“I try and I try and I try to look away,
the fighting inside is the reason that I stay.”
In my freshman year of high school, my sculpture teacher went over how he views negative space. Though it was more of a hobbyist’s class, I had become absolutely enraptured by the idea that for every piece made, there is a second- a potentially more interesting work within the ‘nothingness’. He completely reversed my perspective of, well, everything.
“Hello, hello! Welcome to your first jewelry and sculpture making class,” Mr. Bech bellowed across the room. He isn’t a very imposing man, though he evokes much authority. Average height, narrow shoulders, Bech walks with a certain confidence. Eagerly he swipes a propped up calender from his desk and recites the joke of the day: “Did you hear the one about the one-armed fisherman?” An awkward silence rises into the air. “He caught a fish THIS big!” He beamed as he spread only one arm out for measurement. The class feeds into the cricket’s song. A very select few smirk, I among them, for I’m a sucker for a bad pun. He searches the crowd’s faces for hints of like-minded jokesters. Grinning deeply, he stresses all the wrinkles on his face, all of which being from many years of light-heartedness and jest. There’s not one grouch line to be seen.
“Today, we’re going to talk a bit about negative space. Nothing on sculptures today.” He harshly places a small, nonsensical structure of oak tag on the front desk and goes on. “This is a sculpture made up of a cube, a cone, and a C-shaped prism, but we’re not going to talk about that. What do you see besides all that? What makes up the rest of the piece?”
Many fidgeted uncomfortably in their just as stiff seats and averted their hollow glance from Bech’s direction. Deepening the silence, he spread his gaze across his audience, eyes bright with anticipation. “You couldn’t possibly have missed the lockers behind the sculpture! Or the stools and workbench! Just look at the frame the doorway and wall right around it- it’s really a quite interesting piece..” Train of thought degrading, his closed hand rises to just under his chin as he gazes fondly at the space around the piece. “The first thing to recognize about sculpture is that it doesn’t end where it ends.” His self declared wit got the better of him and he chuckled a bit. “It’s all the space around the piece that makes it; it’s invaluable that you keep that in mind when working on your own projects.”
I always keep that in mind now. Mr. Bech continues to affect the work I make, even if it’s a drawing or painting. Negative space too often goes neglected, so I keep it on the top shelf of importance when setting up any piece.
He never knew the impact his speech had on me and I never spoke to him more than what the assignments needed, but he remains one of the prominent characters of my past.