Essay 2

Actually this one came before the essay I posted previously, but we can pretend.

With Vision

I don’t know how many people remember what they were learning in the third grade. I do. I was learning about human biology. I remember that I was learning about human biology because I remember the day I realized that I was composed of human biology.

My family drove a minivan and I sat directly behind the driver’s seat. We lived in a somewhat rural area of northern California. My favorite dress was a pale pink, with long sleeves and a simple skirt. There is a funny perspective achieved when you look at your own torso from the position of your own eyeballs: everything appears foreshortened, too intimate, and every time I view myself in this manner I’m reminded of the fact that no camera could ever capture this oddness. So at the age of nine, sitting behind my mother in the minivan in northern California, I looked down at my stomach and was caught for the longest moment of my life up to that point. My skin peeled back from my stunted solar plexus and flattened thighs and chest and I could suddenly see a world of infinite smallness, the most bafflingly complex unity of sparks and cells imaginable, all captive and trembling beneath my exterior. Blood pulsed and DNA replicated and waste shifted and I was growing and my nerves were shooting memos faster than lightning and my grey, slushy brain awoke to the alarming notion that there is no end to the number of miniscule connections that could go wrong at any time for no reason at all. When I was nine, my mother’s olive skin was reflected in my complexion and against the peach pink gown my blood pooled beneath my skin, marbling me.

I moved into an apartment when I was seventeen and the closet doors would break a lot. I had three roommates and our house had two closets and my roommates had too many clothes. The doors were mirrored and the closet was in the living room, and whenever they broke I took it upon myself to fix them because I knew how. My father had installed similar doors in front of the closets of my brother and I, and I used to watch him, silently, as he labored to re-fix the wheels and sliders together. On one occasion my roommate Joe completely removed the doors out of frustration and propped them, facing each other, in the passage between kitchen and living room. They remained in this position for some time before I returned them to their sliders, and during that period each trip from one room to another, between the doors, opened a portal into one billion alternate dimensions. Should you stop and turn inside the reflected space, it became suddenly exhausting to find your way out again. Back from the mirror peered not only yourself, but you, and again, and also behind that. Should you crane sideways to see yourself around yourself, your images, all of them, likewise gestured. You caught glimpses of yourself in pairs, dancing this way and that to see just a little farther, but not one of you was successful. Effectively blind and wondering just what I was hiding from myself, spending too much time in between the kitchen and living room would lose me and I forgot several times, in those days, which doorway I was in, exactly.

I am stumbling into these traps of spectacle constantly. I do not know weather they hunt me out or if I knowingly seek them but I’m inclined to believe both. My torso has never again opened below my eyeballs but like most I am intimately familiar with its soft wrapping. How many times can one person stare into his or her own irises, reflected, in an attempt to analyze the musculature of revelation? The muscles under the skin of arms and legs are straightforward.

I would like to know how much beauty resides in perception as opposed to execution. When a particular figure model stands bare and the lines of his body ripple together, and against, able to create a sea or a solar system with the energy residing in one pose, it is easy as the artist to move an inch to the left and lose inspiration. I attended the Circus Center in San Francisco the year after I moved away from home and learned the hard way how difficult it is to be an acrobat. Most fascinating were the professionals who revealed to me, while I stretched, the failure and pain that go into amazing grace. I watched sinuous bodies stand in unnatural ways, and leap from great heights, and climb poles with their elbows, and all of these bodies would fall over and over again. The ease with which the completed feat appeared to unfurl was one polished stone among a pit of craggy jewels and I wonder now how much beauty is in neither the execution, nor perception, but inspiration.

Is there a limit to the number of times one human can stare into its own eyes? I will never get tired of willing my eyelids to peel back and forehead to fall away, like my ribs gave entrance one day behind the driver's seat, and allow one last glimpse beneath my skin. To be trapped, again; with vision.


Final Crit: Fibers

For my final critique in Fibers, I stayed awake for roughly 72 hours making glasses. For class, I wore business casual attire, purchased a hand mirror at CVS, displayed my spectacles in an orderly fashion in my "briefcase" (my grandmother's old suitcase) and when it was my turn, trotted to the front of the class and attempted to sell my creations. I asked everyone to come up and try them on, and after my performance was over, I allowed each class member to pick a pair to take home.
I wanted to sell these ridiculous, faulty, completely non-functional lenses as so useful as to grant their wearer super powers, so fashionable and versatile that you'd never want to take them off. My little spiel was entirely fabricated, of course, out of lies, but after class was over I did have the distinct impression that something magical was in play. Each girl managed to pick a pair of glasses that precisely suited their personality, face, and even outfit, seemingly on accident; and there were just enough left to take home for Molly, Mandy and myself - that also matched perfectly.
I took pictures of each girl and their accessory, and the album can be seen here.


