Monday, November 06, 2006

The Passion of the Circ. Clerk

I'm currently maintaining a bustling fine art gallery in my library. Taped to the side of my desk and facing the front door are several art and design projects I've saved from various customers and employees. Most prominent among these are several coloring pages featuring Bob the Builder and the occasional Dora the Explorer piece. One budding young collage artist found a surgical glove, drew his impression of my face on it, and taped it to a piece of paper to get his work into this rather exclusive collection. A fellow employee tacked on a deeply haunting and disturbing image of Barry Manilow.

Lately, though, a different sort of art project has been occurring within the library. A relatively quiet, unassuming customer has been stealthily borrowing ball point pens and highlighters from the front desk and employing the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom to provide his canvasses. He sits at a table and spends hours hard at work on intricately detailed line drawings with a tasteful touch of occasional yellow highlighter.

It took me a few days to realize what he was really working on, as at first I just assumed he was just a studious fellow taking detailed notes on something or other. He usually grabs a few books from the stacks, and when I realized he was drawing I assumed he was using them for material or models. (Actually, as our security guard pointed out to me later, one day he mysteriously left behind one book on the history of guns and one book of portraits of roses. I quite often hum the opening bars of "Welcome to the Jungle" in my head when arriving to work, but this odd tableau was almost more creepy than amusing.)

I then assumed that he was drawing interesting scenes from the inside of the library. He always seemed to be studying something nearby as he drew, but the closer I studied him the more the term "thousand yard stare" came to mind to describe his manner. I became more and more curious about surreptitiously checking out his work. I sort of perversely hoped that I would find him creating caricatures of library staff and regular customers that I could somehow obtain and post on this blog, but I was actually way, way off.

It turns out he wasn't using any books for models or inspiration, he wasn't drawing breathtaking interior library-scapes with yellow highlighter twinkles a la Thomas Kinkade, and he wasn't caricaturing me with cartoonish amounts of armpit sweat and facial expressions revealing my occasionally crippling personal rage issues. Instead, he's been working on a series of fanatical devotional drawings of Jesus themes that are seriously starting to freak me out.

The first one I spied was a spooky picture of Christ's eye done in the manner of the Disney World Haunted House portraits where the eyes follow you around the room everywhere you go. The next day I caught him at work on a Last Supper-style scene across which he'd written (and brutally mis-spelled) something in a really nice Old Testament-looking script about "Thanksgvng" (sic). Today I was finally able to successfully capture one piece for myself after he left it--a dense collage of crown-of-thorns images with a yellow highlighted banner that reads, "Christ is For Real."

Since this artist always leaves his creations behind presumably for evangelical purposes upon their completion, I'm considering adding a sort of religious folk art wing to my library gallery. While his muscle-bound Jesus imagery is of the decidedly Mel Gibson-esque school, and I'm not exactly sure how to best matte and frame paper towel art, I continue to be impressed by his dedication to his craft.


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