By Anna Sadovskaya, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 17, 2014
For my 11th birthday, I had a party at Zap Zone. I invited girls and guys, but only one boy came. He felt lost in the sea of budding women and ate pizza for a long time, silently, while the rest of us played arcade games.
He had gotten me a paint set (or was it a step-by-step guide?) and left before I opened the rest of the presents. He felt sick, he said. I watched him bolt to his mother’s car, sprinting faster than any sick person I’d ever seen.
I had sat behind him in history that year, which led to a strong fascination with his dark hair and scratchy handwriting. I had a crush, and as I clutched the paint set on my way home from the party, I vowed to make him something, anything, to show I took his present seriously.
I started by trying to emulate Picasso, in hopes of thrilling him with my knowledge of cubism (which was incredibly lacking) and Cézanne, because I remembered loving Curtains when I saw it in a dusty art book. I tried painting trees, birds, grass, rocks, lockers, smiles, eyelashes and fingers. I was 11, and I hated everything I ever drew, and I never ended up painting anything for him. He moved away a few years later.
When I was 13, I had an English teacher who would check our homework reading for margin notes, and look us in the eyes when he found something unsatisfactory. He would bend close and say “this makes me want to weep,” and then we’d blush and hide our shame in the next day’s homework, filling the margins with notes that we hoped meant something. Our weekly quizzes snuck up unexpectedly, with Mr. Greenwell stopping mid-sentence to whip out the stack of questions meant to trip up those who had neglected to read “The Odyssey” the night before.
I wrote poems in that class. I wrote them because I wanted to create something like Yeats’s “Adam’s Curse,” and I was young enough to believe I could in 9th grade. I showed Mr. Greenwell, and he didn’t say much — he was usually sparse with compliments, and I thought I could just crawl under a rock and everything would go on fine. The next day, he matter-of-factly told me he had signed me up for a literary reading that weekend, on the corner of North University and State Street. I rooted myself to my chair and said nothing for the next hour, which docked me participation points.
I remember standing on the podium that balmy Saturday, intimidated by the beautiful poems that preceded my own. I read, and felt nothing except the self-consciousness that plagued me during my high school years, and sat down to the clapping, looking up only briefly at the other performers.
Junior year I had a Spanish teacher who could pronounce my last name. The strong intonation on the second syllable, a soft lull during the three consonants and a drawn-out “aya” that made me sit up straighter in class and volunteer to read. Lorca’s “La Casa de Bernarda Alba” became my favorite part of the day, and as our Spanish 4 AP class muddled through the dense play, I wrote scenes of my own in the back of my notebook.
Cast as a townsperson in “Wonderful Town,” the second semester of my senior year of high school consisted of endless chorus practices and choreography rehearsals. I only joined the musical because my best friend did, and I sat in a corner of the green room during opening night wondering how I had managed to spend three months with the people around me and like hardly half of them. I went on stage and led the conga line, realizing I hated musicals and the person directly behind me.
I am made up of fine art, in ways that had nothing to do with appreciating beauty and relishing the finesse of a master’s work. I am edged with experiences that allow me to quote Dante’s “Inferno,” or break out into “Phantom of the Opera” songs. I rarely do either, and yet because I have formulated among cultural experiences that had little to do with “culturing” myself, I can say that fine arts have shaped my subconscious.
In reality, art doesn’t have to be high-brow and upper class. It doesn’t have to be seen in museums, or travelled to from other countries. It shouldn’t be all about reading for the sake of keeping up with someone else. It can be as simple as liking someone who gave you a cheap Michael’s paint book and an empty Thursday night.
It’s not about what kind of things you know, or how many concerts you’ve been to — what even constitutes fine art anymore? It’s about something that piqued your interest, and lead you down a rabbit hole fueled by Saint-Exupéry and Mahler.