Modern Art

Everybody in high school complained about going to summer school.  “I am going to fucking summer school,” people would say and I would say it too.  Grumble, grumble, grumble.  But really I was quite happy to go since going got me out of the damn house for about 4 hours each day for sixmondrian weeks as I recollect in the summers, and it was a sure fire way to get all my “solids,” as we used to call them back then–the courses needed for most colleges.

 One summer I took world history.  A guy I had never seen before and never saw after taught it; I think they must have brought him in for the summer.  Three to four hours a day for six weeks—that was a lot of world history for a class that really had no interest in it.  So at one point, he divided us into groups and gave each group a part of the large cork bulletin boards that went all along one wall, up to the blackboard, and then with another piece after that.  Each group was supposed to decorate its part with some “theme” about world history.

My group was all guys, five us that sat together on the far right side of the room, all guys in some sport or other. We got a lonely piece of bulletin board stuck off to the right of the blackboard.  The guys really didn’t have much interest and only one idea, “Hey, Nick, what should we do?”  So I said I would go home and think about it and bring something back to put up there.  They were OK with that.

So the next time, we got together to work on the bulletin board, I pulled out all of these pictures I had cut out of Time or Look magazine.  “Modern art,” I said to these guys, “and this here is Moandrayon.  He uses like these lines and colors.  So we will use this one here and use exactly the lines and colors he uses up there on the bulletin board; and like, here where he uses nothing but white, we will stick one of these pictures.”

And I pulled out a bunch of abstract expressionist stuff in bright, and dark, and murky colors.  And I pulled out a tape measure I had brought alone.  And they set to measuring and cutting up strips and tried it this way and that and figured out how wide the black strips should be, and a couple others starting cutting the letters to spell out Modern Art.

 And the next time we just stapled up what we had, stuck pictures in the various empty spots and we were done 1, 2, 3, way before anybody else.  The guys really didn’t know what to make of it—the other groups were like painting pictures of pyramids or cutting out covered wagons to go across the plains, and what we had was a bunch of bright color.  But Buddy, my catcher from Little League, eye balled it, cocking his head this way and that, and said, “Our’s the best.”

Later in the summer, I noticed the teacher had brought a camera and he was standing in the back taking pictures of our bulletin board.  And later he got the Principal in to show him the bulletin board.  And then when the class was over, the teacher asked if he could have the stuff we had made our project out of, and we said sure.  And then I heard from a guy who went to the principal’s office a lot that our bulletin board was up in the main offices.  So I went in there and walking down a hall saw they had stuck it up a bulletin board way too small and cramped it all up.

The rubes had no feel for modern art.

I know people who say that when they are feeling down or at wit’s end or at the end of their rope they perk themselves up by thinking of good things that have happened and they get a little warm glow that makes me feel better.  I don’t have any memories like that; but if I try I can almost feel warm about that bulletin board.  Things just sort of fit.  I got to use my brains and they did the work.  We did it and we all got an A for doing it.

That was cool.

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