Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Adventures in Visual Art

Throughout my life as an artist, it has always frustrated me that I haven’t been able to demonstrate any real aptitude for visual art. I can find my way around most musical instruments, I’m a competent theatre artist in many areas, and I’m a pretty good writer, but I have never had the patience to draw. I just want it to look the way I want it to the instant I envision it. In fact, when asked what artistic skill I would most like to have, I always answer the same: I would love to be able to draw comic books. Sculpture is also incredibly cool; I have always been far more captivated by statuary, sculpture, and architecture than paintings or drawings. But I just don’t have the patience to do it.

So it came as quite a surprise to me how quickly I volunteered to create an artistic representation of one of the Stations of the Cross for Christ Church’s Good Friday. Even stranger, I instantly knew what medium I was going to use and what the overall look of the piece was going to be. I added my name to the list and took on the sixth station: “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.”

Now, there was just no way I was going to be able to create some kind of realistic representation of a human figure. That’s just not my thing. I can barely draw stick figures, for crying out loud. So I needed some representational imagery of suffering and a moment of mercy in the midst of torment.

I went to Cheswick Park looking for wood. There were fallen branches aplenty, but it took almost 20 minutes to find something of the right length, thickness, texture, and shape I was looking for. From Target, I bought twine, some white cotton cloths, and an assortment of nails, screws, and hooks. I also got Volume Two of Family Guy on sale. I brought the whole mess home, spread newspaper on the table, and got to work.

Now, I’ve gotten emotionally caught up in creating artwork before. Something I’ve written will sometimes move me (a confession: I re-read “Goodbye, Abnormal Jean” several times after posting it), and my own music moves me quite frequently. Seeing plays I’ve written or directed performed is perhaps the greatest feeling in my artistic life. But I have never experienced anything akin to the feeling of driving nails into a piece of wood representing Jesus. Every single nail, screw, and hook caught in my throat. Draping the cloth over the un-mutilated right side felt like an act of mercy. I don’t know if this is how visual artists experience their work of creation, but it was amazing to me how caught up in it I became.

So I brought it to Christ Church Tuesday night and left it in Josie’s office. I also wrote “BACK” on the back of it. I’m really quite nervous about this, I have to say. It’s a very abstract work in an environment where the representational image has been king for 2000 years. I have a sinking feeling that every single station (all done by parishioners) is going to be something with well-rendered human forms and then mine is going to be this hunk of wood with nails in it. I mean, for crying out loud, I had to write "BACK" on the back of it.

This whole story would be much better if I had remembered to take pictures of it before I turned it in. It also probably would have been better without the Family Guy reference.

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  • At 4/06/2007 11:52 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    I think the "Family Guy" refrence added a touch of humanity to an otherwise overwealmingly emotional peice of writing which I think I don't see enough of here.

    I've always been alright with visual arts myself: I took art all thought middle school and in my freshman year, and even considered applying to the Visual Arts branch of the CFA (although I think I made the right choice by choosing theatre), but since then I've always been content with drawing half-assed doodles and sketches on worksheets, homework, in notebooks and even for theatre projects!

    I don't know what the point of shareing that was, but it just came to mind.

    Oh, and in case you didn't notice, I deleated my Brain Damage blog (because of its lack of use and meaning) and moved my writing blog to a new host ( in case you're intrested), but I'll still come around to read and comment your blog.


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