enamored with a sketching set, suited for the artist who is constantly sketching in the margins of her notebooks. It combined a simple book illustrating how lines form to create simple things like cats, people, and chairs with a neat black sketch book, three pre-sharpened pencils, three sticks of charcoal, and a black crayon of wax (I forget what those are called).
I was determined to buy it for someone – almost everyone I spend my spare time with is an artist of some degree. Any oft hem would appreciate it. But, as I held it in my hands longer, offering it to Erika and Mellon to examine, I realized that all of the people who I wanted to give it to had made it past the margins-of-a-notebook stage of art. I had seen their art, in their rooms, hanging from magnets on my refrigerator, and even decorating their furniture.
No, the set was not for them. It was for me.
So far I have drawn a paper bag, Erika springing from the ground like a tree, a page full of felines and rodents, and a sketch of a Waterson painting. All of the images are imitative, even Ent-Erika, all trying to achieve an image that I have accessed once before. Every time I turn my glance inward I am rewarded only with blank white space, which is mirrored by the empty page in front of me.
Do the artists have a verdant jungle of imagery inside of them, pressing against the backs of their eyes and the insides of their fingertips begging to be rendered into real time and space? Or, is it that they see the same world as I do, yet are inspired to capture the fleeting and intangible beauty of it so that it can always be seen?
I suppose you could ask me the same question about my songs, and my answer would be that it’s all of the above – sometimes they spring from within and sometimes I observe them outside of myself. Sometimes, though, they really do spring fully formed from the proverbial thin air, begging to be formed into something more.
I bought myself a sketch book so that I can learn where to see.