Final Crit: Figure Drawing

Figure Drawing 2007 is complete. Above is the wall section allocated to me for the best drawings of the semester. There were more on the wall before I took this picture, but I've already posted them/they suck. (We had to put up our best and worst.) These are all india ink, and the one in the lower right corner is charcoal.



Sorry no pictures this time. But I still made this for art school.

I Don’t Remember My Fifth Birthday But I Bet I Cried

In the taquería with Scout last year she challenged my recitation. "You're unsettling," she told me, "don't talk about horrible experiences like they don't affect you."

My grandmother Vance died when I was eleven years old, two days before my little sister’s fifth birthday. I was sitting in the green chair, near the segmented front door, when Pete, my father’s friend, walked down the hill, up the front path and the ramp leading to our porch, opened the door and delivered the news. I remember crying for exactly five minutes. I’m not sure, now, if it was actually five minutes or if that time period had more to do with my sister’s age than my grief. Memories, Vance held, began at the age of five.

When I was five, Vance could still see, probably didn’t know she had cancer, and was mobile enough to make it down the hill for our pets’ funerals. She read Winnie the Pooh to me, and showed me her old Girl Scout badges. I’m not sure, now, if she actually showed me those badges, or if Bill, my grandfather, reached up to the shelf they lay on and brought them down for me to see, years later.

I know I discovered her scrapbook and watercolors on my own, quietly, when no one was around to interrupt their reverie. My ears perk like a deer or a small rodent if I hear vibrations of footsteps in adjacent rooms: I freeze; I prepare to shove things out of sight. This is the state of mind in which I gather secrets. If my imagination is loud enough to drown out everything around me, it must be loud enough to overhear; therefore, it is safest to collect delicate information only when no one else is present.

But the memories Scout spoke of are not eggshell, taupe or cracked rose in hue. They are more dull forest green or of a particular muddied navy. In the taquería last year I had been talking about my cousin Alex, who moved in with my family three years before my grandmother died, when I was eight.

Alex had an abusive stepfather. I remember a visit to my grandparents, the other ones, and when we left Alex came home with us in our car. For good. I don’t think my parents really kidnapped him, but my memory lays out the crime in detail. After that dinner party, our house, and what went on in it, picked up in ferocity. Alex stabbed his wall all night, every night. Alex punched through the computer screen. Alex tried to beat up my mom. My brother refused to share his room, and lived on the couch for a week. My sister, young and stubborn, cried; infuriated, Alex met her sobs with tirades, she bawled louder; it went on like this.

There was so much screaming I hid my vocal chords from the others, fearing one might rip mine out to enhance their own. Still I stayed in the rooms (the five rooms) and listened. Trees over blackberry bushes only speak what I don't understand. I tried to have a conversation with the aphids, once. They rocked their grass stalks in front of me, laughing. The spit bugs stuck my fingers together. Inside, the skylight above the green chair, when it was next to the fireplace, let sun through the spiderwebs. I am sure I sat there when my father faced off with my cousin, challenging his denial about the peanut butter cups. This is the state of silence in which I steal secrets. To catch the whispers between the shouts, it is essential to lower your own volume. A magician’s fingers will hush in his sleeve as his teeth bellow distractions. Pay close attention.

The food in the taquería is usually orange. The walls are yellow and textured, like tiny pustules on an improbably planar jowl. As you approach the bathroom the booths shrink and jostle each other and the men who sit there. The tallest woman behind the insulation-grey linoleum counter has hair that swings in a ponytail. She won’t look at you when you order – her eyes are busy.

Our food is delicious and Scout sits across from me, one hand feeding, one hand resting. She is frowning, or maybe I only remember her angry to suit the dialog that follows. She tells me I need to quit bullshitting myself and wake up to the fact that I didn’t have a great childhood, the events I just described probably did scar me, and I need to shut the fuck up if I’m gonna keep talking in that goddamn voice like none of it matters. I shut up.

These are not the secrets. I do not hide my secrets in tears, or in the blood that could leak from my knuckles if I punched the wall. The secrets are behind my eyelids and nestled by my eardrums. Anyone can be angry, and cry. Do I ever have the time?

I cried last September, when Scout and I had to separate. We both did. A lot. And I cried in front of Mandy when I heard about my father’s new, secret fiancé, and when I hadn’t slept for a week, and again, slightly, when she found out about the secrets. I told her there were two. I gave her one.

I never gave Scout any secrets, although we share many and I stole quite a few. I’m not sure, now, whether the ache with which I remember her is strong enough. I know we cried longer than nine minutes, though nine was the number of months we were together. I wonder how many minutes I will remember crying over Mandy.

I asked Mandy yesterday if she thought I was unsettling. She didn’t. I store this one between my collarbones.