Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last Pieces

My dad learned he was going to be a parent in his senior year at Long Beach State. He was an art major. My mom was living in Humboldt at the time in what should have been her senior year at Long Beach State.

I never really appreciated what that must have been like for them until I became a parent. Here they were, in the height of their ideals, and those were some pure ideals in 1970. I imagine my dad being excited about getting out of school and into the buzz of the experimental real world. I doubt he expected to be responsible for supporting a family at 21 years old. Then his baby came, the ultimate in buzz kill technology.

In my early years, my dad got a day job but stayed up late to do his art. I told people I wanted to grow up to be an artist, because HELLO, I like to paint too! And, what's a day job? We had his modern art throughout our home. One painting was hung in a diamond-shape in our living room. My dad ditched it at some point.

When I was in kindergarten, I woke up at what seemed like the middle of the night wanting water. I walked downstairs and found my dad hovering over a large canvas crowded with loud colors. By the following morning, it had become frothy swirls of grays and whites that resembled an aerial view of the ocean. How did he do that? I think he eventually tossed that one in the trash.

My dad is infamous in his family for destroying his art. There is a story I haven’t thought about it in a long time, and I’m sure my details are wrong, but it goes something like this. My dad was showing his work at a party in Humboldt. Maybe I was on the way. He overheard some partygoers talking about his paintings. I have no idea what they said, but you know how people talk about modern art . . . oh, it’s a circle on a square? I could do that! I hate it when people talk like that to this day. Don’t you get context and concept? Have you heard of symbolism? There are worlds below surface understanding, People.

My dad wasn't a fan of the responses his art elicited, so he lit his paintings on fire at the party. That can't be right . . . that just seems so unsafe. Maybe, he ripped the canvasses off the wood frames and kicked them a little. Anyway, I still find it upsetting that he destroyed his work.

There may be only two pieces left. One, I’ve had for a while. When I was packing my belongings a couple months ago, my ex said he was really going to miss it. I relayed that to my dad, who suggested I offer it up for twenty bucks. See? He’s still trying to get rid of his art.

Here it is. It’s called Earthdance, and it’s dated 1969. I haven’t hung this lovely in the apartment yet, but I will. It reminds me of damp earth.

I’ve been eyeing the second piece for a long time in my parents’ garage, making them promise not to get rid of it. My ex claimed it gave him vertigo, so I left it where it was. But when I moved, I knew it was time to rescue the second painting and just in time too. My mom said my dad tried to throw it in the trash while they were cleaning their garage the other day.

There’s a story that goes with this one. When I was in first or second grade, I had a small chalkboard on wheels in my bedroom. I walked in one evening to find my dad intently focused on my chalkboard. He had been drawing something that looked like sound waves, like music. I’m not sure if that’s how he described it or if I made that up. He told me he was going to get my mom, and as soon as he walked out of the room, I erased his picture so I could get started on my own. When he excitedly brought my mom back to show her what he had created, probably over no short period of time, it was gone.

My dad was obviously upset, which offended my little girl sensibilities. What? You don’t know that chalkboard drawings are only temporary? It was my turn! Anyway, he turned his concept into a painting, and here it is. I’m so glad it’s safe, but I’m documenting it just in case he does away with it when I’m not looking.

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