My One and Only

Despite its title, this post isn’t about my marvelous spouse. But it could be. After all, like the actual topic of the day, marrying him is one of the most meaningful, fun and satisfying achievements in my life, and an act I intend to perform exactly one time ever.

But don’t we all have those? There are certain life experiences that we are so glad happened or are so pleased we did, yet there’s no intention whatsoever of our repeating the episode. Whether it, like my marriage, simply cannot be replicated in all of its fabulous fantastic-ositude-inous-ness, or it’s too expensive or difficult or ephemeral to do more than once in a lifetime, there are just things that will only occur once in our lives.

Making a stone sculpture is one such thing, for me. It was a required project somewhere along the course of my art studies, and I am glad it was required, because I doubt I’d ever have attempted it if the materials hadn’t been put right into my hands, the techniques taught to me on the spot, and the work necessary for me to fulfill the requirements of the class. I’m old enough by now to have figured out that there are a whole lot of activities and things in life I’d never have dared try, let alone figured out how happy I was to pursue them, if I hadn’t had to do them. Stone sculpting is one of those things that fell into the been-there-done-that category, finally, but besides having a decent little piece of art to show for it I am glad there was that one chance in the beginning.

Photo: Alabaster Sculpture

My very own [Untitled] alabaster sculpture, the one and only. Approximately 7.5″ (19 cm) H x 8″ (20.5 cm) W x 11″ (28 cm) W.

Luck and happenstance, of course, have their own parts to play in the determination of whether any new experience becomes a one-off or a lifelong passion. Or, like my marriage, a one-time event that turns into a lifelong passion.

In the case of the rock sculpting, there were a few particulars that [ahem] shaped my attitude about the experience. One was that when the pile of alabaster hunks appeared on the table in front of my sculpture class, I chose a piece, lone among the heap as far as I remember, that had no major, unavoidable fissures in it. This allowed me to make a piece that was not a lot smaller than the original stone without having large parts of it crack and fall off. And my bit of alabaster had some nice coloration, attractive pale veining, and a natural overall shape that guided my sculpting choices. So all I did was refine the existing form and exaggerated it, and that led to the abstraction I made in the end. I just aimed for a sort of rounded Henry Moore-ish sculptural curvaceousness to showcase the silky, milky beauty of the alabaster as best I could. It was a slow and fussy process to chisel out an alabaster sculpture, and it made me ever so much more appreciative of and awestruck regarding the accomplishments of all real stone sculptors throughout the ages. Also, glad not to put my perpetual laziness into extended servitude to stone carving.

So, yeah. I made an alabaster sculpture, and I kind of like the result. And I’m happy that I did it, that I had the experience and learned a deeper appreciation of that art form. And yes, I am also pleased that I don’t ever have to make another alabaster sculpture, with the possible exception of the if-and-when instance of my deciding someday to have another go at it. Meanwhile, I have a decent memento of the experience. And if I get tired of it as a decorative object, it’s big and heavy enough to make a decent doorstop. If not beauty, then utility: that’s kind of how those once-or-more decisions can go.

The Fine Art of being Meaningless

When I was teaching, I hated grades and grading. Even more than when I was a student. I understand the desire, even the need, for being able to assess and evaluate and compare and all of that sort of thing, but my idealism would much prefer to believe in a world where people do the very best they can at whatever they are doing and that, all by itself, is grand enough. I know plenty of practical reasons why this fluffy fantasy can’t work 99% of the time in reality but it certainly never affected my intense dislike of the whole quantitative approach, most especially when it had to be applied–as empirically and evenly as possible, of course–by yours truly in some areas that are arguably quite subjective.

So I set up criteria as clearly as I could and identified particulars of skill, technique, fact, synthetic application of knowledge and so forth that I considered worthy of the study, and took what measures I could to insure that all students got equal access to those resources and had the opportunity to learn, incorporate, express and otherwise use them. And I gave out grades. It was my job.

But in that aforementioned reality, my own version of which I quite happily embrace post-teacherhood, I am not bound by any requirement to make or evaluate anything on the basis of comparison with anything remotely real, not even the stuff of other people’s invention and making. And I must say that I do appreciate my freedom. Sometimes there’s simply nothing more satisfying than writing or drawing or otherwise making decidedly unreal, if not impossible, things for the pure fun of it. Maybe it just appeals to the rebellious kid in me. Maybe it tickles my fantastic fancy. Who knows but what a miraculous accident could happen one day and I might invent a magnificently useful Thingummy of some sort.

But that’s not the reason to make these things anyhow, now, is it? What is most pleasing of all about the creation of any object of ridiculous and pointless nothingness is the act itself. It’s a fine thing to make artwork of any kind just because one can, to enjoy the creative process without regard to the outcome’s being anything but entertaining for me, myself and I. Yes, that’s what I like. No grading, no evaluations, no need to worry about whether it’s beautiful or meaningful, let alone realistic, because this is my own reality, my own personal little world.

And you’re welcome in it, as long as you know the only rule is that there are no rules, and the only value assessment I’m after on the occasion is whether I had a good time and got some valuable yet enjoyable practice in the process of creating my little graphite universe or my textual treasury of the moment. Well, there is a second rule: you, too, should feel free to visit my place of creativity without being required to grade anything, including your own experience of the stuff, and free as well to leave without being expected to like or dislike anything. Though I sure do like it when anyone is moved by my selfless acts of ridiculousness and leaving my meaningless soul exposed in public to do the same, without fear of recrimination or evaluation, and with the infinitely happy sense that such silliness is not only permitted but encouraged in this neck of the woods. Have fun, y’all. I am.

graphite drawing

A Machine for Making Nonsense