Thursday, August 18, 2016

8th Grade Art History and Rome 2016

  My father could sketch a little.  My cousin Junior, his nephew, was an artist who did beautiful water color landscapes. My brother's daughter Amanda draws beautiful portraits.  My sister could draw a little.  My ex wife drew very well.  My daughter Katie is an excellent artist. The Sampson's had artistic genes.  MY MOTHER COULD NOT DRAW.  She had absolutely no talent  at all for drawing.  My Aunt Louise, my mother's sister, could not draw.  My mother's mother, my beloved /grandmother had no artistic talent at all. The Roth's could not draw.   My name may be Sampson but the lack of artistic ability is pure Roth. I can not draw anything.  Even my stick men look like a five year old drew them. 

My two nightmares in school were gym and art class.  I could not catch a soft ball or throw a football.  I was raised in a holiness church and I can you now I experienced sanctification praying to the Holy Spirit to keep that softball away from me in the outfield.  Whoever said you can't pray in school never stood next to me in gym class.  Had it rained every time I prayed for rain on gym day my home town would have been washed down the Chesapeake Bay many years ago.  My junior high and high school gym teachers were good men.  They never made fun of me or made me feel inadequate.  Although I already felt that way they never encouraged it.  I always was graded a B in gym class.  Years later I talked with one of my gym teachers and asked him why he always gave me a B.  Obviously I was not a B student.  He told me "You always came to class.  You wore your gym suit and you took a shower. And you never gave me a problem." 

My seventh grade art teacher was never so kind.  She knew I had no artistic ability.  She knew her assignments were way beyond anything I could do.  And she never gave me a break.  She assigned us paper mache animals.  We had to use coat hangers, newspaper and wheat paste to create animals.  I was in a panic.  Other students were already molding the shapes of horses and dogs and even fish.  I decided an octopus would be easy.  I took four coat hangers and a ball of newspaper and formed my octopus.  Of course an octopus has eight tentacles and I only had four.  But I knew I could never mange bending eight arms into place.  My teacher never corrected me until I was finished and we had to present our projects to the class.  When I presented mine she asked "What is that?"  I said an octopus.  She said it has four legs and looks like a camera on a tripod.  I just wanted to crawl under the table and hide.  Another time she assigned up to make mosaics. We had to draw a picture and color it with pieces of construction paper mosaic style.  Once again I was in panic mode.  I could never draw a picture much less color it with pieces of colored paper mosaic style.  I ended up drawing a big head much like the heads on my stick figures.  I gave it a large head of hair that flipped up on the ends.  I was making That Girl.  When she was grading the finished project once again I was asked "What is this?"  I said "That Girl".  She told me "That is not any girl I have ever seen."  I have a feeling if my gym teacher had been there he would have understood exactly who it was and why I made it.

My eighth grade art teacher was the best.  She knew not all of us were talented but she assigned projects we could at least try to work on with some success.  She also taught us about art history.  She taught us about the appreciation of art not just the creation of it.  We were a small rural school.  Going to Baltimore City was a journey for most people in my home town.  Mrs. Smith, the art teacher took us on a field trip to Baltimore to see The Agony and The Ecstasy, the movie about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.  I was fascinated with the movie.  I learned about the great artists of the period and got to see their masterpieces.  And this little gay boy also got to see Charlton Heston in a toga  through most of the movie.  I was spellbound.  So there I sat watching every stoke of his hand and every movement of Charlton Heston recreating this great Michelangelo's masterpiece.  We were in the huge and beautiful Mayfair Theater in Baltimore.  Everything about this experience spoke to the little boy from Havre de Grace, Maryland.  Sadly now the Mayfair Theater sits in a shambles in the inner city of Baltimore.  I have taken photos of it on several occasions still remembering the school field trip.

Mayfair Theater, Baltimore 2015I
I made my first visit to Rome in July 2016 fifty years after junior high school art class.  The appreciation for classic art that I learned from Mrs. Smith has remained with me all of these years.  When I travel. I want to experience the food and the art from the location I am visiting.  So Rome as a dream come true.  From the wine, to the pasta, to the Bernini angels I overdosed in Roman culture.  The highlight was on my last day in Rome when I finally go to see the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's masterpiece.  The room was crowded.  People were standing shoulder to shoulder with no room to move.  But I didn't mind the crowds.  I was back at the Mayfair Theater and twelve years again.  I could see how Michelangelo created the scaffolding and climbed to the top of chapel exhausted to finish the finger tip of God touching Adam.  There were signs posted saying no photography.  But there were people snapping cell phone photos all around me.  I didn't want a cell phone photo though.  I wanted a real photo for this special moment.  So I worked my way to the center of the room and lifted my camera up, with no flash, to take my photo.
My photo from the Sistine Chapel - July 2016



I had my moment.  Actually only a second.  I was tapped on my shoulder by a security guard and was told no photos allowed.  I explained I did not use a flash. He said very abruptly "Turn it off." When he left I turned quickly to sneak a photo of the back wall which had Michelangelo's The Last Judgment.  As I snapped the photo the guard returned and said to me "Turn off NOW."  So I  did.  And I departed the chapel after having a very special moment with the arts.  I can't help but feel my seventh grade art teachers spirit was guiding that guard to me just to harass me once more.  But my eight grade art teacher was standing next to me smiling.


My photo of The Last Judgement - July 2016

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