Not Exactly Art Class but-
spoke out for all you troubled artists during formulative years of grade school
A Postscript to speaking to teachers working with in the Gifted Student Program, Honolulu Public School District
February 2, 2005
Several weeks ago I was requested to be the guest speaker at a symposium for teachers that work with gifted students in the public school system here in Honolulu. The director of the program had spotted my artwork in a restaurant and through it identified me as a "gifted" artist. So she wanted to have me share my life story with the group as a sort of "case study" graduate of the school system, long term. Like most artists, I prefer to work alone in the studio and with my hands, not stand in front of a group and engage in public speaking. But I decided to forgo my comfort zone thinking I could gain from this opportunity as well as witness to teachers that a problem student can end up a success after all. I was considered below average in grammar school.
Facing the moment after the facilitator's introduction, of making good a delivery of information that made it worthwhile to attend for the participants, I searched for an approach to present the material, which was, besides the art, myself. I ended up writing three separate articles about myself - growing up, the conflict of dual roles of practicing dentist and working artist, and a postulation of a new kind of giftedness - the "Black Sheep Gifted," for which I was the living embodiment.
The three writings were to serve as guideline for the oral presentation but became mere "handouts" for reference to what I actually delivered that faithful day. I wrote the first, it didn't seem right, so I wrote the next, and again, back to the drawing board... Till the day before I was yet unsure of a course for delivery of the "speech" in front of a group of professionals who do this for a living - stand in front of class and lecture.
As an artist I found myself consumed with converting the alien classroom (with teachers as my captured audience) into my controlling and safe domain as a tech/digital artist. Aluminum tripods designed for organization charts and data graphs, were used as easels for my paintings on canvas. They were placed along the side walls, surrounding the listeners with my color sense and visual wit, and always within my peripheral vision standing up front as lecturer. They were like tangible supporters that accompanied me into foreign ground. Behind me, was a large screen that had my art website homepage projected from a connected laptop. So I had my security blankets in place, and commanded the group's attention with my red laser pointer. I was ready to explain, or should I say defend, my art process and how this developed from being misunderstood and even mistreated as a young student. Revenge would be mine. At last a chance to tell teachers how they screwed me up, with Donna Summer's "I Shall Survive" playing off my web site.
Dante's Inferno, oil
Murphy's Law kicked in as if predestined. It suddenly rained and the Internet connection crashed. Pressing on Web links with futility, looking as bad as any teacher I had experienced struggling with visual aids that didn't work, wasting class time. Worst yet, I was to click on the homepage and go to a specially prepared page with my talk's outline projected to wide screen. It was my guide that would direct my presentation without note cards and at the same time get fancy by using the Web, going a progressive step beyond Power Point, the contemporary instructor's favorite visual aid.
So suddenly I had to "wing it." "Do or die," go "cold turkey."
As it turned out, it was a more successful presentation than it would have been had everything worked. Why?
The need to get across the message became paramount. Even surprising myself, I was able to layout salient memories of my past classroom experiences that I believe influenced me to become a "rebel" artist and dentist as self designated cultural change agent. I then turned attention to the displayed art and explained how their content is influenced by the personality of the artist and his redirected frustration (and maladjustment) with the traditional "art establishment." Then ending on theoretical grounds for the specific interest of this professional group, I coined the "Black Sheep Gifted," how to identify them in the classroom, and attempt assessment, or refer for special attention and education. The purpose for being there became explicit: bang out the basics, make impact on the teachers on identifying and guiding the troubled but latently gifted youngster.
Self Portrait, digital
So as things played out, all the detailed planning went out the window and a sense of mission set in, overriding any sense of speaker inadequacy and fear. I was able to rise above the insecure self and communicate the message I came to deliver. In retrospect this made me realize that the environmental context was just as important as the content. I tried to physically change the ominous classroom into the gallery situation that I am comfortable in, and as digital Internet artist, do the presentation with online support like e-apron strings. But suddenly finding no wired support or online outline to guide me through the session, I became instead an almost evangelistic promoter, even salesman, of digital art and Webism. My lecture became a performance, animated by my bodily gestures, exagerated facial expressions, and delivered with an actor's passion for his scripted lines. An alert speaker cannot help but react to the nodding, approving heads, empathic smiles, sympathetic frowns, bursts of laughter of a receptive audience. This all built confidence in the continued approach of presenting the material with strong emotional overtones, in an appeal for the validity of aesthetic worth of digital art and the denouncing of discriminating "bad rap" it receives in reviews by unenlightened, unwired critics.
Phantom Space, oil
There was an effort to persuade the group to agree with these conclusions, postulations, and suggestions for application with their students, using one artist's trial and error approach to life to survive early mistakes by his educators. So for all the genius artists out there who felt they weren't understood, even "messed up" in school, - This blog's for you!
The referenced handouts to the session's participants (for any who want to do further reading)
- or living with the infliction of the Art Gene Syndrome
The Gifted Black Sheep Student
Rat in a White Lab Coat & Wired to a Mouse
Your reflection piece on your day was so introspective and honest. Your audience that day appreciated your candor, your message, and your pursuit of excellence. I do!. Again, thank you for the day, for your friendship and for being our teacher for the day.
Susan_Kusunoki/HONDO/HIDOE@notes.k12.hi.us - 2-2-05