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You know what? I thought this was a place where creativity was fostered and artists were encouraged to take chances. I thought this was a place where expression and experimentation were valued. I thought this was an art class. I thought West Lakewood Senior High School was a bastion for iconoclasm. I guess I was wrong, Mrs. Forkenbrock.

I knew that my interpretation of the self-portrait assignment might raise a few eyebrows. But in following the tradition of Frida Kahlo and Richard Gerstl, I attempted to bring some culture to the halls of WLHS. And you’re undermining that by capitulating to the crypto-fascist demands of the administration. You and I, we view the world in a way that those plebes can’t fathom. We’re like that guy with the plastic bag in the classic film American Beauty. We see the world for what it is and we weep.

Let’s set aside the obviously misunderstood artistic merits of my piece. The assignment clearly states that students are required to create a self-portrait using the medium of their choice. I have chosen charcoals on paper. There is no stipulation of style (I opted for realism). The technical merits of my portrait clearly reflect the time and effort I put into it.

I wanted to push the envelope. As The Macho Man Randy Savage said, “If you aren’t on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” That’s what art is for: testing boundaries, challenging conventions. Some might even call what I had done edgy. But I never thought that my vision and art would be slandered with words like “lewd” and “inappropriate.” Especially not from you, Mrs. F.

The composition of my piece is bold, to be sure, but that is not by mistake. It depicts a young man standing proud. I will admit that there are certain aspects of my pose that I did not intended or foresee. But, try as we might, nature cannot be tamed by mankind. But I will not be body-shamed, Mrs. Forkenbrock.

Dennis William

Dennis is an aspiring English teacher and still listens to ska music. He lives in Portland, Oregon, which is fine, just not in the same way that DC is fine.

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