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An In-Artful Sculpting

I do not consider myself an expert in much of anything; not even myself. Were that so, I believe that I would already own an island somewhere and be the benevolent despot of my own utopian state. I do not consider myself an academic. Though I hold a deep and abiding love on knowledge, I do not hold any degree in any disciplines that would make me expert in much of the historical, sociological, psychological or other information that I reference in this work, but I am not (completely) ignorant in these areas either.

What I do bring to this effort is a perspective. A seemingly unique perspective as I have been told many times. Not singular, but one that I have been told many times seems new to the many people I share it with. And I do share it with many. I will speak more on that later. For now, leave it said that my perspective is informed by the above-mentioned disciplines. Coupled with my own life experience has allowed me to develop a system of briefs that I believe are critical to share. Especially now.

“In” artful Sculpting”

Twisting muscle. Breaking bone, warping psyche. Starving spirit in the name of a half-truth. This may start in the individual but is an inevitability that it will bleed into society. When you build an idea on a half-truth, you are manufacturing a whole lie. All societies are imperfect. Usually history is the way we come to this truth. For a multitude of reasons, we are not a practical or reasonable expectation for the old world. This does not have to be the SOP for the world we live in now.

The way the sickness played out in my life became clear to me at an early age. As the virus ran through me, it left scars.

I carry scars of many compromised identities, many that were given to me because I was “not enough” of one thing or “too much” of another. The blessed curse of this was that I became aware of this at a young age. No child wants to feel “not enough” especially for things that they cannot control. The way I spoke. The way I looked. My interests and curiosities did not fit comfortably in the in the living experience that surrounded me. Far too often the reminders of the differences were brusque. It can make the most venerable live in places they would never choose ranging from confusion to hurt to trauma to terror. Some of these feeling are an inevitable part of the growing experience, but in healthy child development there are usually supports to keep youth from going too far down those darker paths.

These are the engines of incredibly strong and solitary feelings. I know now that I was far from alone in these feelings.

For many, those events may not be construed as scars, but as the natural, cultural sculpting that is done to us in the name of giving us an identity.

Whether it is family group, community, sports team or any number of external markers, we are told that this is who you are, or worse, still are not. “Don’t talk like that!” “We do it this way!” “Our people have always….”. You can fill in the blanks with a million-score little do’s and don’ts that are driven into us. This is the path you should stay on to become “Who you are supposed to be”. If you accept the social and cultural adjustment that your world tries to craft you into, then it feels like sculpting. Beautiful. Precise. A loving and necessary process designed to create a work of art, special and unique in all the world. The sculptors are engaged in the process of creating something to behold. They are creating something unique. It is a slow and painstaking process that asks tender loving care of them. Therein lies a large part of the problem with this sculpting people.

The sculptor must understand the medium that they are working with before they can give it all the care and precision the raw material deserves. You would not work in stone the same way that you would work in clay or wood or ice…or paper. One tool does not fit every medium, yet this often is what happens to us even at the youngest of ages.

Though you have come from them, you are not them. Though they have total control of you for your young years, many of the systems and beliefs that were in play when they were a child have been improved upon. Any parent will tell you that the process is an ever-changing mix of art and science. Most did not show up for those or science classes.

Many so-called sculptors are only schooled in one medium. The one they were raised in. Even within this reality, how much attention were they paying to the critical lessons? They may have taken for granted themselves much of their own creation process, so they assume that what worked in the past will fit the task at hand. How many are true masters? How well does this training ground we call society teach them to be adaptive, responsive, flexible and receptive to change? Too often we are treated as clay to be molded, squeezed, pulled apart and smacked back together in the name of seeing the acceptable parts of ourselves in a new creation. Similarly, we are taught to sublimate those parts of our raw selves that society does not have the time of patience to honestly examine.

It is not coincidence that the word parents get most tired of hearing from their children and children seem programed to say the most is “why”. We are, even at a young age, far more capable of being challenged by a complex world than we are given credit for. No parent has the time to answer every “why”, but often what is overlooked is that this is a young person trying to take part in their own creative process. The creation of an individual is a collaboration. Too often, for good or ill, we treat it like an assembly line whereby the end, you have become a parody of individuality. Even the best of artists must compete with the greater society that they live in. This is not easy task even in the best of circumstances.

How well do we work to give these young “potential” masterpieces a sense of knowing and acceptance that starts from multiple dimensions within them? How do we then build out that concept to show them the beauty of the nature of difference of a larger world? How much do we infuse the narrative of complex compassion into the differences they see? I would assert, not enough. This is truly tragic. Especially in the United States.

If it is done well. If you have a skilled artist or if the child is not paying attention, it does not even feel like sculpting. Sometimes it feels like nothing. It is just the “is” of who you are. You are told that you are a work of art special and unique in all the world. Just like “us”. Welcome to parodyville. Population: Just like you.

If it is not done well. If for some reason we can’t accept these “adjustments”. Some of them just don’t make sense in their small but acute mind. Sometimes the child just “knows” that something is wrong. If the artist is unskilled or overconfident of their skill. If the artist is not receptive to the medium or the materials that they are working with then it is not sculpting, its cutting. It is an assault. It is the brutal process of having piece of yourself cut away or torn off. If they are left in place, they are constantly judged as “not good enough” or “odd”. Sometimes those parts are pushed down or folded over. They are crammed into small places that cannot be seen. There is little that is beautiful or precise about it. The questions “why?” are usually met with those things patronizing or hurtful or worse. We are made to feel like the things that make you unique and special in all the world are anything but that. You are told that those things that truly make you a singular, beautiful work of art do not matter, or worse, still make you wrong.

To be clear, I am not talking about the type of necessary nurturing that everyone should get. You know all the “Eat your peas.” lessons that build your humanity, and thus society. The work hard in school. Tell the truth. Take responsibility for your actions. Treat people the way you want to be treated kinds of lessons. The last one does get to the heart of the sculpting issue though.

I know that no one was asking me how I felt about the “sculpting” I was going through. Sadly, I also know that had to do with the time. I came up on the back end of the children should be seen and not heard era.

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