• Created: 2010-07-23 11:28:18


    This post has been parked here waiting to be edited. It's now completed.

    Last week I spent an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago.  When I taught at the School of the Art Institute about 10 years ago, I'd spend my lunch hours wondering the museum.  At first it was just something to do, but eventually I'd stumble on to pieces that moved me, made me think, motivated me to focus on my own work.  Being in the museum helped me realize I am artist, a craftsman, I belong in this world, I feel something when I'm surrounded by art, and it feels good.

    But last week's visit was different.  When I got to the museum I was agitated, I couldn't concentrate.  Ironically, just that morning I made a breakthrough on the piece I've been working on for weeks, I was eager to continue working on it. I'll be done with it within a few days.  The types of wood are more than difficult to work; wenge, ziricote and African blackwood.  All very hard, and very expensive.  No room for errors.  It's technically one of the most difficult pieces I've created.  Ever.  I've improvised, experimented, meandered, been angry, frustrated, elated.  And as a result I've found new ways, good ways to work.  It's pushed me to my limit, but now, near completion, I'm confident, satisfied, pleased.  Hungry for more.  I'm proving to myself I'm capable.  I'm working at a level I've avoided, but I can work at this level.  But The Art Institute? I didn't want to spend time in the museum, I wanted to work on my own piece

    I had to force myself to go into the museum, but in only a few minutes, that feeling from my lunch hours when I was teaching, returned.  It's safe here, I belong.  For once, I didn't pay attention to time, I relaxed, I absorbed all that surrounded me.  I went to my favorites, a small Russel Wright wood box, a George Nakashima chair and a Hector Guimard chair.  Drawings by Walter Burley Griffin.  American Decorative Arts.  I went to the classics, Georgia O'keefe, Grant Wood's "American Gothic".  I made my way to the Modern Wing, (the architecture alone is stunning).  I recently discovered the work of mid 20th century contemporary abstract painters.  Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock.   Suddenly, out of nowhere I find myself completely drawn to their work.  And then I found a Mark Rothko painting in a contemporary gallery.  I couldn't take my eyes off it.  It filled me, it woke me up, it explained my work to me.  I could imagine him making this painting in his studio.  By connecting with another man's work, my work is now more relevant than it ever has been.  I'm ready.  I'm ready to go.  I can do this.  My work is here, it belongs.  A day away from my workshop, from my project, was completely, utterly productive.


  • Created: 2010-06-18 10:21:06

    When he was in high school, my bother was a fine athlete, a gymnast.  Life in our 1970's dysfunctional, suburban, Jewish family (redundancies intended) revolved around his every move (pun also intended).  His gymnastic abilities were the one bright spot in a dismally low luster family existence.  But he lived in fear.  Fear of losing the trick.  Because he lived for gymnastics and by only two terms, get the trick and lose the trick.  He'd spend hours dreaming of new tricks, reading about what the Olympians were doing.  He'd go in the gym, have a big practice, and he'd learn it; he'd get the newest, most difficult trick.  The next day.  Fear, fear, fear.  "Please, please, please don't let me lose the trick," he'd say to himself.  Because sometimes, for reasons unknown, he'd just un-learn it as quickly as he learned it.  Do it once, never understand how, and never do it again.

    My dad, our dad, ironically never lost the trick.  Ironically because he lived, in the second half, a small life.  But that was against his will.  There was always something getting in his way, sometimes only himself.  He had plans, they never seemed to materialize.  But he never lost the trick because he never lost his curiosity, his willingness and eagerness to learn.  He could figure out anything, not always in the most conventional way but he always got results, he would always get the trick.  He always wanted to know more, always celebrated the intriguing and interesting.  And he always pointed out those things to me.  He rarely missed that opportunity, he led me to water, hoped I'd drink.

    I've lived in fear of losing the trick, in life and in work.  Do something, create something, discover something that just makes me stand up straight and take notice.  I've been afraid of not making it happen again.  Or worse, not making it happen in the first place.  But my life's momentum is building.  My son Stuart, makes me proud every second of the day.  He's looked difficulties square in the eye and stared them down.  His trick getting is positively astounding.  He's on his way.  DePauw University is waiting, he's more than ready to conquer the world.  And my work brings me delight every day; it's better than ever.  I keep getting  trick after trick, I have the confidence to know I'll never lose even one.  I've had lots of help.  Good and special friends, good clients, my son, my dad.  People who have believed in me, opened my eyes and reminded me getting the trick is very very good.  It's never easy, it'll never be just handed over, but it's there if I keep seeking, keep trying, keep being curious. 

    So on this Father's Day, thank you Stuarty, for teaching me how to be a dad.  For making me proud of your trick getting ability.  For inspiring me to be even a fraction as good as you.  And thanks Dad, for always knowing how to get the trick and allowing me to inherit, at least some of that most perfect skill.



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