Q; what do you mean by “all the rah rah rah”?
ReeL: When I was a kid and participating in sports in school, there was all this hoopla and commotion around sports. You know, school spirit and all that rah rah rah: people would jump up and down and scream and get all excited about your name getting into the paper and all. The school would want its athletes to get into this whole jock and school spirit thing.
I could care less. I just liked to play and run. I didn’t care for, and in many cases actively disliked, a lot of the stuff to do with all the rah rah rah and noise of it all. Big deal. But our times are really into all this making noise around sports.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cathartic release, at the moment, but then there is all this other noise, away from the action, this jingoistic side to sports.
Q: People get off on it. It is a great distraction from their mundane lives.
ReeL: I was more into its developmental aspects. Catharsis, honing, testing oneself, character. But that aspect seems to have gotten lost in there somewhere. I enjoyed sports immensely. But I was not into all the hoopla at all. The rah rah rah.
Q; so you were not the conventional jock in school.
ReeL: probably not. School administrators and coaches would get down on me sometimes. Sometimes in a very ugly way. At 15, I was speaking out against the View Nam War, helping run teach-ins against the war. I was noted down in the art building for doing nudes. One classmate called them my “nudie lewdies” something that definitely disturbed some folks in the school front office. I definitely did not like pep rallies.. I never wore a letter or letterman’s jacket or any of that.. Some people really didn’t like that and let me know it. But it could have been worse, at a certain point, they left me alone; after all, I was district champion in track, later conference champion in college, and so forth. But I liked being left alone. As far as all the noise, I could care less. Maybe that is why eventually one of my favorite sports became cross-country running, a sport where no one, not even the cheer leaders, ever shows up.
Q: So this carries over into your art as well? You never entered art competitions when you were in school or anything like that?
ReeL: Not in art. I’ve also tended to avoid things like government funding, grants, competitions that lead to awards, things like that. I don’t want anything to do with any government. I don’t think art, at least what I do, has anything to do with awards., medals or any of that junk.
Q: What about juried shows?
ReeL: Well juried shows were the main venue where I was when I was growing up and my mother showed in them, so I did do those. But that was just the normal way to show then. Though even that got a bit odd: when I was 15 I entered this show’s student section. You see, they all had a student, an amateur, and a professional section. I got informed that I wasn’t in it and when I went to pick up my entry it wasn’t there. Oh, the woman said, it got kicked out of the student section and put into the professional section. They wouldn’t let me enter the student section after that; I always had to enter the professional section from the time I was 15 on.
Q: You must have felt good about that.
ReeL: It had its consequences that I appreciated. When I went to the show itself, there were these two girls my age standing in the middle of the exhibition hall. They were all dressed up, they were the teen queen and princess for whatever it was that was sponsoring the art show. I knew them and they were girls that would never give me the time of day because of my neighborhood, I was from the “wrong side of the tracks,” so to speak, and they were very full of themselves.
When I walked past them, one of them turned and, in a very snotty way, asked me what I was doing there, like I don’t belong in an art show. I replied that I was in the show. They would not believe it, the other one told her princess that I was just putting them on, that, anyway, it was impossible, for it was the professional show and I didn’t even qualify since I was a kid.
So I pointed out my piece and they went over and looked at the label. It just so happened to be hanging in one of the most prominent places in the hall. The centerpiece, really, to the most important wall. They were visibly impressed. At the point they realized that I was really in the show, their whole manner completely changed. They began flirting and wanting me to hang out with them and the whole bit. Two minutes before they were indignant and thought I shouldn’t even be there. Suddenly I go from scum from the other end of the pond, to demi-god walking across the water. So that day I saw a different side of art.
Q: So that part of the rah rah rah was OK by you, I take it.
ReeL: I saw art’s power to cut through prejudice. For me, it was more a matter of respect and the ability to cut through class barriers. That, to me, is very different from the rah rah rah.. Instead of being part of the brain washing, to cut through the brain washing.