A Work in Progress

I’ve always been inspired by artists like those in this month’s feature. Unfortunately, inspiration doesn’t equal talent
Aaron To

As a kid, I had friends who pursued ballet or acting with an intensity I reserved strictly for ensuring I was in the front of the cafeteria lunch line. It wasn’t that I didn’t have dreams. It was just that my dreams involved things like teaching my dog to bite my brother or graduating from the third grade. I liked to think of them as short-term goals.

My parents set their sights a little higher. I was in elementary school when they began sending me to piano lessons. I was keen on this idea because I desperately wanted to master Beethoven’s Für Elise. Not because of its musical beauty, but because I’d once heard it on a McDonald’s commercial and associated it with French fries. As soon as I’d learned to play the part in the ad, though, my interest dropped dramatically.

Thinking that perhaps it was merely a matter of instruments, my parents allowed me to switch from piano to viola several years later. Unfortunately, the resulting “music” fluctuated somewhere between the sound of dying cats and a broken Dispose-All. It became clear it was time for me to find something else when the orchestra conductor was forced to stop in the middle of a concert to ask me to just fake my bow movements.

I decided then that I’d been pursuing the wrong form of art. It was time for a move to theater. My senior year of high school I tried out for a one-act play and was given a part. I was a boat—as in, an inanimate object that would sway back and forth on the stage to simulate the movement of the ocean. I don’t want to brag, but I pretty much nailed it. I didn’t know it then, but this was the pinnacle of my life as a performer.

College opened all kinds of new artistic doors. I gave some thought to becoming one of those serious art people who can look at a video of a person sitting silently and muse about how deep and thoughtful it is. I tried it once at an exhibition opening, but accidentally spent five minutes discussing the unusual beauty of what turned out to be a trash can.

That is how you end up surreptitiously crouching behind a park bench with a zoom lens and praying that two strangers make it to second base.

My final foray into the art world came when I signed up for a photography class. At the beginning of the semester our professor announced that we were to choose a theme to photograph throughout the semester to turn in as our final project. I envisioned candid photos like Alfred Eisenstaedt’s shot of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day and quickly chose “public display of affection.” But taking photographs of people making out is much more uncomfortable than you might initially imagine. You don’t want to look creepy so you have to hide, and you don’t want them to stop the PDA so you have to snap photos quickly. And that is how you end up surreptitiously crouching behind a park bench with a zoom lens and praying that two strangers make it to second base.

A true artist would have seen this as a low point that could inspire future works. I saw it as a nice way to wrap up my brief photography career before I was arrested for being a peeping Tom. Occasionally, such as when I see talent like that displayed in this issue, I’m inspired to attempt another artistic venture. For now though I’m confident that the world is better without my screeching viola or intrusive photography. But if you know anyone looking for an actress to play a boat, please let me know.

Categories: Opinion, The Buzz