I will never forget this scene when I was still a teenaged girl.
Jack T. Franklin, photo
I was walking along Chelten Avenue near Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia and ran into Walter Lubar, who had briefly been my art teacher in public school until he was promoted out of teaching, a great loss for me. We chatted about what I was up to, as teachers do with students they like. We talked about me pursuing art in college.
A Proud Continuum exhibition in 2005 produced the Howard University catalog above (that features my work in the cover montage and inside, and on the website). Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas, David Driskell, Lou Stovall, Winnie Owens-Hart, Starmanda Bullock, Lois Mailou Jones and others also were in the exhibition.
Then he told me this: "you see well." I quickly responded, "Oh, no! I have been wearing glasses since I was very young". He chuckled but explained that he meant I saw things in a special way, that I had insight, that I was able to translate visual images to paper or canvas in a meaningful way. Mr. Lubar said I see the way an artist sees things, that my observation skills were different from other people!
That was a life-changing moment for me. He gave me an explanation for what I had been experiencing all my life. He explained why I often reacted to situations that others didn't notice, or care about, often seeing minutiae that others overlooked. My ideas were just next to the majority....but not in the center. I was not average. And when you are a student in high school that's really all you sort of want to be.
But I was used to not fitting in. I was strange to my family too, who always said "Joyce is SO sensitive!". Or "Joyce and Mom are just alike!" So we were both sensitive? I didn't necessarily want to be like my mother!
My message is that it is important to validate that strange, different kid who may live inside his or her head and doesn't march in lock-step with the others. There is possibly an artist, musician, actor, scientist, computer programmer or other creative type living there figuring out the world as they see it! Give him or her permission to come out!