Thinking about the relationship between what is beautiful and what is true, reminds me of one of my high school students long ago.
John was super bright, but stifled when it came to accepting his artistic talent and his brains. He was the type of boy who would rather suffer consequences from doing nothing, instead of making an effort on any given project. That’s why he was at our school for at-risk students. I loved his poetry when he did write in English, and his way of expressing himself moved me deeply.
John was also in my art class, which was a studio designed for individuals to explore any media they wanted, clay, acrylic painting, sculpture in wire and plaster, airbrush and doodling into design. My colleague and I worked hard to open up the real artistic passion, and sometimes it started with simple exploration, so the students were free to mess around for credit, and teachers gave credit for effort and completion.
John and I danced around his efforts to work on any project. He spent hours walking around, looking out the window and reading art books, talking with other students. I think he was seriously daydreaming. He didn’t hurt anyone, he seemed to really soak in downtime. I can still see his profile gazing into the schoolyard, willingly trying NOT to work, no matter the pleading. I couldn’t change that deep stubbornness, so I tried patience. It gave me a deep reward one day.
After class, John left a small abstract acrylic wash square he’d made when I wasn’t watching. On the bottom and the side of his painting, John scribbled a note in pencil that sounded to me like a prayer.
Someday I will make the most beautiful art in the world.
I stopped cold. John had left it on the table for me to find because he knew I’d be looking. It wasn’t about earning credit, but something more. I think it was about pure beauty inside his soul. The truth was inside him, and his desire to make beauty turned into a spiritual desire that he struggled to fulfill. I can relate to that feeling of wanting something pure and being afraid to strive, knowing my expectations would never allow what I perceived as true beauty to be accomplished.
John was shy when I commented about his work and the truthful beauty I found in his words. So many times in my life I wished for the same, something immortal and godlike in its power. Pure beauty. I know I can’t achieve that, but still I try when I make things.
I don’t know if John continued to make things or not. He finally graduated from High School. Hopefully he is out in the world making beautiful things he dreamed. I felt like John taught me about the power of beauty and truth, someday…..