School’s Out

“ No more pencils no more books…
No more teacher's dirty looks…”
                                               Songwriters: ALICE COOPER / MICHAEL BRUCE

“The Professor’s Tomb” mixed media on canvas (60cm x 60cm)

I love learning. I am constantly learning. Every day. I learn from everything I do, everyone I meet, and everywhere I go. But I didn’t love learning in school. 

In primary school, the only things I learned was that I was nervous, shy and different (in a negative way), so I lost the little self-confidence I did have. High school was only about building a social life (against a bland background mush of information that had to be memorised before a final nerve-wracking exam). 

However, anything I explored on my own (such as modern literature, art history, King Arthur, concerts, Alchemy, rock music, recording techniques…to name a few) made me determined to take charge of my own education. When I hit a ceiling with what the printed word could offer (no internet in those days), I decided that after graduation, I had to get to the big city. Under the ruse of going off to University, as I never had any intention to finish a degree, I signed up for night classes in a recording studio. But the big surprise was that I started liking school, too! It was a bit too late for me, though, as I had a plan. And I hit that first career goal at the age of 20. But hitting one goal leads you to creating new goals and making new plans.

Those plans and their changes led me to ups but they also led me to downs. This painting was inspired during a personal time of depression when I found myself living near the city of the first university in the world, Bologna Italy. At the time, I felt physically trapped. I was in a very bad relationship in a new country that I felt I didn’t belong in, didn’t speak the language or know anyone, living on a secluded mountain top miles from anywhere (and I don’t drive), with a 1 year old baby. 

Don’t get me wrong – Italy is beautiful and interesting, and I eventually made some very good friends there, but when you feel trapped, you temporarily lose control of your life. The dark heavy ceiling, walls and floor encase you like a tomb buried so deep below the surface you don’t know which way is up. A person, whom I thought was my friend at the time, said to me “Just take the baby, get on a plane and go.” To her, a happy wife and mother, it was obvious and easy. To me, it was a dark, complicated maze in which I didn’t know if each step I took was finally in the right direction or even further in the wrong direction. 

Having hit bottom, I started to slowly clamber back up. I managed to get a baby-sitter and a part-time job in the centre of Bologna. One lunch time, I was wandering the nearby streets and saw 3 beautiful tombs outside a church. I later found out that they were tombs for the first professors of that first University which was created by students who were not happy with the education they had been provided. They pooled their resources and invited their own choice of professors whom they revered so much that they created beautiful elevated tombs for them when they passed away.  One had a panel that particularly interested me, as it showed part of a Templar cross (a subject I was interested in and therefore identified with) so I took a photo. A few years later installed in the city centre, with life getting brighter and more hopeful, I used it as the inspiration for this painting as it described the dark, trapped feelings I had experienced and escaped.

School’s out….so I’m learning.

“The Professor’s Tomb” mixed media on canvas (60cm x 60cm)