Friday, April 3, 2009

Kindergarten Art Conspiracy

I'm a pack rat. Well, not exactly... I'm an archivist. I've held on to many invaluable things. Invaluable meaning not able to be valued or assigned any value because there exists no inherent value. You know what I mean-- old grade school papers and drawings, magazine clippings. Stuff that is really fun to run across when you're looking for something else.

Among the archives there exists a document from my kindergarten class. It's a compilation of drawings that attempted to define me and my dreams and aspirations at the time. There's the requisite hand tracing and foot print. There's the drawing of this and the drawing of that...

But I remember one of the pages distinctly. It stands out from all the rest. Not because it captured some nuance or reflected some early signal of artistic talent. But because of the mystery and conspiracy. Because the page is not mine.

The rest of the pages I identify as mine easily enough. They are my marks, and my words have been added by a teacher's aide transcriber, as dictation was taken. The aide, or perhaps the teacher, added the text of my words where appropriate and even wrote my name in the corner of the page. To keep mine separate from the others. Because there was more than one Michael in the class. Always was.

Growing up, I was very rarely referred to in class as simply "Mike" or "Michael"-- it was more often "Mike A." or there was some sort of calculus that determined one of the "Mikes" would go by "Mike" and another would go by "Michael" in the interest of minimizing confusion. I seem to remember, however, that one of my classes had four "Mikes" in it, and there just wasn't an easy way to keep us separated in people's minds. It created a "Mike-demonium" if you will.

So surely it's understandable that there would be a slip up in the processing of things in the classroom now an again. We humans make mistakes. It was inevitable that a student's drawing might be mis-identified or passed back to somebody other than the drawing's creator. Certainly, the adult mind can maturely assess the possibilities and rationally surmise a simple solution to this conundrum. If there is a mature mind...

I, on the other hand, am more prone to explore the conspiracy.

Each student had been asked to do the same project, and produce the same series of drawings about themselves to be assembled in a booklet. The teachers had assisted with keeping the drawings straight by writing the student's names on the pages.

Or had they?

On one of my pages, I didn't recognize the marks, the concepts. The words captured by the teacher did not ring true-- they sounded like a small bird flying into a window. I knew they were not mine as soon as I saw them.

At the bottom of the page was written the name, in the teacher's handwriting. There was a "Michael" alright, but it was followed by a "W." Michael Williams. This was Michael Williams' artwork. He wanted to be a racecar driver. Not me.

Further fuel to the conspiracy theory lies in what had been done to the "W," apparently after some event that created this cover up. The "W" had a line through the middle of it, an apparent late addition, in an overt attempt to simulate an "A".

So was this artist robbed of his property and given someone else's as a forgery? What had happened to his original? Had the teacher deemed it so superior and elegant that she claimed it as her own? What circumstances could have led to this forgery of another "Michael's" work?

And what was the explanation offered to Michael W.? Did he simply have a "Michael A." forged into a "W." among his other work? It would seem strange that the two would have been so completely altered instead of being matched with their proper person...

So what of this situation? 'Tis a mystery with no break in the case, no leads. What is the most logical explanation?

I agree. My drawing was stolen and stashed, and has been cooling off over the last 35 years, collecting even more worth that I will never enjoy.

But I've got the other drawing still.