There was a time in my life when I was invincible, my ego was healthy and I had so much self-confidence that my soul felt like it was full of helium. Then, life happened and each fall took a little longer to pick myself up from the ground, my wounds took longer to heal. I occasionally wonder if I am delusional, was I really ever the girl I remember? That girl had friends, dreams and a bright future. This woman lost her dreams, buried her friends and family, is still picking herself up. I recently found myself in need of a little reminder, a sip of the nectar called the past. Then I saw a headline in the Washington post of the end of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the School of Art that place where I was my best, from the time before Emergency Rooms, Oncologists, and the prolonged demolition of my life.
After a few hours of surfing the Internet, I learned that the school will survive as part of George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art is getting the Collection. That was a relief but I couldn’t stop wondering about my time at the Corcoran. One Year. Two semesters. I allowed myself some time to travel down the paths in my memory to another time, a distant shore. I had two professors who I admired and who made me feel like I was as good as I believed. I looked them up and found one had died of lou gehrig’s disease and the other has MS. Both never let life hold them back, their art and influence endures. I never kept in touch with any of my old friends, I didn’t want any pity. I wish I had kept in touch because obviously there is more to life’s hardship than pity, there is support and compassion.
As I wandered around the Corcoran’s web site and thought about these two artists and my stupid pride. I wandered around the online store and saw plaster casts of the marble lions from the entrance for sale. And there was the symbol of my lost strengths. On the first day of classes on a long ago September I sat on a lion waiting for the doors to open. I listened to the eager freshmen talk about how hard it was to get accepted. I kept quiet. A few days earlier I had walked into the admissions office and told them I wanted to start classes. They looked at my portfolio and asked me a question about why I had used black in one of my paintings. “Because I wanted to.” I answered with all the hubris of youth. He shrugged and said, “Okay, classes start next week, I’ll need a check for…” I don’t think my little portfolio was that brilliant, I’m sure he was tired and figured I had the arrogance for survival.
So, I started my two semesters and met teachers who gave me the tools to continue writing, continue painting, continue seeing the world as a beautiful composition and a symphony of colors. I met living poets who were irreverent and arrogant, I met living artists who were legends and the highlight was Maria Martinez. We sat at her feet as she told us of the years of failures she persevered to replicate the amazing blackware pottery of her ancestors. The high gloss finish was painstakingly hand polished and the fire carefully created using original methods. Across the street from the White House, a Hopi woman sat with us in her velvet shirt, colorful ribbon-trimmed skirt and inspired us with the possibility that there was no limit to how far we go in life creating beauty.
I’ll be forever grateful for the year at the Corcoran and thankful the school will continue. It remains one of my few regrets that I never returned. But, I now have a lion glaring at me from behind the orchids on my desk, reminding me of the cocky kid who marched into the Admin office and demanded a spot.