Cale Schoenberg expresses his life story through his alter ego, a charismatic yet troubled young man named Padawan.
Schoenberg, a fourth-year philosophy student, developed the character who he said he used to created his written and visual art project called “Padwon.” In speaking about the project, Schoenberg refers to it as Padawan’s creation, although the experiences and artistic choices are actually his own. The piece, developed over the course of three years, includes 16 poems written by Padawan that are broken into three sections titled “Here,” “Heaven” and “Hell.” The poems are all nailed to a large board in his apartment. Schoenberg said the alter ego of Padawan has provided him with a way to express personal thoughts, such as his best and worst fantasies, without making him feel vulnerable.
“Because (the project) is so personal, it’s easier for me to be personal if I’m separated from it,” Schoenberg said. “I can express things that I would normally hide.”
Schoenberg developed Padawan’s life narrative to mirror his own. Padawan played hockey when he was younger and hid his writing from others because of his primary involvement in sports, Schoenberg said.
Schoenberg started writing poetry when he was in his junior year of high school. He lived in Canada during his junior year and played hockey before moving to play at New York University.
Schoenberg included milestones, such as living in New York City, in Padawan’s life story since he considers New York City a very formative part of Padawan’s story, Schoenberg said. Padawan drew inspiration from the graffiti he saw, which heavily influenced the font style that was used to write all of the poems in the art piece.
In the summer after his first year at NYU, Schoenberg lived alone in his apartment and would play a game called “Five-Minute Faces.” The exercise involved drawing as many faces in five minutes as possible, which is where he developed his drawing style full of elongated faces, Schoenberg said.
The heaven-and-hell poetry aspects of the project reflect the ups and downs of Padawan’s personality, Schoenberg said. Padawan is a charismatic guy at times, who can resonate with the “Heaven” poems of the art piece, full of wonder and curiosity about morality. However, Padawan also experiences a strong internal struggle with darker ponderings about human nature that cause disruptive thoughts – topics seen in the “Hell” section, Schoenberg said.
Lewis Schoenberg, Cale Schoenberg’s brother, said the division of the thoughts – “Here,” “Heaven” and “Hell” – was a strong way for viewers to get into Padawan’s head and understand his complex journey.
“How could other people really get a grasp of Padawan?” Lewis Schoenberg said. “It’s a really good way to show the different stages of Padawan’s evolution.”
To begin the project, Cale Schoenberg said Padawan first had to select his poetry – a task that included writing around 70 poems, narrowing it down to 21 and ending up with just 16. After writing and consistently editing the poetry, he then perfected his graffiti-inspired font to add to the hand-written essence of the piece.
Next, Padawan wanted to fill the empty spaces on the pages with drawings, Schoenberg said. However, Padawan didn’t want to overcrowd the page and realized that adding just a face or two to each page balanced the pages out. Padawan even drew a character that represents himself – a tall guy with long arms curled at the end.
In addition to the physical board, Padawan also placed small items and objects around the room to compliment the art piece. He created a shrine made out of pennies glued together to look like New York City’s skyscrapers, as well as a ceramic pot filled with more than 40 pounds of rice because rice and beans is one of Padawan’s favorite meals.
Padawan also employed several unconventional methods to present his piece. He first put the poems together in a book format and dropped them off at night around Los Angeles, hoping for people to read and react to his poems. But after receiving no responses, Schoenberg said Padawan used a paint-splattered board from a UCLA garage to arrange the poems in the shape of a human.
Adam Vare, a fourth-year philosophy student and one of Schoenberg’s friends, said the physical presentation of the piece gives the art its power because of how it grabs viewers’ attention before they delve into the heavier poems.
“The pictures and the initial outer aesthetic capture you, and then if you start reading it, you get the inner mind,” Vare said.
Although Schoenberg has no plans of writing poetry in the future, he does like other forms of writing, such as short stories and scripts. Padawan was a way for Schoenberg to express his internal thoughts, and he said the character’s complexity allows for different kinds of people to relate to his project due to its ambiguous nature.
“If we’re really honest about ourselves, which I think the whole anonymous aspect allows me to do with (the poetry), you’re going to reflect on a whole bunch of things other people can relate to,” Schoenberg said.