Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 96
Painting – My Own Voice!
There are men who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.
– Bertolt Brecht
continued from… – In those days, we sort of traded 35-millimeter slides of our artwork like baseball cards. Larry (Lorenzo) Andrade had several of mine and somehow the Art Department chair, Andrew Morgan, looked at my slides and told Larry to contact me and have me apply to the University of Miami.
I applied. I was accepted. And, believe it or not, was so naïve that I believed everyone went to graduate school for free. I had received a full-ride scholarship, a stipend and a teaching assistantship. A bittersweet occurrence; the instructor I was supposed to assist, Jim Wilson, was diagnosed with cancer while in Italy.
At some point, the first year of grad school, Andrew told me something that I have never revealed. He told me that I had the capability to be one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. I was rattled in more ways that one. Of course, he may have encouraged other students with the same statement but, his sincerity has stayed with me until today.
The incoming department chair, Jerry Winter, told me I had to run the Professor Wilson’s classes myself. I was the instructor of record! I was scared to death. My then-wife told me to teach as I had been taught. I did. The unexpected surprise was discovering that I loved teaching.
Everything was going great. We returned to Massachusetts. I worked for the Opera Department at (then) Southeastern Massachusetts University. I was the set designer for the Kodally Music Institute under the direction of Boris Goldovsky.
Maestro Goldovsky was the “Voice of the Metropolitan Opera” and it was a wonderful experience. I heard him on the radio every Sunday in my mother’s uncle’s apartment in New York City. Through him, I met Sara Caldwell of Boston Opera. And, because of her and her connections, I was offered the set designer job at Boston Ballet.
Within ten minutes of the job offer, I found out my then-wife was pregnant. I had to refuse the job offer because I would be on the road for fifty weeks out of the year. It was a good thing, too. 24-hours after our daughter was born, her mother was being given the last rights.
She survived but had a rare but not uncommon disease that is only diagnosed post-partum. Our daughter was fine. The disease was life-long. The costs with no health insurance were staggering. I went back to working in restaurants; something I did since my first job at 14-years old.
I also returned to selling shoes for Thom McAn. There I met a young man who was starting his own advertising company. And, there I was, with some layout skills that I had learned from two classmates and great friends at the University of Miami. Stephen Fuller and Peter Zorn had already made a career for themselves in graphics and advertising.
They thought that I could use some skills other than painting – just in case! Little did any of us know how helpful that second free education I received from the University of Miami would come in handy. That’s how I started working in advertising.
At some point I was giving a presentation to business people and the chairman of the Business Department at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Jack Chopoorian, came up to me and asked if I would like to teach marketing. I was, I had been and will perhaps always be the only MFA to teach at the then Business Department and now Charlton College of Business at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Forty years later, here I am. There was a lot more in between. I tried and tried to find work as a drawing and painting instructor as close to southeastern Massachusetts as I could. But, I was told my lack of an exhibition and teaching record disqualified me.
To be continued…
Posted on: 07/11/2017, by : Ron Fortier