- Cartoon by Max Lorber-Lew
It's become a quarantine cliché: the lament that you've "squandered" your stay-at-home time if you haven't started a novel, learned a new language or mastered the alchemy of sourdough. Max Lorber-Lew, 14, has no reason to feel guilty. The recent graduate of Lyman C. Hunt Middle School in Burlington has made a drawing every day since the shutdown began. And not just to pass the time; creating his cartoon-style pictures has been cathartic, he said.
"I draw mostly stuff from my imagination," Max told Seven Days, "but in this series I've been trying to do what I see going on in the world and relate it to my life. I'm more interested in capturing the emotion of what's going on."
Indeed, Max captures both the uncertainty and the ennui of being stuck at home day after day. His cartoon from day 26 — titled "April Break 2020" — consists of three identical panels in which a figure lies on a couch reading. They are labeled "Before," "During" and "After."
Many of his drawings display a wry sense of humor; others are observations that need no commentary, such as the image shown here. "I was at a store, and there were a lot of people just not following the [mask] rules," Max explained.
Yet another drawing reflects his response to the global explosion of outrage and protest after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The dramatic red-and-black poster features a small human figure in silhouette beneath a large hand-printed quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Max's quarantine output has been no surprise to his parents, Jason Lorber and Nathaniel Lew; their son has been drawing since he was a toddler. "When he was 2, he loved drawing the Statue of Liberty — he would draw it 10, 15 times a day," Lorber recalled. "He wasn't yet 3 when a friend came over, and I said, 'Max, why don't you draw the Statue of Liberty for her.'" Sitting across from the guest, he drew it upside down — from her perspective.
"Max disdained crayons — he wanted pens — from a young age," Lorber continued. "We got him art books, and he pored through them. He's a voracious reader."
Though Max's talent is clearly his own, he "comes from an artistic family," Lorber noted. A former Democratic representative in the Vermont legislature (Chittenden 3-3), Lorber is an actor, comedian and business consultant; Lew is a singer, the artistic director of vocal ensemble Counterpoint and professor of music at Saint Michael's College.
Max, who has taken art classes at Davis Studio in South Burlington, as well as at Hunt, will enter Burlington High School in the fall. Though he hasn't yet seen his official schedule, he knows he's taking "at least one" art class. "I really hope it's not virtual," he said.
At 14, Max is too young to know "what I'm doing as a career," he acknowledged, "but I know I'll keep making art, even as a hobby."
This article has been updated to reflect Max's last name and Nathaniel Lew's academic title.