Archive for August, 2009
I started these sketches in the waiting room at my doctor’s office a while ago, sitting there thinking about what a crisis our nation’s health care system has become.
Later I kept adding to the drawings, so it’s kind of become a series. I’ve been thinking about some of the narratives I’ve heard from people about their experiences with health care, and how it has affected their lives. Some of these stories are from people I know personally, and others I’ve read in the news. I started writing fragments of these different “broken narratives” down in my notebooks, and then adding them to the drawings. One day I heard someone call President Obama “Dr. Obama” and it suddenly occurred to me that, for many people he is kind of like the “doctor” that everyone hopes will be able to heal the “broken system” that we have now.
Whatever one thinks about the healthcare debate, one thing seems certain: the present system is not really working for many of us, and it can’t continue. Whether we manage to come up with a single-payer healthcare plan, or some other public option, or some radical overhaul of the existing setup, something has got to change. It seems like we’re all sitting in the doctor’s office, “waiting for Health Care Reform,” and at the risk of sounding naive, I am hoping that President Obama will turn out to be the “doctor” that can make the necessary changes happen.
YellowFever is a duo from Texas; while I was checking out the Dan Graham show they came in to play one of the Friday Night “Live At The Whitney” concerts; I had to watch from above the stage on the balcony because the space was packed and the museum guards wouldn’t let me draw while standing on the stairwell.
People lining up at the Whitney entrance:
Visit Harold’s Sketchbook at www.haroldgraves.com
The New York Times this week featured an engaging article by Michael Kimmelman about the once ubiquitous activity of sketchbook drawing. Mr. Kimmelman notes that travelers “who took the Grand Tour across Europe during the 18th century spent months and years learning languages, meeting politicians, philosophers and artists and bore sketchbooks in which to draw and paint — to record their memories and help them see better. Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look.” Taking the time to slow down and consider one’s experience is an essential part of keeping a sketchbook, and indeed it seems rare to find people actively drawing this way as a regular practice any more.
Drawing has always, at least until recently, been a fundamental basis for most other creative pursuits, whether in architecture, painting, sculpture, or costume and fashion design. Even dancers have been known to work out difficult choreography with a drawing. Botanists, anthropologists, archaeologists, zoologists and a whole spectrum of people engaged in “scientific” pursuits made drawings as part of their practice of scientific observation. Think of Lewis and Clark, recording flora and fauna in bound sketchbooks that they carried with them on their long, adventurous trek into a new world.
Michelangelo, who made this drawing a few years before his death, was asked by a younger man for advice about how to proceed in becoming an artist. The story goes that the old master’s response was simply, “draw, draw, draw.” Compared with our 18th and 19th century forebears, touring the continent with their baedekers, pencils and watercolors in hand, we are all probably suffering from technologically-induced attention deficit disorder. Perhaps my own need to keep a sketchbook handy is an attempt to cure myself of this illness, or to at least create a buffer of sorts that might hold the disease at bay for a while.
One of my sketchbook entries from the recent Caillebotte exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum: