The notion of Mark Soderlind sprang to mind while reading a biography of one of my favorite artists, Mayfield Parrish. Since as was young, I have adored his art. His works exude an aura of wonder and fantasy while remaining anchored in reality. Gazing at his canvases, I was always convinced that they made the world seem enchanted, albeit by a mere 25% more than it already is.
One of the main points of the biography was the role that Maxfield’s parents played in his development as an artist. It struck me that the great artist and his parents spoke the same language, as it were. They likely recognized his talent from an early age and knew there was something to be nurtured.
This made me think about all the artists who have come into the world only to be raised by individuals who could not see the value of early scribbles, music, or whatever muse walked hand in hand with the gifted child. Over time, the gift would be discouraged, most likely in favor of something more practical and essential, and the artist who had the potential to change the world would become another banker, engineer, or plumber.
What would happen if a genius entered the world and was raised in the wrong family? What if genius was misplaced? I am convinced it happens more often than not.
My thoughts then turned to what would eventually become Mark. A man who could not be more ordinary. Someone not particularly attractive, intelligent or ambitious but who possessed one quality that would make all the difference: What if Mark was just a spectacular father? Perhaps he
failed in business and had no career to speak of, but he cared so much for his son that he was willing to give up everything to see the full potential of his child. What if the real genius of this story was the father and not the son?
From there, all the questions began to flow about Mark. Why did he not have any ambition? Why did he not pursue a career? Why was he so emotionally intelligent yet not highly educated?
As much as this story is about Alan and the idea of genius finding a place in this world and taking root, at its core, it is about a father simply trying to do his best with the little that life has given him.