Drawing in a Time of Fear & LiesWeekend

Why I Draw Faces

For a while as a child I had a best friend. We did stupid and dangerous things together.

Fred Valentine, “Halfway Home with Rudy” (2018), charcoal on paper, 22 x 30 inches

For a while as a child I had a best friend. He was a boy my own age. We met in 5th grade when he was a new student. He once made a drawing of the Virgin Mary stabbing Baby Jesus while he was in her arms. It was his pieta. The knife plunged deep into the top of the Christ Child’s head, creating what looked like a helmet of blood. At school he was often picked on, pushed around and punched, as was I. I don’t remember him ever fighting back. I fought back. I would charge at my opponents like Wonder Woman with arms flailing like a crazy boy. That year Sister Madeline was our teacher. She was a brutal sadist who chose torture over nurture. She was gone mid-year after a student punched her in self-defense. My friend and I both came from violent, angry and abusive homes and a loudness that was inescapable. The street was no different. It seemed at any given time you could be provoked to fight, often as others cheered on. I hated every bit of it but thought it was normal.

He and I did stupid and dangerous things together. We stole things and blew things up. Between the anger, violence, and abuse we found a place of peace and a way that he could fight back. We drew faces, he and I, there in his basement. With soda and chips we could spend hours creating monsters. I might draw “car accident guy” with Frankenstein-like stitches or a headless priest fresh off the guillotine, spouting blood from his severed neck. His drawings came from a much darker and deeper place. Somewhere in his early teens he stopped drawing; I didn’t. He stopped doing much of anything. Life just spun him around and kicked his ass too many times. Like I said, he never put up much of a fight.

At this time when our spinning ball of mud is racking up crazy points like there is lead in our goblets, I continue to draw faces. It’s the time when I control the darkness. Like god or that crazy boy who fought back. Fifty years later, from the dust of charcoal, my faces emerge with history, humanity and strength. I choose whom to give fight and whom to give pain. When I go deep and personal the drawing greets me and begins to stare back and tell me his or her story. Then I make my decision. Like I said, god-like.

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