Thursday, July 8, 2010
We all have egos, none bigger than my own. What’s his button to press? I ask myself. It seems like he’s been in everything but a bath. I found a reference in my research to a comment from his report card back in ’62. ‘Not real bright. Would make a good tradesman – a plumber perhaps’. ‘Artistically incompetent’ was his art teachers summation back in ’65. Ken Reinhardt; that name rings a bell. Pop-artist from the ‘60’s. He ought to know.
Still, my instincts have to be played out. I gingerly knock on the door. I don’t like appearing unannounced. I have had the dogs set to me more than once. A shortish, rough shaven man wearing a Billabong T-shirt and baggy shorts partly covering the hairiest legs I have seen for some time confronts me. I get straight to the point: ‘I’m here to interview you for …’ ‘Well, don’t just stand there. Where do you want me to start?’ I don’t recall reading anything about modesty in his old school reports.
‘Photography is not the thing’ he says. I think he’s speaking to me but he appears to speak to something or someone else; to himself maybe. ‘Art is not the thing either’ he adds. I’m listening. His voice is directed elsewhere but I listen. ‘Don't get me wrong. I like shiny new cameras. The man with the most toys wins. Right?' A rhetorical question no doubt, judging from the array of lenses on display in his study. 'It’s about people and who they are. We do stuff. We think about it and then we do stuff. We think funny and we laugh. We think sad and we cry. We think angry and we strike out; sometimes. What if others could see, touch, hear, smell, and taste how we feel? What if they could take it home and hang it on the wall or wear it or eat it? If we think that then we ‘do’. That’s art. Simple. We all connect our feelings to what we do. If we make something from that we can let others see our feelings. My old man made furniture. We slept in it, ate off it, kept our belongings in it; we loved his furniture. He loved us. He made that stuff for us. That’s art.
I want to ask a question but Tom is looking at his watch and gesturing to the front door. Just one question; make it a good one. ‘Can people learn to be an artist or is it innate for some?’ Tom hesitates, then looks at his watch again. ‘I’m not sure. Ask me just before I die. But we are not born plumbers either.’ His hand guides me through the door and back to the heat of the tropical Sun. I’m not sure what I have achieved here; something to think about, maybe. I make a note on my iPod to call again. There is more to be unearthed but I’m not quite ready for more of the same. My head is spinning. After that I need to see my therapist – or do lunch.