Dreams of Being a Beauty Queen

by Alden Cole on January 17, 2015 · 0 comments

“I’m a little boy now, but when I grow up I’m going to be a beautiful woman.” – Don Brewer, paraphrasing lyrics from Anthony and the Johnsons song For today I am a boy.

BeautyQueenWP1961: As a junior in high school, I tried to feel normal about myself and appear normal to others by participating in a variety of extra-curricular activities (see the clubs I was involved in below). Coexistent was an internal not-so-normal world seeking expression, whose only outlet was in drawing.
3BeautyQueensWPSince there were no formal art classes at Thornton Academy in those days, I had only my own resources to draw upon. And that I did, sketching copiously to give form to my fantasies: pictures of pretty women in gorgeous clothes and outlandish costumes, inspired by movies on television. TV was the only way for me to see movies while growing up, as the religious sect in which I was raised prohibited movie attendance. I still remember my older brother Wally once interrupting me as I was drawing at home, asking me why I drew so many pictures of women. My immediate response – “Well, if I drew pictures of men, you’d wonder about me, wouldn’t you?” – after which I returned to my drawing, without consciously realizing that I had unwittingly given myself away. By senior year those drawings were finally beginning to incorporate men into simple compositions, featuring couples dating, dancing, posing glamorously, graduating, marrying – you’ll see ’em all in the next few days. Still extant are 76 pencil sketches on 8-1/2″ x 11″ bond paper, most of them vertical in format, like the six I featured two days ago. The two horizontals above – “There she is, Miss America” along with three of her contenders – are anomalies. Having decided to scan all 76 images, one at a time, I’m seeing them with new eyes. Viewing them through such different mediums – a screen that makes the experience so totally visual, versus a piece of paper that makes the experience tactile as well as visual – they resonate with my memory differently. The scanning process has been a boon, allowing me to darken the light #2 pencil marks of the originals, some lines of which were exceedingly lightly drawn. It’s interesting that a year ago when I started this autobiography – this Slow Motion Memoir – a life review in terms of artwork produced that I still have access to, I skipped this whole period of late high school. Instead I jumped from a few drawings done freshman and sophomore year for English class projects, to artwork created for RISD class projects, starting freshman year, then beyond. Now it’s time to take a better look at what i was fantasizing about so intently at age Sweet Sixteen.

FTA61WPThe extra-curricular clubs I joined junior year to feel more connected:
Future Teachers of America
Mixed Chorus
Latin Club
French Club

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