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Hook Shot

My mother was an artist. She got her degree from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. I apparently inherited some of her artistic talent. When I got to college, it dawned on me that my mother had never given me or signed me up for any art lessons, although she obviously had seen some of my amateurish artistic efforts. I asked her about it. I don’t want to insult anybody, but what she replied was that with an art degree you could either teach art or be an artist. She was of the opinion that neither would be very remunerative.

Oh sure, I was the cartoonist for my high school newspaper and yearbook, but that was a long way from fine art.

In college I majored in history (which I loved). But you know how in your senior year you are just taking, shall we say, less than the maximum in challenging courses, because your grade-point average is well established? I observed that a number of Tri-delts were taking sculpture class. This was a major attraction. I had dated several of them, and I was interested in the possibility of improving those relationships. (In the end I married a Tri-delt. What can I say?) So I signed up for sculpture class in my senior year.

The professor himself was a well-known sculptor. Under his tutelage I learned how to sculpt AND how to weld. Most people say that I am most attractive when I am wearing a mask that covers my entire face.

Anyway, we were taught to first make a clay model of what we intended to sculpt, and then cast or weld the final work of art. I first made a clay model and then cast the final of a man with his hands bound. Titled “Prejudice.” The professor thought it was okay but told me I should make something bigger. So, I did. Again, the clay model, but this time I welded together my metal sculpture piece, covered it with something called “Keanes cement.” I have no idea who Keanes is. Then lacquered it over.

What was it? Well, my sports idol was Bill Russell, Hall of Fame center for the Boston Celtics. I had an action picture of Russell shooting a hook shot. I would look at that photo before each sculpture class, and then do what I could to duplicate it with my sculpture. I didn’t know that it was not plagiarism to use a photo to create an artwork, so I left the photo in my dorm room and worked from memory. I knew, everyone knew, that Russell was left-handed. That is what I depicted in my sculpture. It was getting a little confusing for me to look at that photo, try to remember every detail, and then duplicate it in sculpture class. As it turned out at least some of my confusion was because in the particular Russell action photo I had he was shooting right-handed!  Oh well. I got it done anyway. Left handed.

I was in college during the era of protests and societal upheaval. But not on my campus. We had two hippies. Two. In the whole school. Their hippiness was evident from the fact that one recited poetry to trees and bushes, and both dressed in what looked like pajamas with headbands and beads. To my surprise the two hippies were apparently artistic and were among the judges in the student art show. I didn’t submit my Bill Russell sculpture (titled “Hook Shot.” I had toyed with other more obtuse titles, like “Ballet of the Titans,” or “Six-foot Nine and a Half”), but my sculpture professor did. I WON FIRST PLACE IN THE STUDENT ART SHOW! And I won the $50 first prize. When you have $50 in college, you are like the wealthiest person on campus. Anyway, my sculpture went on display in a real grown-up art gallery and was photographed for the year-end Senior Class publication.

But in the end, maybe my Mom was right. I wound up going to law school, and things have worked out pretty well for me. If I had gone another direction, maybe I could wear pajamas and beads every day. Who knows?

James W. Korman is a shareholder with Bean Kinney & Korman in Arlington.

Author’s note: This article was written before the passing of the great and noble Bill Russell. May he rest in peace.