Where Nymphs Come From

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During my first two years as a student at Tyler School of Art, the English classes in composition and creative writing became my favorite courses. I didn’t register for painting classes primarily because I wanted to concentrate on sculpture classes, which was my major area of study. However, I continued to paint in my Philadelphia studio because I was required to submit samples of my painting as well as samples of all mediums I worked with for the infamous Senior Revue by Dean Boris Blai, to show one’s proficiency in various art skills. In fact, student graduation was conditioned upon the Dean’s satisfactory revue of one’s entire portfolio submitted, which led to trepidations for some students, like a final exam.

At some point during my first year at Tyler, my Composition professor Mr. Lazarus, assigned the students an art project, to design our concept of a nymph, using any medium, any size, that would appeal to us. The class would vote on whose creation was the winner and he would award a prize.

As certain as I was that I would be the winner, the voting leaned toward another student. Never the less, the sketch that I retained in my sketch-book led me some years later to be inspired to create a painting titled, “Three Nymphs.” I didn’t have a story yet, but decided to allow the composition to evolve as the spirit moved me. I visualized the nymphs just skipping along, having a joyous romp on the sandy warm brown landscape. The girls didn’t have anything specific to do, so I put some flowers in their hands and some blossoms in their hair. They looked to me like they were planting seeds from the flowers, which led me to show one of the nymphs as being pregnant. So a story was beginning to ferment in my imagination. I added a large sun in the sky which seemed too solitary, until I added sun rays with white dots across the warm sun-filled sky. I added a distant landscape of hills and trees but the painting needed more. How did the flower seeds grow and where did nymphs come from, I thought to myself. So I painted an egg on the ground, which in my thoughts, evolved from the seed of the flower. Good idea, I decided, so I added more eggs to the landscape. But what happens to the egg? I questioned myself. It breaks open and produces a … baby,  a baby nymph. Yes! But how does it evolve? From an arm surrounded by vegetation and later, a head and a body and so on. That is where nymphs come from, and now I have story.

This story and painting might never have come into being if Mr. Lazarus had not been interested in exploring what his students thought nymphs looked like.

 

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