Friday, January 09, 2009

Breaking Down The Body

In art school I was taught to break down the body, to use my pencil to find the length an arm, a thigh and that in between each of our eyes, lies another—the exact width and height. To draw the mouth, one must only mention the lip and the nose is nothing more than shadow. In art school one must be somewhat precise or suggest abstractly.

But the invisible line which runs down our middle, the one which claims that one shoulder is equal to the other does not exist. It is our humanity which makes one breast larger or curls the bottom lip to the side.

I ask my students to draw their world. Tell me what you believe, what you think is real. Shia is ten. Her page is blank and she tells me she believes in nothing, the whole world is a lie. It has been a lie for a very long time.

She is not being cynical. She is not coming from a desperately sad home nor has some secret I need to discover. After careful investigation and a room full of tell me mores, she believes she is in a giant play or T.V. show and after the episode is finished someone will rise from their chair, neither changed or satisfied and shut the television off and she will no longer continue. This is the truth of her world.

I tell her we are soul sisters. I want to say soul mates but believe that when she grows old that definition will grow perverted somehow. I want to explain to her how Plato split angels in two and that he said, we are meant to wander the world searching for our other half, to become whole. I want to tell her, she is one of my halves. She is a ten year old Korean girl and I am a tired forty year old woman. Together, we may be an angel.

I believe Shia will understand this, just as I understand the blank page but I am a teacher and I do not want to risk it. I tell her I know about the television show and then I begin to break down the body. I teach her to draw a man. How to measure the eight heads to the floor, how the body can be divided in two and that the outstretched hand is the same length of a face.

Lastly, I give her the eye---the one she has never seen that sleeps between the other two which are almost always open. I tell her this is where the third eye rests and only a few people know, just like only a few people understand the blank page. This is where we give them a home. We call them artists and this is the place where they live.

4 comments:

Radish King said...

Beautiful and most beautiful.
xox

Lyle Daggett said...

Yes--this is just beautiful. Thank you and thank you.

early hours of sky said...

thank you both....

you made me happy:)

Pamela said...

Lovely. You are one superb teacher and writer.