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A detail of a painting by Alexander Khost, "Blue in Green," oil on canvas.

The Day Tàpies Went Fishing
You can lead a horse to water, but can you make her fish?

A little less than thirty years ago I started out college as a writing major, but I soon switched to painting and art history. Without realizing it consciously at the time, I was looking for a major where I could be more self-directed in my education after having spent primary and secondary school in a conventional atmosphere. Art school seemed to be a place where I would have more possibilities to direct my own learning... or so I thought.

I spent another nine long years in school, ultimately receiving a Master’s Degree in Fine Art. It was another nine years of being told the right way to perceive the world. In a figure drawing class, I was given the assignment to go into New York City to see the work of three particular artists, Antoni Tàpies being one of them. In class afterwards we watched a film about how our exposure to artwork would transform the way we create our own work. And we were then told to write about how our exposure to the art galleries we went to changed our own work.

I wrote the following play in response. I don’t remember what grade I got on the assignment, but I do remember my professor asking me to stay after class, where he said that he did not understand my writing. That was the moment when I realized that even at art school there’s a “right” way and a “wrong” way. It took me to discover Self-Directed Education to learn that there is also a “my” way.

The Day Tàpies Went Fishing

In One Act

The scene takes place within a dingy room inside of an art school studio classroom. Two men stand near one another conversing. One is the famous artist Tàpies, the other is an art school student, Alex Khost.
 

Tàpies: Alex! So good to see you again! I have not seen you in days; where have you been?

Alex: I am sorry to have missed you for so long, Tàpies, but I have been in New York City.

Tàpies: New York? What were you doing there?

Alex: Well, actually, I had an assignment to go see your exhibit at the Guggenheim along with two other exhibits.

Tàpies: Well, what did you think?

Alex: Oh! I was very impressed with the exhibitions. Of course, I did not realize this until I got back to class and learned what vision is.

Tàpies: I don’t quite understand you, Alex.

Alex: Well, when I got back to class after seeing the exhibits, my professor showed us a video on the ways of seeing. I realized that vision is not only looking at something, but also the accumulation of all past visions and experiences.

Tàpies: That’s very interesting, but what does that have to do with the three galleries you went to see?

Alex: Well, that’s easy; now that I have experienced those galleries and the artwork within, my vision will ultimately be affected. And I will become a better artist– maybe as good of an artist as you!

Tàpies: That’s wonderful– your artwork will be affected by mine! I hope that I can see things like that too!

Alex: Of course, everyone’s mind works that way! So, what have you done while I was broadening my spectrum of vision, Tàpies?

Tàpies: Oh, nothing much– I just went fishing.

Alex: Fishing? That’s too bad– you wasted all of that time when you could have been in a gallery becoming an even better artist!

Tàpies: Yes– I suppose you are right, Alex. But you should have seen the fish I caught. It was like no fish I have ever seen before! I made five drawings of the fish so I could incorporate it into my next painting. And the sunset! The sunset was so beautiful. As I packed up my fishing gear I wrote two poems about the sunset. I don’t normally write poetry, but I was so inspired! So Alex, how many paintings and poems were inspired in your mind when you saw my art in the gallery?

Alex: Well, I was too busy trying to read the titles of the pieces to think about my own work! One of your paintings did remind me to call the plumber this weekend.

Tàpies: Ah! You should have gone fishing.

 
 

a cityscape oil painting
“Dumbo,” oil on canvas, Alexander Khost
 
Asking the right questions...
What is Self-Directed Education?
 
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About the Alliance for Self-Directed Education
 
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