Saturday, February 5, 2022

From Ammunitions to Angels: The Transformative Power of Art

 When my daughter was eleven years old, Papa Callan (her grandfather) gave her his old World War II ammunition box.  It was a sturdy wooden box that he carried on a transport ship from San Francisco to Okinawa during the climactic moments of the war.

You heard that right.  An ammunition box.

He thought his granddaughter might like to turn it into a storage box.  She liked the box and immediately decided she wanted to paint the slate grey exterior something more colorful.  More angelic.  And hence, the angel.  And so, it was no longer an ammunition box, but it became a dream box and she filled it with her art work.

By the time my daughter was in middle school, I had big dreams that she would attend the arts high school where I taught.  The school was in New Haven, Connecticut and called Educational Center for the Arts or ECA.  I taught in the creative writing department, but I was sure my daughter would do well in the visual arts department and so we arranged for her to be interviewed.  (This also meant bringing in work samples and a couple of letters of recommendation and being interviewed).  My daughter packed up her portfolio case with all her drawings and paintings.  She wore her favorite boots to the interview--a pair of Doc Martins that she had painted with a patchwork of various nail polish colors--green, blue, pink, purple, yellow.  She was (and is) the consummate artist and everything she touches or wears turns to art. 

At the last minute, I decided we should bring along her Dream Box.  This was not a trivial decision, because the box is very heavy and difficult to pick up and carry, but she finally agreed and so we lugged the thing from my little Honda Civic to the school, up the stairs and over to the art department.

Personally, I thought it was a great Dadaist moment--a kind performance art.  I liked the idea of re-inventing a box that was once filled with hand grenades and machine guns and had now been turned into something artful and angelic--a lovely nude, painted by a teenage girl.  There's something in this that's pure alchemy and a little theatrical.  Plus, I believe it showed her dedication to art.

And yes, she was accepted to the program and yes, she went on to become a professional graphic designer.

But, I believe this amunition-turned-dream box was the beginning of something grand, and an example of how an artist can change the world.

Plus, it's funny and whimsical and it carries a message:

Make art, not war.   

But then again, this could be just a very proud mama speaking.

Creative Friends, your assignment for this week is to look around at an ordinary object in your life and consider how you might re-invent it.  Sometimes the most ordinary things can become extraordinary when you change their purpose and identity.  And, you can make magic.  Truly.

My advice--take your art seriously, but also take it lightly.

And finally, have fun.





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