August 12, 2015

The World of Py

By Duane L. Ostler

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The normally quiet air of Honolulu was pierced by a screeching cry on the foggy afternoon of November 26, 1945. It was the cry of a baby who had just opened his eyes for a first view of the world. Only this was no ordinary baby. He was an artist! And as any artist will tell you, a hospital birthing room is not a very attractive choice to catch a first glimpse of the planet.

Roughly translated, the baby's first cry said, "Man! This place has no COLOR!"

And so it was that the baby who was promptly named "Rodney Eie Joon Chang" (to his immense surprise) decided this drab world was in drastic need of an artistic overhaul. And even before he spoke his first word or took his first step he set out to accomplish this worthy goal. He delighted in eating multi-colored baby food, then spitting it up on any unlucky person who happened to get within spit-up range. (His diet also made his diaper changes quite colorful). He thrilled at every opportunity to combine whatever gooey mixture he could get his hands on, to see what new colors he could create. His favorite choices of goop were mud, hair gel, overripe bananas, smashed bugs and shaving cream. He delighted in smearing these sloppy items in the hair or on the shirt of anyone crazy enough to think he was "cute" who reached over to pick him up.

To the relief of his mother--and the chagrin of laundry soap and detergent companies who sold her less of their product--the infant grew into a child. His quest for color then increased in scope, as his hapless school teachers soon found to their dismay. For example, one of his early teachers discovered to her horror one day that he had etched a crayon image of her face all over the classroom ceiling. (Since he was still rather young and inexperienced, the image was a little bit distorted and looked rather like the face of a sea sick walrus). A fifth grade teacher made the unfortunate mistake of sitting on the edge of a desk where our hero had been mixing axle grease, catsup, cotton candy, shoe polish and mashed potatoes, to see what color would result. And in high school his sculpted head of the school principal (complete with bulging bug-eyes and a curved pickle-sized mouth) would have resulted in his expulsion from school if it had not been taken and used by the football team for punting practice.

Having now arrived at adulthood, "Py" as he was now known (short for "Pygoya"), decided to preserve his hearing by abandoning the rock band he had formed, and venturing into the dubious and vaunted world of higher education. He studied at the University of Hawaii with a major in zoology, where his greatest thrill was to gaze in mesmerized fascination at the unique colors found in blotchy animal diseases. Completing his degree in 1968, he then ventured to the mainland, where he hoped to find more color than Hawaii. In this he was sadly disappointed, since no place on earth can compare to the rainbow islands. He made up for the drabness he found on the upper 48 by majoring in art, where he joyed at sloshing color all over the university studio at every opportunity. The faculty at Triton University were thrilled and relieved when he received his AA in art in 1972--which coincidentally was the same year he received his DDS in dentistry from nearby Loyola University.

Why dentistry, you may ask? After all, no player of any word association game would EVER equate art with a root canal, or color with a molar decay. But Py knew better. After all, red is the most exciting color, and there are few professions where a person can stare endlessly into a red cavity as long as dentistry. (And, as all dentists know, if you get tired of red, just look up into your patient's nostrils for a dash of green). He was also able to satisfy his sculpturistic tendencies as he fashioned new mouths for his lucky patients. He was particularly fond of making his drill sing in artistic tempo as he bored away at cavities.

But fulfilling as dentistry was, Py was, is, and forever will be an artist. Art for him is an expression of an inner joy. Usually it leaps out in splashes of color on canvas, but it can erupt in different ways. One favorite artistic expression for this young dentist was the world of disco dance. Py loves to dance, and (to the embarrassment of some members of his family and close associates) often does so without warning, regardless of where happens to be at the time. After dancing his way through a few more degrees on the mainland just for kicks--including Masters degrees in education, painting and drawing, community leadership and psychology of counseling, as well as a PhD in art psychology--he returned to Hawaii where he opened a dental practice. By now it was the 1980's and disco was in its heyday. "Doctor" Py became an instant celebrity when he was highlighted on NBC's Real People Show as the "Disco Doc" of Hawaii. He was shown dancing in his Honolulu dental clinic--which had been artistically designed to double as both a discotheque and reception area, complete with a staff DJ.

In the years that have passed since then, Py has zealously pursued his love of color and art in projects too numerous to mention. In addition to his 10 university degrees--which put him in 'Ripley's Believe it or Not!' as a glutton for educational punishment--he has had his art work displayed from Piscataway, New Jersey to Moscow. An early fascination with digital art led to his founding the world's first virtual web art museum, which opened its nonexistent doors to the planet in 1997. The site continues online to this day, offering breathtaking splashes of color to the 1.5 million visitors who have stumbled in wonder through the halls of its virtual displays.

Py has explored the possibilities of cyberart probably more than anyone else on the globe. He has also remembered those who have gone to that great art gallery in the sky by way of his virtual cemetery project. In addition, he is one of the leaders of modern "webism," a global movement to connect the world through art on the web. And if this were not enough, he has even authored a number of science fiction/fantasy books (with artsy heroes and villains, of course), and continues to run wheezingly in full marathons at every opportunity.

Truly, Py is still "spitting up" in various colors on the world around him. And because of that, we are all a little bit richer than before.


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