Function Over Form

by S.C. Torrington on December 11, 2007

frame10It was suppose to be an Assyrian Cherub.

No, not one of those chubby babies with wings and the Betty Boop lips. Instead, in the ancient land a thousand miles east of Egypt, a cherub was a mythical creature with the body of a lion or bull, a man’s head and eagle’s wings. The animal was sculpted with five legs so that when you looked at it from the front, you saw two legs, standing still. But when viewed from the side, you’d see the four-legged creature walking. Pretty clever, huh?

Morgan’s sculpture studies are straightforward and two-fold. First an art history lesson, followed by a relevant hands-on project. So we looked at a Mid-eastern map, read a few pages about Assyrian cherubs and their kings then compared photos of Assyrians’ depiction of humans to Egyptian art: muscular and manly vs. sleek and sexless. At this point, Morgan pulls out his self-made gray Play-Doh to form his own low relief sculpture of a cherub—the five-legged kind. We review: bull, beard, wings, five legs. Got it.

I’ll spare us all the recounting of watching my talented-in-other-ways, 13-year-old son spend close to an hour laboring over a creation that I can only describe as a pile of cat shit. I mean that’s what it looked like. And it was pretty bad, too.

Yet does that matter? Morgan’s sculpture had all its required features, even if I couldn’t really see them until he pointed them out. But once I realized that pencil hole was the eye, I could orientate the sculpture, turn it right side up and it all came together. I’d date it to The Cubist Period. Good job. Class over.

Now this exercise may strike you as one of those useless Jeopardy Trivia facts I’ve railed about. But the truth is, understanding and appreciating another culture’s creative expressions is probably one of the best ways to understand and appreciate your world, culture and yourself.

Besides, the Assyrians’ five-legged cherub concept—come on, how trippy is that?

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