Monday, April 24, 2006

Creative Dynasty

One of the earliest American painting dynasties was the Peale family of colonial and revolutionary times. Although I have never cared much for the work any of the members of that family produced – I do admire the manner in which it became a “family business”.

The Wyeth’s are another remarkable family, maybe mostly because of their stylistic diversity. The clan’s father, N.C. Wyeth was an accomplished illustrator that home-schooled his children and taught them the technical aspects of studio art. Andrew Wyeth, the son, is a favorite artist of mine, particularly his series of “Helga pictures”. Anyone that has taken an Art Survey course will remember his famous 20th century masterpiece “Christina’s World”. Click here to see some examples of the “Helga pictures”.

There is actually a Wyeth-family-only Gallery, located in Santa Fe. Unfortunately it involves a lot of prints as opposed to original works and the family collection seems to have grown to include in-laws and such (or basically anyone that married into the family and once took an evening class on Tole painting).

Can one control the formation of a “creative dynasty”? My daughter wants to be a writer (although when this eight-year-old is not sitting in her room writing short stories, she is in my studio painting scrolls); I named my other two sons after authors but they spend every day with me in the studio, painting. The oldest boy’s name: Samuel Harrison comes from my great-grandfather Samuel and the Montana novelist Jim Harrison. The younger boy: Dylan Thomas… well that one is a little more obvious.

My two and three year-old boys, Dylan Thomas and Samuel, actually try and have conversations with me about paintings, because they have figured out that they have meaning beyond just being pretty pictures. My daughter’s young mind has made the natural decision that Dylan Thomas will be a poet like his namesake and Samuel will be a painter because he has the same temperament as his father. I’m not sure. It is always amazing how different a group of people can be despite the fact that they share the exact same genes. Madeline is intelligent and nurturing, but always stopped by a good story. Samuel is aggressive, yet protective – devoted to his brother and absolutely passionate about painting and the outdoors. Dylan Thomas is gentle, yet comedic. He always stops people to ask if they are “okay” and if something scares him, the easiest manner to help him overcome his fear is to expose him to the farce of the situation. I look at my children and I see Dylan Thomas traveling to Tibet and India to study non-violence, Samuel following in order to trek the Himalayas and protect his younger brother – while Madeline hangs out in New Delhi to record their adventure.

My parents wanted my happiness in life, but they also wanted me to have security and the available “out” of retirement. I’m a different father than any I ever knew, personally. I don’t want my children to be “professionals” - I want them to slug life, while remaining free from the illusions of company policies and politics. I don’t care about the refuge of retirement or a health plan with good dental coverage. I don’t want them to have some career that they will only need until they can finally retire. Life is brief enough without spending 20-25 years (Kindergarten through grad school) training for a job that doesn’t stir excitement every day you do it.

As much as I try, I’m not good at tending a garden. I’m always too busy going somewhere new. My young children have already seen further places and experienced more cultures than I did in the first twenty years of my life. Will they become poets or painters? Will they help establish my new art movement by continuing my search for meaning via art? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions – but I do recognize that the odds are much higher that they will continue their learning and travels long after I am just a memory and thus they will have the desire to live a richer life because of the manner in which they were raised. - DN

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