Sunday, April 21, 2019


 This is Nick.  Nick is leaned up against his 300 pound public sculpture he recently installed on campus.  Nick is kind of awesome.  Let's talk about Nick.

Nick is graduating in a few weeks.  He has one week of classes left in his final semester of college.  Actually, only a half week of classes left because he's skipping some classes this week to go to a couple of concerts.  I'm not mad.

Well, I'm mad, but not about that.  Here's what I'm mad about...

This is Nick's most recent sculpture.  It's a steel table, a steel chair, a steel sign and an aluminum energy drink can, all polished and shiny.  Formally it's good.  Conceptually it's even better.  But I think I have to give you some background information for it to make sense.

Let's go back to freshman year.  Nick was quiet and wore a lot of black.  I met him as his academic advisor and he was in the Visual Art degree with a Graphic Design emphasis.  Second semester I had him in my 3D Design class.  He mostly suffered in silence.  That class isn't very fun and I do my best to goof around and lighten the situation.  Nick was a tough nut to crack.  Lots of walls.  It was clear he was not interested very much in 3D things.  This was a class he wanted to get through and put behind him.  He did survive and then he had to make it through one more of my classes....Sculpture 1.  It's a class he should have taken the semester after 3D Design.  First semester of his second year.  His advisor told him to do so.  But Nick has a mind of his own and he decided he was going to wait.  The following year his advisor told him to take Sculpture 1 and he decided he was going to wait again.  I happen to understand the mind of a rebel so I didn't yell at him.  Not that it would have done any good.  

First semester of his senior year he enrolled in Sculpture 1.  This was his last chance to take the class and graduate on time.  Honestly, I wasn't very happy about him waiting so long to take the class.  At this point he had taken about 40 photography classes and dropped his Graphic Design emphasis.  He's a great photographer and I'm convinced he'll be in National Geographic someday soon.  But after 3 years of college, in a degree that encourages students to develop a broad range of studio abilities, he was only flexing one muscle.  And time was short.  I was frustrated.

I'll spare you the details but Nick did really, really well in Sculpture 1.  I'll admit that I was surprised he did so well on the first project.  Not because I didn't think he had ability, but because I was familiar with his attitude toward Sculpture in general.  As I watched his attitude change and his work habits develop positively I was less surprised by the second and third project.  And then only mildly surprised when he asked about taking Sculpture 2 this semester.  I know, right?

In January we started the semester and the upper level students spread out in the studio and many of them found "spaces".  Our studio is small so it's tough to provide individual work spaces for students to use exclusively.  Nick and I ended up sharing a table.  It was sort of a joke at first.  The table he started using to store his materials was close to the tool room.  When I needed to repair a tool or sit things down for a couple of days, that was my table.  I kept putting things on his table and he didn't know it was me.  He eventually left a note that said "This is Nick's table.  Please stop leaving things on my table."  So naturally when I walked in the next morning, I grabbed a Sharpie and adjusted the sign to say, "This is Nick's and McAbee's table.  Please stop leaving things on our table."

So we had a table.  And conversations and jokes.  Then he went and made another great sculpture, that one he's leaning against up there at the top of the page.  Nick started to realize he was good at more than just photography.  That confidence was good for him.  

This academic year I've watched Nick grow as a student and as a human.  He's more actively involved in the department and he has a positive attitude.  I mean, he's still likely to just stare at me blankly when I wave at him across the crowded plaza during a class change, but he's just as likely to shout "MCABEEEEEE!" at me in the same situation.  Sculpture did not do this to him.  But the confidence he's gained from his successes has definitely helped him grow.

When Nick was gathering ideas for his Senior Show proposals, many of the projects he proposed to enter were sculptures.  One in particular grabbed my attention.  His proposal was to take the steel table we shared for the semester and strip it and polish it.  He'd do the same with a steel chair.  He'd have to have one of his ever-present energy drink cans (which I really hope he'll give up soon so he doesn't die) along with the infamous sign, recreated in steel, sitting on the table.  Not only was it an epic idea, it was also a nice little high five to him and to me.  

So now he's done.  Graduation is less than a month away.  I'm very happy for him, of course, and I know he'll be very successful.  I just wish he would have discovered his sculpture self a couple of years sooner.  That's what I'm mad about.  

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