Huntress of the Lens


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yay! Art is pretty!

When I first started writing my presentation for Art History- Survey of Islamic Art I was feeling oh so clever.
Let me give you a short background of this class and my enrollment in it: Michael took a class with the same teacher last semester and would come home every evening after class very excited about whatever they had covered that night. He told me the teacher was fascinating, and that just when he would start really getting into an era and want to go in depth about it the class would move on. I understand, they were surveying art from paleolithic times to the middle ages, not really a lot of time to linger over the cave paintings or the Greeks.

I hadn't taken a class in some years, the only reason I even attend college is to learn things I'm interested in. I have sixteen unrelated college credits so far. I decided I would join Michael for a semester with this teacher he enjoyed so much. (If I were to write in a blog that he has a total crush on her he would become defensive and deny it, so you won't see me writing that here.) I'm an artist, of course I would enjoy the class, and it was something we could do together. Along with that, I was pretty sure I could beat him at the class since I already knew what things like reliquaries were without even taking the first semester.

I have a deep vein of competitive lust in me. I am compelled to make anything into a competition, and Michael is an easy mark. I'm not saying he isn't highly intelligent, he is, I'm just saying that his thirst for blood in any challenge is not matched by my own. You may assume that this would mean I was into sports, or even a sport, but you would be incorrect. I hate all sports. I find my competition elsewhere. Art history is a competition, and I entered the match with the intention of winning. I see pumpkin carving, cake baking and story telling in much the same way.

He did score slightly higher on the first quiz than I did. He had already passed a course with the Queen of Art History and told me just how I should study to get a good grade on it. He was either trying to trick me, or she was just quizzing differently this semester because it is the first time this curriculum has been taught by her, or at the college we go to. It was all new ground and I listened to his advice that one and only time. "Do you want to study together?" he offered so sweetly. "NO! I want to beat you in this class!" We did our own thing from that point on.

The trouble with learning things that have specific dates attached to them is that I simply have no hook to hang that hat on in my mind. Add to that the fact that the Arabic language has nothing in common with the Germanic or Latin based languages I am familiar with and I can't use any of my regular little tricks to remember the name of anything. Oh, and everything seems to start with the letter M. So in reality I should have done far worse on the quizzes than I did.

My God though, the art! Going to class every Tuesday night was like sitting in a two hour History Channel special on things that are mind-bogglingly beautiful, and being able to ask the program narrator questions as well.

I remember a time in my tattoo career when I discovered bubbles, and every piece seemed to call for a bubble or two. This Islamic style of pattern and geometry, color and complexity is going to bleed over into my own work in the same way, I can feel it.

Marriage counselors suggest a designated "date night" to keep your relationship lively and interesting. Tuesday night: Art, competition and pancakes. That's been our date night for a whole semester. We go out for pancakes to top off the evening, and it's dedicated time where we just get to be with each other and I have loved it dearly. A chance to eat weekly pancakes and best my husband at some intellectual pursuit? Priceless.

We've occupied the same two tables in the back of the room every week, for two reasons: One is that I am left-handed, and all college desks seem to be designed for a right-handed student. I have to sit sideways to write and never feel like I have enough room to spread out and get ready for some fun. The other reason is that the two tables are together and we can sit like we're married. I always think of those two tables as the "married tables."

When I first introduced myself for my presentation I said "Hi I'm Laura, the older lady who has been sitting behind you all semester. The one with no filter for what is appropriate to say in class, and no volume control." Sometimes I think I am speaking very softly when the truth is I am saying it right out loud in my outdoor voice. One time when I fell asleep just a little bit (but not really) Michael poked me and said "Honey, you're sleeping." because I know he was afraid I would snore. I said "WHY DO YOU KEEP POKING ME?" and got that look from our teacher.

Yep, here I am, the old lady from the back of class, up here to make an extra-credit presentation.

Other students had obviously put a lot of time, effort and study into theirs. As I watched one after another I started feeling sheepish for seeing this as an opportunity to make people laugh. There are art history majors in this class, and it's serious business for them, their grade will affect which universities they get to attend when they finish up at our little junior college. I started to feel like I had brought the wrong thing to show and tell, like a douche bag or some condoms a kid might find in their parents' bathroom. It might seem like the other students would be as fascinated by these strange and foreign items as you did when you first found them, but going last can really highlight the fact that what you chose to show and tell is not really going to fit into the common scheme of things.

I made an Ottoman Empire hat to wear. It looked like a combination of a poorly constructed chef's hat and a cooked package of Jiffy-Pop popcorn. I drew a mustache on my face to complete the mood before starting the presentation. They laughed.

Laughter from a crowd, any crowd, when you are trying to be
funny on purpose is like a drug. I am addicted to this drug, and can never truly get enough. I hadn't written or practiced the talk that went with my Keynote presentation, I knew that to ad-lib it would either sink or sail me. I worked in Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears (at their best and very worst) when talking about harems. I used slides from artwork we had actually studied, but wove them into a nonsense commentary of my own design. I used a very elementary drawing program to make pictures of my teacher, both happy and angry to use in conclusion. To be honest, I was just playing up there.

I have no idea whether or not I will get a good grade in this class. At least one answer on a quiz I took was a frowny-face with an arrow drawn through its head. I do know though, that I have had more fun taking this class than anything I've done in recent history.

I'm almost positive that I have won this class and beaten my dearly beloved husband. Who could ask for more?

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The fish can fly, the dogs and cats dance together and all the flowers are edible.