My childhood dream was to be a tap dancer, something I never stopped trying, to the vast amusement of those around me. Probably taking lessons would have been smart. Even now there is a pair of such shoes in my closet, forlornly tapping out distress signals.
And now I find myself running short of cooperative toes.
When my quiet Chinese doctor bursts out with, “Let’s face it, Z’Anne — you have terrible feet” — the dance career is even more unlikely. Even when I was a teenager, my GP held up one of my feet by its big toe and marvelled that all of the wear was in the wrong sections. So I am to be a spectacle, am I? And so every decade or so since , my body undergoes some mysterious seismic shift and I spend a couple of months in Monty Python’s Ministry of Funny Walks. Right now I have two toes which lived together in peace until lately, where one of them is heading off to the Pacific while the one beside it is dead set on a Newfoundland vacation. I really hope they don’t divorce.
But I still long for dancing and there aren’t enough weddings to satisfy the appetite. That leaves Taoist Tai Chi, which is not only dance-like but great for balance and flexibility. The dining room has been arranged to allow for me to do a full set. Problem solved? Nope. In a word, Theodore. Now that he has bonded with me, he joins the set, which now resembles a cartoon strip:
1. Thinking: “Wave hands.’
2. Saying: “Excuse me, Mister!!”
3. Thinking: “Carry Tiger to the Mountain.”
4. Doing: Sliding the dog out of my way
5. Thinking: “Move Hands like Clouds.”
6. Doing: Face-plant
And so it goes.
You are wondering what this has to do with art. Well, feet are as big an obstacle there as in life. For one thing, they are murder to draw -- asymmetrical as hell, looking completely different from every angle. Like hands, they are bigger than we think. A poorly drawn foot just plain looks ridiculous. Getting them placed properly is also a challenge. (Remember Degas’ five-legged race horse?)
This morning in the New York Times (hang in, I’m getting to the point), yet again we are treated to an X-ray analysis of a painting by a famous painter. Yet again, there is endless academic speculation about what all of the changes mean. ….
Let me help: Picasso simply didn’t like what he had and he fooled around until his third eye was satisfied. End of story. Every painter I know has done and will continue to do this from time to time. If paint could record a sound track of such a reworked painting, it would report considerable colourful cursing, which would eventually die down to a satisfied grunt at least one whole layer later. Otherwise the whole painting would have been ripped in two and ritually burned in the annual purge.
Heaven help us all if our worst failures survive us and needlessly puzzle nerds with access to X-rays. So, if I get hit by a bus because my warring toes defeat me, I am now authorizing my artist friends to celebrate my wake with a bonfire! Knock yourselves out and don’t forget the marshmallows. I thank you in advance.