I don’t go into my past that much, I pretty much believe in making the best of things and moving on. I realize, though, not giving you the perspective of my early life, may make the philosophy behind my work seem naive, maybe even Pollyanna-ish. Also, maybe others hearing about the struggles I have gone through, who may be going through something similar, will be able to take away from my experiences to find hope and maybe strength.
So, here goes. In my Junior year of high school, I was a very happy, good student. My art portfolio was strong. It looked as if my life was set: Art college, and then a career as a professional artist.
I have made no secret about the fact that I am bipolar. However, the timing of my first (and probably worst) psychotic episode, was a problem. Added to it, was the anxiety every teenager goes through. It came up in my senior year of high school, while you are finishing your school work and applying to college.
Let me say a little bit about what is meant by mixed moods. Strange though it seems, a bipolar can go through periods of experiencing both depression and mania, at the same time. This is what was happening to me. As it played out, I was seeing symbolism and meaning in random, ordinary things in life. I was also severely depressed.
Against this, I was supposed to do an final essay for my English class on the symbolism of a certain book. I had no filter for judging symbolism at this time, I was seeing symbolism in such minutia of my life. So, I could not finish the essay (or the class) in time for my graduation in June. I know, but I was really, really crazy.
I applied to three art colleges. The Rhode Island School of Design was considered the finest art school at the time. There were assignments to do for the application I sent. Two drawings, one of old shoes and one of a bicycle, which I completed and felt I had done a good job. Another was drawing of my choice. Remember, at this point, I had very little judgement. I could not decide on the subject to draw. Also, I was to write a biography. Again, the lack of filter made me unable to choose what to write about my short seventeen years, in only a page. So, I did not complete the application.
I applied at the Cooper Union in NYC. I was well received, and got an acceptance (if I recall correctly) on the condition that I complete the English class in time for graduation.
I applied to Carnegie-Mellon. There, I received a flat out rejection.
Many years later, I went back to my high school for transcripts. I was told, that despite the fact that I had been rejected by Carnegie-Mellon in their correspondence to me, that my high school was send a conditional acceptance, dependent on me completing English by the September start date of classes. This was something I had managed to do, and I found out about the letter to my high school many years later.
So be it. It is what it is.
Would my life have been better if I had gone through a smooth path to art college? Maybe, maybe not. I was never able to find the time or money to go back and try again. I did get art education bits at a time, although I missed the technical expertise that a full immersion would have given me.
I do think, however, that I am a person first and an artist second. The years of “keeping on trucking” taught me about the complexities and richness of life and other people that I might have missed otherwise. I feel those years also affected my artwork in a positive way. Maybe I am not the most technically able artist, but I like my style and subject matter.
So, that is my story. I am happy with my art and myself, now, so this story has a happy ending. Peace.
Here’s a piece of my art from my happier time in high school.