Clothes were supposed to be streamlined in the future. But somehow it all went wrong.

Illustration by the author

I grew up in the 1970s on the promise of a space-age future — reminded of it on the nightly news with every NASA launch. We didn’t have Dial-a Meal, like the Jetsons, but we did have TV dinners. The food was not delicious, but it all cooked inside one silver tray. It was a mere stop-off between plated fare and the push-of-a-button food in pill form, or Willy Wonka’s three-course dinner gum.

While I ate this almost-space food, I wore a zippered jumpsuit less like an astronaut’s and more like a clown’s. It was made of corduroy with puffy…

Detail from Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Saint Rémy, June 1889

The Starry Night Is An Einstein-Rosen Bridge, and You’re Welcome to Come Along

Time travel as a concept didn’t exist until five years after Vincent van Gogh’s death. In fact, when HG Wells’ first published his novella The Time Machine in 1895, the phrases time machine and time travel didn’t even exist. Neither would become part of the lexicon until well after Einstein published his theory of general relativity around 1905.

Detail from Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Pablo Picasso, 1907 (Public Domain)

When You Bite the Master, He Might Bite Back

Third graders are on the cusp of dawning realism, a stage of artistic development where they want the drawings they make and the images they see to look lifelike.

This may explain why five seconds into my Cubist art lesson, eight-year-old Miss Arty Pants hates Picasso. I’m already struggling to make a 20th-century dead guy relevant to a bunch of Generation Alphas more accustomed to using a finger to swipe than a hand to draw, but she’s one and done. Miss Arty Pants, class barometer, speaks out loud what every third grader might be thinking. …

Edwin Landseer, Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania and Bottom, 1851, National Gallery of Victoria (public domain)

Art advocates and educators work endlessly to prove the arts deserve more time and attention on the educational stage. In our efforts to do so, we tend to cite evidence and arguments that fail to convince those responsible for funding the arts.

Sure, art boosts civic engagement, aids in social-emotional development, helps kids understand multiple viewpoints — even increases test scores. These are lovely side effects. But therein lies the problem. They are side effects that serve art up as a condiment instead of the main course.

Art is a core subject and should be taught as one, just like it was in Shakespeare’s time. Art at the cornerstone of education builds a foundation for genius.

I first heard about this idea from Robin Lithgow, former director of the…

How Prussian Blue is Poised to Save Your Life

Prussian Blue is used in both art and medicine.

Around 1706, in what is arguably one of the most prolific scientific accidents of all time, a color maker working in a Berlin lab ran out of his normal potash (water-soluble potassium salts commonly used as a base) and borrowed some from the alchemist who ran the lab.

The colorist, a man named Johann Jacob Diesbach, was in the process of concocting a traditional red derived from crushed insects. Meanwhile the alchemist who owned the lab was no mere mortal but a bit of a mad scientist intent on creating an “elixir of life”, so his potash wasn’t your average…

Art as the Antidote for Fear

Piet Mondrian, Composition II with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1930

It’s impressive to look at something so simple and tidy as a Mondrian painting and realize that inside its unassuming blocks of color lies a profound sense of hope for the future.

Around 1914, Mondrian returned to his native Holland to visit his sick father when the First World War broke out.

Unable to leave, Mondrian instead began the slow and steady work of abstracting his already Cubist style. Influenced by Picasso, Kandinsky, and other artists from the time he’d spent in Paris, Mondrian began to embrace even more extreme ideas, eventually distilling his art down to its most basic forms — simple shapes, horizontals and verticals, primary colors.

Before the outbreak of World War II, Mondrian wrote extensively about his belief in harmony and how finding balance is the best response…

They weren’t meant to be framed. They were demos.

Bob Ross, oil on canvas, Alaskan landscape, from the collection of James L. Carter

I hadn’t thought about Bob Ross in decades until the year 2016. That year three students showed up dressed like him for Halloween. I’d come as Andy Warhol, but everyone thought I was Sia. “Campbell’s soup?” I said, holding up the can I carried as an accessory, hoping to jog memories — they’d learned about him during our lesson on Pop Art. “Fifteen minutes of fame? Marilyn Monroe?” Meanwhile my art students were celebrating the kid in the chambray shirt with a curly wig and a paint palette, practically lifting the kid up on their shoulders. The Happy Little Accident…

Instead find the positives in his triumphs

detail, Vincent van Gogh, At Eternity’s Gate, 1890

“In spite of everything I shall rise again; I shall take up my pencil which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” Vincent van Gogh

My students always love the old romantic tropes about van Gogh — Vincent the starving artist who only sold one painting, Vincent the mad man who cut off his left ear, Vincent the wild genius — so intense that young children peered through his windows and threw things at him while he painted. Vincent the tormented, who was too fragile for this world.

No doubt, van Gogh’s…

Teaching Your Passion to Others Will Improve Your Own Skills.

I took my first teaching job because I couldn’t pay my rent as a freelance illustrator. At the time I thought of it as a fall back position — something I was a little embarrassed to reveal. I’m just an art teacher. I’d bought into the adage those who teach can’t do. I didn’t feel like a real artist by teaching. I didn’t see it as making money off my own art. It seemed like a dead end instead of a means to one, but I was wrong.

The “perfect” art career never materialized. Eighteen years later and it took…

I believe art is transcendent. It has the power to transport us the way a beautiful flower or the perfect sunset does. One may argue that art is no longer about beauty, but it’s fair to say great masterworks capture beauty across time. Consider the perfection of the human body as seen in the statue of David. Yet my favorite part of David doesn’t lie in it’s perfection — it lies in the contrast between David and the pedestal at his base, where the marble is roughly hewn and we can see the chisel marks. That’s when the curtain is…

Courtney Abruzzo

Artist. Art teacher. Mom. Social Emotional Arts Facilitator.

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