It is one of the high points of my week. I am in my weekly tap class. We have completed our warm up steps and are doing short combinations. I smile at my mirrored reflection as I note that I am wearing my red Gap T shirt with “Inspi(red)” printed across its front. I have been inspired, I think, as I’ve made my living as a fiction writer with an arts practice on the side. Writing, drawing, painting. And continuing to tap. I read the word again and think, so what if I am dyslexic.
I lose my place in the sequence of cramp rolls. Something is wrong with that reflection. Should I be able to read what the T-shirt says when I am looking in a mirror? The letters and word should be reversed. Right? I am not sure. I am dyslexic and have trouble keeping such distinctions straight. The word, so easily read in the mirror, mocks me, reminding me of all the other times I am not sure what goes from left to right or right to left. Which way is north or south. Reminding me of the times I have been lost driving or walking, how I have trouble remembering how to spell words, do multiplication, learn a language other than the one I absorbed as a child. Mocking me for hearing every word in my head as I silently read.
I am distracted by these thoughts and having trouble with a simple combination of riffs. As we start a new tap sequence I feel for the shoulder seam of my shirt. It confirms that my shirt is on inside out. I cannot keep tapping. I am not doing a very good job of it any way. I leave the tap line to put my shirt on right side out. When I am back in the line I check myself in the mirror. “Inspir(red)” is now reversed. I regain my composure and complete the class.
You might wonder that I can tap dance with dancing’s continual need to keep right foot / left foot functions distinct. t was a big problem for me when I first started tapping as a six-year-old. Fortunately, my teacher - Miss Irene - noticed I was having trouble and put a ribbon on my right tap shoe. t helped tremendously.
In 2010 I added printmaking to my practice of the visual arts. I have been learning to do monotype, linocut, etching, and aquatint. All these processes require that I reverse images. If the drawing of a person is looking to the left in the etched lines of a copper plate, the person will be looking to the right in the print. A tree on the right side of the plate will print on the left side of the paper. Left is right and right is left. And as if that is not enough of a challenge for a dyslexic, printmaking involves a lot of organized, procedural thinking. Each technique has a long list of to do’s before you pull your artist’s proof of a print. Aquatint, for example, has several procedural steps involving a rosin box, a heated surface, pages of an old phone book, protective gloves, a tray of chemicals, running water, and the all important timer. For a dyslexic, printmaking presents a lot of challenges. But I love doing it. Why? I’ve wondered. Why do I like it so much when it is so challenging and there are other art processes that are procedurally so much easier and that I already know better?
Recently, going to the print shop to do aquatint on an etched copper plate, I had a light bulb moment. I love printmaking precisely because I am dyslexic. The printmaking processes with all of their detailed directions, materials, and procedures keep the deficient left side of my brain busily pre-occupied and out of the way leaving my more highly functional creative right side free to function in all its right braininess glory. And leaving me open to be inspired.
To write this blog I had to check that I assigned the correct qualities to the left and right sides of the brain. I had not. But now it’s right. Right?