In the summer between my junior and senior year at college I had the easiest job I’ve ever had. I was the “Gallery Guard” at the Wriston Art Center at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. My responsibilities included using a handheld clicker to count the number of visitors, and making sure that nobody touched any of the art. Sometimes I didn’t have to reach for the clicker all day. Honestly the toughest part of the job was not falling asleep, a requirement that was made even harder by the fact that I had carried over a very comfortable armchair from a nearby frat house to the art center for myself to sit on all day. Afternoons were the hardest to get through.
First I set about devouring Tom Robbins’ entire catalog. When that was done, I went for Herman Hesse. I made it through Steppenwolf, but Siddhartha had me falling asleep every few minutes, so I needed something else to do. I decided to grab a black Sharpie and start doodling on a blank canvas.
At first the doodle was completely free-form. I wasn’t trying to create anything in particular. I remember envisioning just a big swirling black-and-white pattern. Though I was specifically trying to avoid creating a recognizable image, it didn’t take long for an image to form. At first it was just the mouth. I didn’t quite know what was going to go in the mouth so I left the inside blank and just finished doodling around it. The form of an elephant took root because the tongue started looking like a trunk. Eventually it ended up being a large black-and-white trippy doodle of an elephant being devoured by a mouth – and it stayed that way for around six months because I thought I was done with it. I’ve hunted high and low for a photo of it at this stage, but even though I know I took one, I can’t find it. Maybe I’ll update this post at some later date if I find it.
Fast forward to my final semester in college. I’ve taken forever to finish The Kiss, so I have very little time left to complete the last painting that I was required to. Suddenly I remembered the elephant sitting against the wall in my dorm room. That was practically complete even though it didn’t yet have a drop of paint on it. So I went to work using thin glazes of paint so I didn’t obscure too much of the detail I had put so much effort into. The coloring was complete in a couple of hours and I submitted it as my final painting.
I named the painting “India” because everyone kept calling it Ganesha (it’s not – Ganesha is always represented with a broken tusk – my elephant has no such dental issues). I also think that it looks more like an African Elephant than an Indian one, but…