They Said Engineers Don’t Give Birth to Artists. They Were Wrong.
“We decided yours should be first,” the curator tells me. “We are all in love with it.”
The opening of the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art Academy alumni exhibition is just beginning when I arrive, panting after finally finding a parking spot some five blocks away. My oil on canvas, a dream-like piece, occupies the prime entrance spot. In it: two Earths, seemingly on a collision course with one another, and a red ladder with street lanterns piercing the dark blue sky raised above them. One Earth is lit up and playful, a cord stretching to power the lanterns. The other is dry, repressed, and illuminated only by a dim lamp hanging off the ladder.
“What do you think this means?” someone in the crowd asks their companion.
Six months ago, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean passed my window frame as I stared at my laptop screen and lingered over the pay button. Ten weeks and $350. I could spare the time but the money kept me thinking.
The Fort Lauderdale Art Academy bulletin had been sitting on my desk for five weeks. I’d browsed the website enough times for my computer to fill in the destination the moment I typed the first letter into the address bar. I even unpacked a never-opened easel I’d bought years before. Clearly I wanted this and, at 42 with several personal growth workshops behind me, I knew spending money on my dream was a good investment. Yet signing up for an “Introduction to Oil Painting” class seemed a frivolity. And I grew up in a family that didn’t believe in frivolities.
“You copy well,” my mother once said after she saw my near-perfect replica of Titian’s “Venus With a Mirror.” I was fifteen and spent hours with a pencil sketching everything from St. Petersburg’s Admiralty building to a portrait of Wham!, my teenage musical obsession. I loved creating shapes on paper and, despite the lack of formal instruction, my proportions and shading stood up against the originals. But neither my parents nor I thought of art as my future.
For that, I’d have to have been raised in another family.