Thursday, February 01, 2007

Have You No Shame?




Who was this man? This lone man making shameful drawings, rendering with pen and india ink on paper drawings depicting comic book panels and the antics of heroes and villains grotesquely engaging in sex? The usual fisticuffs and mayhem and murders were replaced with impermissible partnerings.

He was making a kind of home made pornography, indulging in a kind of Gilbert and Sullivan Innocent Merriment. He was middle-aged, celibate, married. He was a loving father, a devoted husband – made his living as an art teacher in the public schools on Long Island, in the State of New York. This pornography was all done in secret.


Irving and Millie, his parents, kept his birth identity from him during his childhood. The truth they kept from him was simple: he was not Millie's. She was not the woman who birthed him.

He learned of this at a summer sleep away camp. The man who came to tell him this was his real mother's husband. He found out where he was staying that summer and came out to visit him, show him baby pictures and street-vender photographs he'd seen and knew to be of him. Ones taken of a child he had been long, long ago. He said her name was Tillie (not Millie). And that she was Irving's first wife.

It was in the ciphers of this man's drawings that the realization blossomed. The drawings bespoke a deep deprivation, an obscene injustice, namely that his parents had taken something very real from him – his identity. His right to know and be himself.Who was this man? This lone man making shameful drawings? Who rendered with pen and india ink on paper (pure whimsy,) drawings depicting comic book panels and antics, of heroes and villains grotesquely engaging in sex? In impermissible partnerings instead of the usual fisticuffs and mayhem and murders?

He was in the middle years of his manhood, (late thirties, forties, fifties) a celibate man, married. He was a loving father, a devoted husband, made his living as an art teacher in the public schools on Long Island, in the State of New York. This was all done in secret. Was, if truth be told, captive to this whatever you call it, his 'pastime'?

There was in this, a kind of naivete, a Freudian role-playing. He imagined that he was in some way learning what it was to truly be 'making art' -even as he was making 'pornography'. He was being an artist, and also the school teacher who seemed to recognize understand that this was an emulation. What he was achieving was what the Dadists and the Surrealists had already done at the beginning of the century. He was following in their footsteps, the incomparable Marcel Duchamp and his adored hero, Pablo Picasso.

His drawings were more than porn. He was seeing them as 'Ciphers'. They had in them secrets. Perhaps of Mankind. Or just his secrets. Even as to who he was!

For three or so decades he'd been in its thrall. He had come to ascertain profound realizations -epiphanies. He'd known nothing of his origins. Nothing about the mother he'd sworn an oath never again to see or communicate with. He'd effectually cut himself off from his own identity'! He'd existed all this while with truly no real sense of his having one. It was to be without having a soul. All this had been hidden, obfuscated because of his parents -their shame and embarrassment as to who he was. Admitting who I was was to be publicly disgraced and shamed.



Their keeping the man-become-artist-and-pornographer's birth identity from him and therefore from the world he would also have to keep that secret from his two younger brothers. This inflicted on him terrible harm. He would in introspection look at his own actions and indescretions, his own flawed behavior as the cause of shaming them, being an embarrassment as well as a burden. Throughout his childhood, he would feel this way and never comprehend there being any other explanations for it. It was perennially a cross of guilt he bore for having continually failed them, for having been the ingrate, and the fool. The secret was so simple: he was not Millie's. She was an impostor. The man who came to tell him this that summer day in the Adirondacks at a summer camp was his actual mother's husband. He found out where I was staying that summer. I was a camp councelor. He came out to visit and show me baby pictures and that street vender had made of me on a pony.I'd seen them many times, knew it be of me. I was the child long, long ago. Her name was Tillie. (Not Millie). And she was Irving's' first wife. The teenager, when his father came out to tell me his side of it had pledge and promise tearfully, never to see Tillie again, 'this whore' this cuckolding female -never again!

It was in the drawings, the ciphers they comprised that the realization blossomed: the merriment felt and achieved -were to reveal how profoundly that child had been abused and harmed. The obscenities as per drawings bespoke deprivations, obscene injustices -namely that my parents had taken something tangible from me -my identity! My right to know I had one, and be the man I have become."

2 Comments:

Blogger Mirjam said...

The three drawings which you have included with this blog entry are truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing them.

February 1, 2007 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Norman said...

Mirjam,

These are very recent. Two of the drawings were scanned from my drawing book, translated into jpgs. The third is what I call "Photoshop Art /Copier Art" -versions I can print out as well as view on my hard drive. I am constantly translating my pen and marker originals with computer tools that cut and paste, provide me with new colors & filters that can warp, change, and layer the components. I love making variations:
permutations and combinations....

You can see examples of this process in some of the art exhibited in prior posts, (See "Genes & Memes")

February 2, 2007 at 6:57 AM  

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