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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture, parts 37 - 40

37. To Mrs. Festini’s great disappointment, all the students, even the more serious ones wanted to switch over to casting molds and painting them with acrylics. As the class went on, it was just myself and the Captain that continued working in clay. 

38. I tried several times to make a female figure, about a foot high, but it was a hopeless idea. It was not as bad as the clay lumps with antlers, but somehow, my failed figure, was even worse.

39. You could have compared my female clay figure to those drawings you see on the walls of public bathrooms, only enlarged and made three-dimensional.

40.It is really astounding how difficult it is to craft a shape in clay that you think you understand completely, that you can visualize from every direction, only to discover that you not only can't do it, but you can’t even grasp what is going wrong.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture, parts 33 - 36

 33. The class lasted three hours, and at the mid-point we took a break and sat around drinking coffee and talking, but the captain never left his spot in the studio, and continued working intently on his sculpture.

 34. Soon we became aware that it was not just his seriousness about his work that prevented him from joining in on our breaks, from passing comments we could see that he did not get along with the other civil servants.

 35. Something must have happened long ago in the city administration, something like a promotion denied, or a reprimand, that left a permanent rupture in the Captain’s relationship with the others. 

36. One day Mrs. Festini asked the other policemen about him, and the painful silence that followed her innocent question was the only explanation I can offer you, as to why he seemed to be such an outcast.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture, parts 29 - 32

29. I realized right away that the important thing was to steer clear of the topic altogether. I dreaded the moment when she would lose her self-control and launch into an indictment of the policemen in the class, and so make a fool of herself in their eyes.

30. As the class progressed it seemed that her anger would not erupt, but there was constantly an undercurrent of sarcastic patronizing anger in her observations about the their works, but for some reason they never seemed to notice.

31. Meanwhile all but one of them took to working with the plaster casts and were happy to give up their hopeless struggle to get their lumps of clay to have any sort of animation.  The one who continued with the clay was an elderly man, long retired from the police force. He was a taciturn, quiet individual, and always sat by himself at the far end of the studio with his back to us.

32. Of all the civil servants in the class this retired “Captain,” was the only one in the room that Mrs. Festini had any grudging respect for. He was about seventy years old, and I imagine that Agnes respected him because of his serious standoffish nature.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture, parts 25 - 28

  25. She would never have said this herself, but it was obvious to me that she thought an artist’s opinions about anything at all were entirely above and beyond the ideas of ordinary mortals. You may be the sort of person who enjoys some flowers placed on a table, but Mrs. Festini was the kind of person who “really” appreciated those very same flowers.

  26. She appreciates the flower more than you do because she really “sees” the flower. It was no use trying to reason with her; even so I tried one time.

  27. I said to her, “These policemen actually do love the deer that they hunt and shoot. The best way to understand it is to consider the attitude the Native Americans had to the animals they hunted. Their adoration of wildlife reached a point of a religious intensity. The fact is, these policeman in your class retain some of that primitive, hunter instinct.”

28. But I was wasting my words with silly explanations; all she said was something about drinking beer in the woods and shooting down innocent animals with high-powered rifles.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture parts 21 - 24

21. It was her opinion that they all had no artistic ability, and more that that, she saw their attempts to craft these little statues of deer as some sort of a perverted blood lust related to “murdering innocent animals.” 


22. I could see that, in her mind, there was no difference between going into the woods and shooting a deer, and taking a little puppy and choking it to death; or even a kitten. In short, she had no tolerance for the idea of hunting, and it was all she could do to suppress her aggravation with the situation.

23. And don’t try telling Mrs. Festini that the bacon she ate in the morning was the result of the murdering of innocent pigs, that sort of argument would be pointless since she was a vegetarian, and the daughter of vegetarians.

24. Mrs. Festini was not the sort of woman who could entertain the idea that there could ever be any justification for some opposing point of view about any sort of topic. Where did her conviction about her opinions come from? I suppose it was a sort of vanity that many artistic individuals suffer from.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture 17 - 20

17. She was unsure of herself however in doing this, and put them forward as an alternative choice, or something to do in addition to the clay models they were working on.


18. As I mentioned before, there were six of these students in our class of eight, and I have to apologize to you my reader, and also to those men because I have described them as if they were all simply various versions of the exact same person. I will admit that they all looked the same and seemed to always speak with the same tone of voice.


