What Makes Up the Moon
In 1992, the Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft made a pass by our planet’s closest companion, the moon. This mosaic of 53 images shows the different composition of rocks on the moon’s surface. Blue and orange colors represent lava flows, bright pink areas are highlands, and light blue colors indicate recent impact material with the youngest craters showing blue rays extending away from them.
Encouraged by Mr. DeGreif, my former high school art teacher and crush, I thought I’d give art a try in college. One of the first assignments was a self-portrait. Not a big deal right? Due to reasons I can’t remember, I was absent on the day that the professor gave us specific instructions on the self-portrait assignment.
All of my life, drawing had been the one thing I had that nobody could take away from me. Not my parents (though my dad would scold me for spending too much time drawing and not doing enough “boy” things) or my friends or teachers. When I didn’t speak English, drawing was the way to make friends with non-Spanish speakers. When I was feeling down, I’d create little characters that would talk to me and fill me with joy.
But I digress. The day I went back to actually work on my self-portrait, I was feeling a bit down. I can’t recall why I was feeling down, but there was something. I’d began to sketch my round face, then on to my then-spiky hair and finally I worked my way down to my neck and chest. I remember that there were only a few brown faces in most of the art classes that I was taking. Also, we were studying mostly white artists. So there was a feeling of detachment from art. I wanted to show this on my self-portrait. I did so by creating the illusion that the bottom part of my chest was melting. Detaching from the rest of my body. I felt so proud of that self-portrait.
When critique-time came around the following week, the professor approached my piece and asked everyone to gather around. My God, I thought, my professor loves my piece so much that he was going to congratulate me in front of the class. I was wrong.
“This is not what I asked from the assignment,” he said in a rather angry voice. “This is what happens when people miss class then try to show off.”
I turned all kinds of red. I was embarrassed. I wanted to run away. I’d put so much emotion into that piece and just like that, it was trashed into a million little pieces. To the professor, it didn’t matter that this undocumented queer brown boy was going through so much shit at that time that art was the only way to keep myself sane. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. I just looked around and faked an I-don’t-give-a-fuck-smile, when in reality I really did gave a lot of fuck.
I eventually changed my major to journalism and loved every single class that came along with it. I figured out a way to incorporate art via editorial cartoons. As I look back, I think about how many of us feel very uncomfortable in college settings because we feel like we don’t belong there. The moment that the art professor embarrassed me in front of the class and I changed majors, I gave up. I gave up on art because of someone’s idea of what art should be. What bugged me the most was that I didn’t fight back. I was so intimidated by this art professor that I didn’t have the language to defend my creation. I felt like I owed him something. Now, I am not saying that the professor was wrong, I should have followed the rules and done what I was told. What I am saying is that we need to assure our little brown ones not to feel like they don’t belong in college. That they have the right to an education and to acquire the skills that will make them badass folks. We also need to tell them not to idolize college professors. They have a right to challenge others.
There are times when I still feel very inadequate in the “art world.” But I am still learning. I am also assuring myself everyday that I too have to right to create anything I want and that by doing so I am defining myself and not letting others doing it for me. The end. Meow.