Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fallen Hero

My very good friend Emily, sassy little roller derby girl and fellow painter and studio buddy during our undergrad years at DAAP put it best:  DAAP has lost a hero today.  I think if I heard this statement 7 years ago, I would totally disagree.  Seven years ago this week marks the end of my very first quarter in college.  I had finished some art school basics:  Basic Drawing 101, Methods and Concepts 111 (basic design really), Art History 101, English 101, and Current Arts Forum.  It is really funny for me to look back on my freshman year now, older, wiser.

Corbin, cigarette in hand, in front of his work.

But like I said, if you were to ask me if Tarrence Corbin was a hero 7 years ago, I would say hell no!  But Emily is right in our conversation about his passing this past week (after a short struggle with cancer unfortunately)  TC (as we call him, or Tarry, or just plain Corbin) was the deflate-er of egos.  He toughened artists up.  He made them strong.  Of course me, always an emotional mess, the first time he said my work was shit, I went out to my car, cried to my mom on the phone, and asked if it was okay to transfer over to Marketing or something.  And then she said no, because they must have let me into one the most prestigious art and design schools for a reason.  OBVIOUSLY today I have a BFA...so I stayed.

One of my favorite pieces by him from the late 80s.

What were once tears in the first quarter turned to pure frustration the rest of the year for my dire need to impress this man (which of course I did, he was the first to buy a work of art of mine.)  What we all call now, Corbinisms, are just a way of making everything work in art.  "Make it tight and right."  Every morning, at 8 am, he would walk in and say, "Its a beautiful day."  Even if it were shitty out.

A fruit study, done in the pointillism technique by me, for TC's Class.  The first drawing he ever bought from me.

Out of all of this, besides making me a tough person to criticism, he showed me a softer side of him that I will never forget.  The morning my grandpa Ed died was the morning of a critique in class.  I couldn't miss that but I felt awful and sad and went anyway.  Luckily, at this point in out friendship, Emily could read me well and knew something was wrong, so she asked.  I told her my grandpa had passed (after a 7 year struggle with Parkinsons), and she told TC.  He came up to me and said, "Girl, life is so much more important than art.  Go home, be with your family.  I will not let you stay in class today.  If you want to talk to me about your work in the critique, call me when you are ready."  Of course I called the next day and he said it was horrible....I ended up redoing the piece.  For one small moment, he was this human being, not this painting GOD before me.  That moment, that morning, has always kept TC in a special spot for me.

Yeah, he was a tough teacher.  In fact, I found myself later avoiding his classes but I couldn't help it.  I started my DAAP career with him, and, I ended it with him in a specialized studio on Mural Painting (of course was his forte).

Another pointillism project.  TC loved this quality in my drawings.

When we all got the news of him being ill this summer, I was shocked but not surprised as one of the many Corbinisms he has is "Smokin and Jokin."   Damn did he like is Marlboro Reds!  All we knew is that he was too sick to teach this quarter.  I got the news from Janie, a photography professor and one of my senior thesis advisors, last Thursday.  I literally sat in front of my computer and said, "WHAT!"  And then I cried.  This man drove me to perfectionism is my craft.  He is the reason why I hate bringing shit to critiques....he taught me better than that.  For the many times I may have said his name in vain that first year, I wish I could take it back and do it all again.  The man was amazing.  He took bright eyed bushy tailed freshmen, usually the best artists in their high schools, and put them in their place.  He did not sugar coat:  "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit."

Black and White Pastel drawing (done in TC's class).  Study of Glass and fabric.
This one is for you Tarrence Corbin.
I am a better artist and a tougher person if it weren't for you!
May you rest in peace.

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