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Faded Pictures from a Life: Big Shot

Big Shot

1971-72

My style continued to be refined in my last years at Northern State College and I developed some interesting techniques with overlay colored inks. This interest in technique innovation has followed me my entire career. Content-wise I grew in the same anti-establishment direction. I moved to working solely on paper rather than canvas. I began working in series which was another habit I never lost. I created a series of paintings on the seven deadly sins and another on the levels hell, all focused on contemporary society. I began entering regional art shows and had some success.

In my senior year I had to do my student teaching. I was assigned in the Fall semester to my old high school in the same rooms I took classes in. I was not assigned to my old mentor but to a younger teacher who was teaching beginning classes. He was a good man but I felt he was not that interested in art. He was an avid hunter and spent much of my student teaching time out duck and goose hunting. This left me as THE teacher. I tried to do my best but I was not prepared for that level of responsibility. But maybe I am trying to blame others. My interest was in being an artist. The lack of interest in some of the high school students in these beginning classes was most certainly not hidden. It was just a class in which to goof-off and get some credits. I decided high school teaching was not for me.

This left graduate school, after which I could teach college with more serious students and have time to make art. Well, this is fine but who says an OK student from a small college in South Dakota (of all places) with an education degree can get into an Master of Fine Arts program? Fortunately I was too naive and thought too much of myself to let this stop me. I applied to half a dozen schools and was miraculously accepted to the MFA program at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. At the time I had no idea that this was a prestigious school and program, I was just happy to get in. My daughter had been born in January of 1972 and in honor of this I had done a short series of paintings on conception. The first was a reclining nude with sperm swirling about her, the second was the sperm entering the vagina, and the third the sperm attacking and penetrating the egg. I had included these three paintings in my graduate school application portfolio. I later found out that these were the paintings that gained my admission to the U of I. One professor on the selection committee latched onto these paintings and insisted on my admission undoubtedly making trades with other professors.

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