Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Power of Artwork

   I think we all have those moments (especially the seniors in the class) where we wonder if we have made any impact in our community or the lives of those around us. As I begin to think about graduation, I wonder if I have left my mark any where in this community after my four years here. Of all the people who could provide me with an answer to this, it was the five and six year old kindergarteners in Tunbridge Charter School Room 101 that had the answer.
   Every Monday morning, the students have art class starting at 9 and I usually do not get to attend it because the teacher has me help her get crafts and assignments planned for the rest of the day. But last Monday, I was allowed to stay with the children in the art room and work on their projects with them. They were recreating Monet's Water Lilies with tissue paper. The point of the assignment was to crumble and twist tissue paper into the shape of a flower and paste it on the paper they had painted the week before. As I walked around the room, a few of the kindergarteners asked me to make a flower for them and glue it on the paper; I thought nothing of it at the time. However, as they began to finish up and clean up, I overheard a couple of the students I had helped say to each other how Ms. Kate made a flower for their project as they pointed to the exact one I made. It might have been a small thing but I soon realized that this was the tattoo I left behind for them; a way to remember me once I was no longer at the school. I now think back to the art projects I completed in elementary school and who was there to help me with mine; those memories are still there and I still cannot look at a license plate without thinking of my elementary school art teacher (design your own license plate art project). Art, even the smallest aspects of it, is a way for people to remind themselves of someone else and make a connection or impact that will never truly leave a person.
   In Wendt's The Cross of Soot, the mark that Tagi left on the boy was small and incomplete but it was still one that will remind the boy of who Tagi was and his connection to him. The boy in this story would constantly sneak into a prison where he was friends with the prisoners as well as the policeman. Once day he met Tagi, a mysterious man who would leave just as fast as he appeared. The boy asked him to tattoo a star on his hand, which Tagi agreed to do. But before he was done, Tagi was called away leaving only a cross on the young boys hand. As the boy said goodbye to Tagi in what I imagine to be in a optimistic way, the boy knows "that the man was not returning" (19).
   The tattoo that was left on the boys hand is an example of a theme we have been talking about in class. The idea that tattoos connect a person to a specific moment in time as well as to a person. In Those Who Do Not Grieve, the uncompleted tattoo on Lalolagi's leg reminds her of not just a moment in her past but the people she cared for, the man she fell in love with and her closest friend. Even though it may be a memory she wants to forget, these marking on her legs connect her to people she had not seen in years and keeps them alive in the world today. The same could be said about the boy's tattoo. He may never see Tagi again but the tattoo of the cross on his hand will remind him everyday that Tagi did exist and that mark on the boy keeps this man alive in the future. The boy is carrying around a piece of this man and unlike Lalolagi, he is alright with remembering this man. The last line of the book says that "he held up his hand, proudly" as he said to his mother that the man only left him this mark (20).
    In comparison, I can only hope that the flowers the children pointed to that I made and that words they spoke, "Ms Kate left me this flower," will be there cross tattoo. This flower and other lilies will be how my memories as well as my life is kept alive within these children, just like how license plates remind me of the life of my art teacher, how the tattoo on Lalolagi's leg reminds her of her friend, and as this unfinished tattoo keeps the life of a mysterious man alive in the heart of a young boy. In the end, tattoos and other symbols are time machines and as long as you leave one behind no matter the size, you will continue to live on in the past as well as the future.

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