6. Avatars

I made these  drawings for my two daughters when one graduated from college and the other from graduate school last spring. I wanted to take their respective school mascots – “Trip” the bulldog, and “Traveler” the stallion, and see if, by running them through a different design vocabulary, I could transform them: from benign, playful caricatures, into avatars for the energy and potential of two young women on the threshold of adulthood. I wanted to use the language of nobility to energize my daughters’ strength.

Pictures have these super-powers. They are protean. In the 1930s, Donald Duck was designed to bring lighthearted fun to children and their parents. Later, when he was transferred onto the nose panels of bombers and other fighting aircraft in World War II (under Disney’s guidance and free of charge), the crotchety bird became an insignia of something else: a leavening irreverence in the face of death and dire circumstances, and the iconoclastic reproach of youthful soldiers to both decorum and a lethal enemy. That’s an amazing journey for a duck – or rather, the image of a duck.

For my daughters, I wanted to send Trip and Traveler on a reverse trajectory, from the world of refrigerator magnets, tee-shirts and gift shop swag back to their roots in Medieval heraldry. I wanted to change their sense of purpose. Now, while ruminating on the first part of this entry (#5. What Does it Matter?) and the value of art during a global crisis, I thought I might invoke my four-legged friends’ super-power one more time, and enlist them in another cause.

Traveler’s motto is quoted from a medical oath my older daughter took upon her graduation. It has new meaning during a time of pandemic. And as for Trip, he’s right: when it’s all over, we shall rise like the sun. We must.



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