Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Mother Nurture

“I can’t run.”
“I can’t draw.”

I’ve heard these phrases over and over again and I wonder if they’re consciously devised excuses or simply naive delusions. This (excuse or delusion) notion of “can’t” stems from the unnecessarily polarized nature v. nurture debate. Where did the “v.” come from, anyway? Do they have to be fighting each other? I tend to, if forced to choose a side, side with the nurturists. After all, if something is to some extent genetically predetermined, why not fight it (if it’s bad)? Someone with a genetic predisposition toward diabetes does not shrug her shoulders, give up, and eat unhealthily in the hopes that she might speed the “inevitably” predetermined “genetic” condition.

Neither should someone who thinks she’s non-athletic not participate in sports or someone who thinks she’s not artistic not practice drawing. If public education forces every student to learn math and English, and try her (theoretical) best, whether or not she thinks she’s a math or English person, why not encourage all potential artists and runners to draw and run?

I pick running and drawing in particular because from an early age my family, peers and teachers encouraged me to draw. And, ever since high school, I’ve suddenly become “a runner,” even though I’d had no athletic promise before high school, I never became that great a runner, and I’ve gotten severely out of shape since. Not only that, but I’ve seen other “non-runners” (like me) become record-breaking cross-country runners. And I’ve seen non-artists practice and practice and practice, eventually becoming amazingly skilled artists.

Now the discussion of ability in art is interestingly ironic. When artists are children (whose abilities presumably are limited by their young age) society judges the degree to which they are artists based on the quality of their representational art. Then, when an adult artist produces a piece of expression (at least in this day and age), society often judges the quality as being proportional to the apparent childishness of the “artwork.” In other words, in order to prove yourself to have artistic potential as a child, you need to draw as much like an adult as possible, and in order to prove yourself to have artistic potential as an adult, you must be able to draw like a child. It’s not just a joke of polite society—much of modern art does indeed look like the work of a kindergartener.

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