June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson Drawings

Typically, I wouldn't post three articles on the same subject (outsider art) so close together, but the death of Michael Jackson has prompted me to share these drawings.

As we think about creativity and what it means, I think of what creativity has meant to myself and to my eldest son, Bryce, who has idolized (at times to the point of obsession) Michael Jackson, since he was 9 or 10 years old. This love for the entertainer, and it is love, an important milestone in a child with pervasive developmental disorder, and those feelings, thoughts and emotions led to drawings, multiple VHS, DVD, CD purchases, a letter to MJ, and sending him a copy of Bryce's first book, "The Boy in the Mirror" (no longer in print).

Bryce's captivation with "all things Michael" led my sister and I to take him to NYC on Sept. 10, 2001 for the 30th anniversary concert; an unforgettable night for us all, especially considering the events the next morning. It's the only time I saw Michael Jackson live, and as I told my husband last night, when he danced it was like an energy field surrounded and embodied him. Like more energy and charisma came forth than one person's body could hold. It was unforgettable to watch.

At the Rock 'n Roll Museum in Cleveland five years ago, Bryce stared at Michael's glove and we have a photo of him standing with a big smile in front of a guitar there decorated with paintings of Jackson.

When I heard the news of Jackson's death, I called the facility where Bryce lives and broke the news to him, and talked with him, and let him talk and cry. Our family recognizes that, to Bryce, Michael Jackson was the most important person outside of our family and Bryce's girlfriend, Sara. I was very concerned about how he would take the news, but thankfully a call later that night and to the facility this morning told me that he is okay, and has found a way to cope: thinking about other good things. Ah, we can learn a lesson from that.

One staff person, he said, told him "the world is a better place without Michael Jackson." It always amazes me how insensitive some people can be who work daily with those who find life challenging mentally and physically. I reminded Bryce that he has heard those things before, and that many millions of people throughout the world feel sad, just like he does. But that he will feel happy again.

I received the latest copy of Raw Vision (a UK magazine devoted to Outsider Art) this week. And am growing in my understanding of the genre... I want to share with you Bryce's drawings over the years of Michael Jackson. He's never gotten the tattoo he wanted of him (though he has Jesus on one ankle and a cartoon character on the other). Hopefully we won't return to that desire! But, I expect to see a new Sharpie-drawn T-shirt soon (see drawings on red t-shirt at bottom) as well as new drawings based on the many photos of Jackson being released. Bryce will wear MJ's image proudly as his own unique tribute to someone he believed understood how he felt going through life.

Update: Bryce does not watch news 24/7, nor have access to the internet, so he's been shielded from hearing "Michael Jackson's death" over and over again every day. It seems to be sinking in with him though, and I expect there will be more questions, drawings, and even tears as time goes on. But, as his brother said, "Bryce'll always have Michael Jackson's music." And, in this blog on creativity, that's an important point. Creative work allows our voice to continue on, no matter whether we are a world-famous megastar, or a woodworking grandpa, or a crocheting mother. How we treasure the physical manifestations of creativity left by those we love!


Anonymous said...

very sweet, i love it!!! wish m.j. could see it.

Janice Phelps Williams said...

Thank you!
Bryce and his friend Sara and I just saw "This is It." Bryce continues to draw and refine past drawings of MJ. I will post more in the future.

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