After we’d toured the kids around the glass factory a week ago, they spent some time in their school studio translating the experience with paper, pencil and clay. I was told that one of their Tour Guides (moi) made a big impression on them. A kind of doughy impression. Something between Francis Bacon and Mr Potato Head.
I may be lumpy, but I’m no dummy. I’d learned from my earlier hasty conclusions about the mindset of the kid who equated History with Lies: Maybe what we adults hear is not what kids are saying. And maybe what another adult tells me is a Portrait of Me is really Something Else.
So if Mrs Mudhead isn’t really me – after all, the eyewitness is over 30 and likely only slightly more fluent than myself in Childspeak – who could it be?
I showed the picture of the entire sculpture to Dan and asked him what he saw in the kid-formed clay. He totally missed that it was The Bullseye Glass Factory, the hyper-tidy little heaven that he’s preened over for the last 40 years.
Peter Voulkos? he guesses.
Oh Daaaaaaan – c’mon. Looooook, do you see ME?. I push my laptop monitor into his face along with his first coffee of the day.
So, you’re in this somewhere? Is this You? He nods sleepily towards an igloo shape that any fool can see is a furnace mouth. Maybe he’s just seeing a gaping maw and wishing – as he does – that mine might be less active at 5:00 am?
I should know better than to depend on Dan to decipher kid-formed imagery. Neither of us has ever raised a child. This is Wonderland for us. I’d be better off asking a white rabbit.
Gradually I remember something. A stop on our trek with the kids through the factory. A moment when one especially curious youngster asked Why do they put faces on the bags? I had to look twice to see the haphazard purple markings spray painted onto a 1-ton bulk bag of calcium carbonate. Another art-meets-commerce collaboration came to mind: the Pillsbury Doughboy shrieking à la Munch. It could have been factory worker graffiti humor or just a Rohrschachian projection.
Yesterday I returned to the factory in search of The Face. Sadly, it had, in the interim, been hoisted off its floor level pallet up to the top of the mixing tower, and was gradually deflating as its innards combined with sand into the barrels below.
But there it was: absolute proof that the Potato Head is NOT ME. It’s just Something Else the kids saw in the factory.
Now, having assured myself that the Lump is NOT myself, I’ve decided to appropriate it for my Facebook profile portrait anyway. It’s a way to consider that sometimes an old bag is just an old bag and not one’s True Self through 5 year old eyes.