The Agony and The Ecstasy (or, Nate as Michelangelo)

Before Nate was born, Karen and I decided that we weren’t
going to cordon off parts of our house and prioritize our things over our kid.
We’d seen that with some friends, who made certain rooms verboten to their toddlers.
Gotta keep the babies from breaking the precious bric-a-brac, right?

That wasn’t for us. One, we didn’t have the urge to section off adult sectors and kid
sectors. Two, we truly felt that our children had as much right to the common
rooms as we did. Three, we didn’t have any breakable heirlooms to protect.

At 3 years old, Nate had our Buffalo Grove home littered with lined up
Crystal Light containers, fruit snack boxes and Richard Scarry videotapes,
among other points of obsession. It wasn’t much of a problem. He was little,
and Robbie was a baby. One expects a maelstrom in those situations. As Nate got
older, he was less cluttered, and the house cleaned up slightly, but his room
was his domain. We knew he needed a sanctuary, a place where he could set up
his items to his heart’s content.

Nate’s Lincolnshire bedroom was particularly conducive to
his revolving exhibitions. There was a mid-wall shelf that covered the
perimeter and when Nate got fully absorbed with crafts, particularly through
the books of Kathy Ross, scores of completed projects were placed on display. Moving to
Cooperstown provided a bit of a challenge to Nate’s need to have all his things
out in public, but his room remained his own and, though we hung shelves, Nate
focused on the walls themselves and plastered both room and bathroom (our house
was a B & B, so each bedroom has its own bathroom) with self-created
documents on The Simpsons,  toilets, shopping centers and so on.

Not only the walls. The ceiling is covered in an array of
drawings, drawings of shopping centers in colored pencil. Nate’s art is
beautiful, the work of a quality primitive artist, with the flat perspective
that marks the type. Nate is prolific, and his subjects quickly become part of
an extensive series. A friend of ours, who is in the art world, sees Nate as
gallery worthy, and I can see his point. Nate the artist is Warholian in his
repetition and devotion to the beauty in the commercial world that surrounds
us. Strip malls as art objects? Absolutely. Supermarkets as models for an
exhibition? Sure enough. If Andy’s Brillo Pads and Campbell’s Soup Cans are pop art, why not the buildings that contain them?

Here a few photos, some an overall look at his ceiling, others multi-part panels that together make a whole. Check the detail of these very long pieces. They’re quite something to behold. Give a look.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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2 Responses to The Agony and The Ecstasy (or, Nate as Michelangelo)

  1. Eric says:

    Your son is very talented and I think it’s great how you promote his skill. 😉
    – Eric

    • Thanks Eric. We learned early on to be Nate’s advocate, but it’s more than that. He really has something there that reaches people in a positive way. There was a recent article in Nature, by Dr. Mottron, who noted that autism is too much described by its deficiencies, instead of its strengths. Nate has strengths and we focus on those while working on making the deficiencies less glaring. Thanks for reading.

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