Art is My Religion

January 22, 2010

Why Art is My Religion

Filed under: art,blogging,poetry,short stories,Uncategorized — Michele Spector @ 2:15 am
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By Michele Spector

Sophomore year at college I majored in fine arts and took several art studio classes: color theory, design, drawing, etc. Because I had to produce art in such quantity for a grade, I loathed it for the first time in my life. It was not until I took an all-day sculpting class at an artist’s house, that I actually found my first love–sculpting.

It took major arm twisting from my roommate to overcome all my stupid objections to take this class. After I got past my final excuse, I wasn’t really a morning person, I relented. Then every Friday morning at 8 a.m., I boarded that little bus, steaming coffee in hand, to go to mainline Philadelphia to my mentor’s house.

I look back on my first day like a fantasy. I entered this new world through the side door of his house. When I left for the last time, I would never look at myself or life the same way.

But on that special day, I trailed after my classmates through the backyard to be greeted by a huge bronze of Anna Pavlova, the ballerina. I wondered why anyone would put such a huge statue in their own garden. Later I found out they were good friends, and she had posed for him.

His house was equipped with three studios. The first was for making our own pottery glazes and where we finished our sculptures. The second was a beginning sculptor’s studio, and the third was for the advanced. Outside in the back was where the molds were cast.

But for the first couple of weeks we were in the basement to get used to working our hands in clay. It was great. I loved getting my hands full of clay. You see, I was never allowed to play in the mud as a kid.

Later, when we were moved to the beginner’s studio, the teacher gave us a lecture on proportion. It was his first of many. “You cannot simply have a beautiful arm, or hand. It has to all work together.”

His student helper posed nude for us the second week. We did this for the next few classes. Those first drawings were very crude, and I was intimidated by the process. I wondered if I would ever be able to do this, and maybe I wasn’t good enough. But then the day came when I was given my own sculpting stand, tools, and Plastilina (oil based clay) to make my first bust, a head.

It was magical how it came to life beneath my fingertips. I finished it the first semester, and went on to make many small sketches in clay that were fired. I just couldn’t get enough of it.

I discovered I actually had a natural talent for this. My teacher said, “You don’t know what you do, but you always do it right.” For him it was simply a matter of putting the clay in the right places, and I guess I did.

I was indoctrinated into art in a different way than the university I attended. There was no competition, but rather an atmosphere of comaraderie between all the student artists. It was a comforting place to learn. My teacher had such a reputation that he was often visited by students of classes from many years ago. He was 83 and had been teaching a long time.

He definitely had a different way of doing it. He showed us how to draw from deep inside ourselves. I learned more in one afternoon from his single demonstration than I learned in a whole college semester in another sculpting class.

The most important thing I learned about art was its ability to transform a human being. My teacher once said, “If you ask me what I think, I would say that art is my religion, my reason for living.” And I have to say that it is also my own.

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