More Art from College Days

My very first week at college I sought out the print studio in the art building.  One Christmas I printed my own cards, of which I was very proud at the time.  I envisioned a whole series of bird profiles, in linocut and hand-tinted with watercolor.

I liked to draw anywhere and everywhere, for example on an October night at Quadrangle Club, where the conversations always seemed to turn to engineering and computers, which bored me.  A fellow club member was Jeff Bezos, who nine years later founded Amazon.com.

The hot summer I spent at Rhode Island School of Design seemed to produce more emotional upheaval than actual artwork, but a few Berol Prismacolor drawings of architecture survive, which I did while procrastinating from coursework.  My teacher that summer was the illustrator Richard Merkin, at RISD since 1963, whom we vastly admired for having been on the cover of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" album.

I took courses on fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design in New York, taking the train in on Saturday mornings.  Here the emphasis was on high-speed sketching with markers.  We covered scores and scores of sheets, and whenever I hear an old Anita Baker song I am back in that classroom.  The community of artists and models was fascinating, although AIDS had everyone there frightened as it spread rapidly around 1986.  The mood of that period came back to me in reading about the life of Illustrator and future AIDS activist Alison Gertz, who was studying at Parsons at the time.

My own university seemed to neglect its artists, or so I thought at age 20, and so Sean Sawyer and I organized what we pointedly called an "independent showing" of student art--thinking, I suppose, of the Salon des Independents.  Some of us signed the poster as a manifesto.  We were intensely proud of our show and pleased that Brooke Shields showed up at opening night.  The university paid us no attention but 25 years later announced a change of emphasis and began building a colossal Arts Campus.  Sawyer is today President of the Olana Partnership that operates a great house museum dedicated to American artist Frederic Church.