19. The little clay models they worked on were all so similar that it sometimes happened that when we all returned from our break, they were unsure what sculpture belonged to what policeman. Almost all of them opted to give up what they were working on, so as to start in casting from molds.


20. I say, “almost all of them,” because there was one individual who declined to give up on him clay model, which we now noticed was actually quite advanced. How it was that we had all overlooked what he had been doing can only be explained as an example of the extreme prejudice Mrs. Festini had toward these men, a prejudice which I must confess I shared.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture 13 - 16

 13. Mrs. Festini, in our conversations after class, which became more and more lengthy and involved, expressed her frustration to me. “These policemen,” she said, “have no interest in sculpture at all. You can see at a glance, that all they think about day and night is the hunting season.” 

 14. “I have a suggestion, why don’t you buy a few of those plaster cast kits from a craft store. Then they can pour plaster into a mold, and go home with a realistic cast of deer.” At first she said nothing, but then, in an angry tone the protested, “This is a sculpture class, not a crafts class.”

 15. It is always interesting to observe how a person can change their mind in the middle of some declarative statement. When Mrs. Festini ended her objection to my suggestion it has turned into a question. 

16. “Casting molds of animals into plaster and painting them brown is sculpture for these students of yours,” I said. My idea must have made an impression on her because the following Saturday afternoon she came to class with a set of six casting kits for the students who were civil servants.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Captian's Sculpture 9- 12

 9. They came to the class prepared with photographs torn from hunting magazines. Mrs. Festini was deeply upset about this unexpected development. She was unable to reconcile the student’s profound love for the subject matter combined with the desire to kill and eat it. This seemed to be a perverse contradiction, but she did her best to conceal her consternation.

 10. If you remember, the first project we did in the class was the plaster cast of our hand. The civil servants in the class got through this project only because Mrs. Festini promised then they could begin on their deer as soon as it was completed. 

 11. The men began on their projects with intense concentration and their interest did not flag for several consecutive Saturday sessions, but then, at a certain point, for some reasons they could never fathom, they found that their little sculptures look strangely like crippled fat dogs, or deformed cows.

 12. They struggled along under the delusion that the addition of antlers would solve the problem, but the antlers, created with the help of a wire armature, only made things worse and yet more absurd.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Captain's Sculpture 5 - 8

 5. It was often her habit to use words like ‘pivotal’ and ‘seminal’ when trying to get us to understand why some piece of sculpture was so important. We would have taken her word for anything, since she was the expert, and we knew nothing at all, but I think she organized the trip because of the flagging interest in her Saturday afternoon classes at the museum.

6. We started out with twelve students in the first session, but by the fourth week the class had dwindled to five. It was summer, so what did she expect. When Saturday afternoon came around, most of our classmates wanted to go to the lake, and, as I mentioned before, several members were policeman and firemen, wanting college credits to add to their professional resumes.

7. They knew that Mrs. Festini would never fail anyone, so all they really had to do was sign up. Still, they always managed to attend at least a few of the classes, perhaps out of a feeling guilt.

8. It was my suspicion that they would just go through the motions of making sculpture in an absentminded way, but I was wrong about that. All of the firemen and policemen in the class were hunters, and they all expressed the desire to “make a sculpture”, of a deer, specifically a buck with antlers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Captian's Sculpture 1 - 4

 1. Why is it, I ask you, that a moment comes when we are suddenly overcome by this desire to tell our friends an account of something that has happened to us in the past, in an effort to illustrate just how stupid and naive we have been.

 2. Perhaps the urge arises simply from a desire to get others to laugh at out expense, but so often such stories fail to hit the mark, and simple result in embarrassment for all concerned. This is how it came about that I suddenly began to tell the Doctor and the Duck about the first exhibition of my artwork, the exhibit that ruined my marriage and my life.

 3. At the time I had no idea what was in store for me, and even if I had made an effort, I would not have imagined the set of events that were set in motion by an innocent trip to New York City in the summer of 1996. It was Mrs. Festini’s idea to make the trip with the sculpture class.

 4. She was particularly excited for us to see the work of some famous sculptor she was very fond of, and at the same time, there was also a show of the works of Henry Moore somewhere, whom she said was a pivotal figure.