As I have mentioned previously about my arts high school, there were specific requirements for each year – two dimensional, three dimensional and media. The year before the nude art class and the battle with the dance department I again found myself stuck with the three dimensional class for my last semester. I had little to no interest in sculpture and did not particularly care for the teacher. She was the young daughter of the head of the arts department, fairly fresh out of art school herself.
In my own way I felt like rebelling by making every single one of my sculptures using cardboard, masking tape and various paint. I was using a theme based on Claes Oldenburg – a Swedish sculptor who played with sizes, making large things small and small things large. I made a tiny sofa and created a large scale salami, to name a few. Cardboard and tape all around – nothing more, nothing less.
After about eight of these small scale projects I was approached by the teacher. She hadn’t really given me any guidance during the term, but now she was ready to voice her concerns. She wanted me to expand my materials – not so much in those words, but saying that if I didn’t use something other than cardboard and tape she’d have difficulty passing me for the course.
Failing one of those classes was a ridiculous thought – it never happened unless you missed several weeks of class or didn’t complete the required assignment. I took her words to heart and began working on something big.
I grabbed materials – a large wood panel, a hot glue gun, lightbulbs, yarn, a big block of Styrofoam and of course, just to stick it back at her, some cardboard and tape. I cut the panel into four strips, two thin and two slightly wider and nailed them together. It created a five foot tall, thin box. From there I used a hand saw to cut a set of feet to attach to the bottom and scissors to cut out some letters. I painted it all red and it was clear to everyone I was making a six foot tall Pez dispenser.
The hardest part was the head, carving it from the Styrofoam block. I carved deep eye sockets and stuck in the lightbulbs, but didn’t have enough time or know how to make them light up. Instead I painted pupils on the bulbs and continued to carve. It wasn’t the most artistic face, but you could tell what it was. In the end I said it was a caveman to cover for the crudeness of the work. The face was painted and covered with a 99 cent store wig to complete the sculpture. I installed a pivot on the neck so it actually opened as a real dispenser would, but did not make the candy inside. The work was proudly displayed at the senior showcase and garnered some attention, mostly because it was so recognizable.
At the end of year, Hamden announced several participants to it’s annual “Salute to Young Artists” and I was named to the list. Along with receiving a certificate and being a part of a big ceremony, I got to select three pieces to be displayed at the town library for the summer, one of which was the six foot Caveman Pez dispenser. At the opening a man asked me to make one for him, only blue and with Batman’s head, but he never followed through. The dispenser is still proudly on display in my parents attic.
*Editors Note: I am looking for a old photo to scan. If not I'll take a new one in the attic, where the dispenser is laying on an old twin mattress.