I’ve had Kotryna Zukauskaite‘s website open in one of my browser tabs for I don’t know how long now; I revisited them tonight – particularly the above prints (Diary of a Box)- and realized how they could sort of (I’m thinking) work to connect some of the dots in my head (and in my ever-expanding number of open browser tabs) I’ve been intending to cover here.
You see, at first glance they made me smile because they sort of reminded me in of The Dot and The Line, a perennial favorite of mine, because of the way they both give and internal life to shapes.
But there’s just something about boxes, you know? I’d been discussing life’s little boxes with someone not too long ago. The feeling that society just wants to box everyone into happy little roles. It probably doesn’t help that due to Netflix (yay!), I’ve finally seen the show Weeds. If you’ve seen it, you know the theme song; if you haven’t you may anyway (created by Malvina Reynolds, sung here by Pete Seger:
My third grade teacher, Mrs. Balda, told us all of us little children a story on the last day of school (I think). Something about it has always stuck with me. I certainly don’t remember it verbatim, but it went something like this:
There once was a little boy who loved to draw. Art class was his very favorite class of they day and he always looked forward to the things he could create. He had a vivid imagination which he loved to express in creating pictures where an airplane had, say, a bird’s wings instead of the more traditional variety or the sky was purple and the grass was orange. He loved to tell stories in his pictures, and his teacher always applauded his and all of the children’s creativity.
One day, his family moved and he started at a new school. It was a little scary to be someplace new, but when it was time for art class, he felt relieved – it was his favorite subject after all! He sat down, and pulled out his big box of crayons as the teacher settled the class down, “Today,” she said, “we’re going to draw flowers.” The little boy was very excited, because flowers were among his most favorite things to draw. He picked up his crayons and eagerly started to swirl colors down on the paper . “What are you doing?” the teacher asked, peering down at the boy with surprise.
“I’m drawing flowers.” He smiled, not quite sure why she was looking at him so strangely.
“Oh, no. That’s not how we draw a flower,” she told him, taking his paper away and handing him a new one. “I’m going to teach you.” She walked up to the board and explained to the class in exacting detail how to draw a flower. Everyone’s should look the same, she told them. It was the same routine every day: airplanes, houses, trees, dogs, cities, and the list went on. Each day, the joy of creating was sucked a little bit out of the boy, until there was none left and he drew what he was told, how he was told. And all of the little children’s work looked just the same.
Some years later his family moved again, and the boy started a new school once more. Art period came around and the boy sat still, waiting for instructions. He looked around at all of the other students working as the teacher moved around the room glancing down at their work. She came to the boy and his blank paper and asked why he was not working. “I’m waiting for you to tell me what to do.”
“Well, you can do anything you like. What do you want to make?”
The boy tried to think, but it was then that the boy realized that he didn’t know. He hadn’t for a long time. Everyone had been telling him what to do and how to do it so long that he had totally forgotten how to really think for himself. He’d forgotten how to be creative.
Something about this story was sobering to me, even as a child, and I find myself thinking about it every now and then. Mostly the feelings it arose in me, since, as I said, the story I told is an approximation of what I remember mashed up with details imposed by myself, as I mostly remembered the frame and the gist. The thought of forgetting how to be creative scared me; the thought of being forced to not be creative – to not be and think for oneself – scared me even more. It always has, and I’ve always fought against it.
The thing is that the children of our country are forgetting how to be creative on the whole. Or not learning it at all. There was an article on the topic recently in Newsweek: The Creativity Crisis. I recommend reading it, as launching into my thoughts on the subject will only make this post longer (trust me, I started to and stopped when I realized it was growing and growing). Suffice it to say that I’m frightened of the lack of creativity and free thought encouraged in not only children, but adults as well and the workforces in which people often find themselves. We can be so fond of keeping things standardized.
A few friends and I, at various points in time, have discussed the topic of thinking. Though many people may consider sitting or laying around appearing to be staring at nothing a lazy hobby, I’ve found it to be monumentally beneficial. Personally, it’s one of my favorite hobbies (and some of my friend’s as well). It’s great for coming up with new, innovative ideas for things to make or attempting to connect the dots in myself and life and the whole world in all of it’s beautiful complexities. I find it to have fairly immediate benefits but it also serves as an exercise of sorts. The more time you let your mind wander hither and thither, the easier it is to come up with a creative idea on the spot. Keeping the mind active keeps your brain young.
I think some people shy away from it though, locking themselves up in regimented checklist routines and schedules, so they don’t have to think about the little big things. It can be scary to confront some of the things that come up, but thinking through them is wonderfully helpful in growing yourself as a person and knowing who you are.
And knowing who you are is a great way to resist being stuck in a Little Box.
( a little more work from the talented Kotryna Zukauskaite)