A few weeks ago, while cleaning out their house, my parents found my old high school art portfolio, which they sent home with me. It brought back some memories of the 1990-1994 years. My art teacher, Mrs. Ring, was a huge hippie. (Was? Is. I mean, I assume she’s still alive unless she died in some freak paint-sniffing accident.)
She loved symbolism and managed to fall into a lot of the stereotypes that you think about when you consider high school art teachers. Relaxed, not really concerned with rules, flexible with grades and attendance, high half the time, etc.
At that point (who am I kidding?) in my life, I prided myself on being controversial purely for controversy’s sake. The way I figured it, by being controversial with my art, I’d be more likely to get a higher grade and I could keep my GPA as high as possible. I took International Baccalaureate Art with Mrs. Ring for three years, maybe four. And the fruits of my labor could be called art, but let’s be honest and call it “shit” instead.
First, as we go through my portfolio, we see the basic still-life pieces, cornerstone to any art class, followed by the surrealism piece that shows that I was destined to be a fat kid:
But then we get to the senior thesis part of my art class. Using different media and different techniques, we had to demonstrate a theme. And apparently (although I can’t remember exactly) my theme had to do with sex and oppression.
This was the computer graphics portion of my thesis. Keep in mind this was in 1993-1994. We have four different pieces all depicting women keeping men down. From top left, clockwise: Woman pushing man down with some random text about white males getting the shaft, Ms. Pac Man eating the male ego, a woman’s hand coming out of a man’s crotch (or is that a womb?) and a sword wielded by a woman going through the face of a man. I bet Freud would have had a field day with these, although I was purposely trying to shock Mrs. Ring. Which never worked, either. She was fucking unflappable. Oh, and did I mention that she was a diehard Democrat and I was a hardcore Republican at the time?
Here’s my social commentary piece. A nice subtle pro-life piece. I think this might be mixed media, because I think I see some watercolor and maybe some marker? Who the fuck knows.
This cleverly titled piece depicts a train going into a brown fur-ringed tunnel. Pictures of women from magazines were cut out to make the mountains around the tunnel, which also happened to look like legs. On either side of the train are two different hand shapes – one forming a hole and one with a finger protruding.
And this was the highlight of my entire thesis. I convinced my best friend Sabrina to pose for me and sketched her warding off an invisible foe. The background contains the lyrics to Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “Hold Her Down”, which may have been the song that inspired the entire thesis. I had broken mirror pieces glued to the tinfoil cloud, and used tissue paper to make her clothes.
I look through these pieces and realize (1) I may have been more controversial as a teenager than I am now, and (2) Mrs. Ring really should have suggested counseling after seeing these pieces. I also wonder, because I can’t remember, if some of my choices were conscious or subconscious. For example, why is Sabrina’s body separated into pieces? Why are my hand and fist painted red? Why are the pregnant woman and the train so starkly white? Are the reds and oranges present in those pieces on purpose? Why on Earth did I think I should have gotten laid in high school?