I SPACE GALLERY (July–August, 2008)
University of Illinois MFA thesis exhibition
Some days it’s necessary to go walking barefoot in places where shoes are normally the rule. Maybe it’s a childhood backyard nostalgia rushing up, but more likely it is to simply feel thick skin push off from rough pavement radiant with the collected heat from the afternoon sun. There’s nothing like some friction to get the blood vessels and nerve endings ignited and popping.
Beneath, you imagine subterranean rivulets that thrum and purl with a phthalo blue solution. Each step makes the whole place quiver, and a multitude of steps creates constant vibration. Digging finger holes in the soft earth uncovers the underground streams and throbbing roots. So, too, do the things we hold in our hands dig deep into our beings. The point of connection in the palm pulses smoothly like a snake gulping its dinner. By consequence, degrees of engagement are measured by either painful sensitivity or soothing release, staining beloved objects with heartbeat, and coagulating into pacts of desire. This is the land of the living, a place so lifelike you could misstep and be swept away by it.
The American Dream—a bloated term that we prod from a distance with a stick; do we still pursue it? To seek happiness and end up with a smirk instead of a grin; to attend university and become educated in oneself, not the classics; to own a self-made image, not a million possessions. The American Dream is lying face down in a puddle behind some shrubs. This is not a sleeping-pill-Dream, but a lucid Dream, the type where you step out of the action, kneel beside the frothy puddle, and cup its murky liquid in your hands. If you drink this water you won’t be instantly nourished, yet compelled to describe its taste, temperature and texture, and to season it as if a winter’s brew.
Life’s interiors, say, where your toe rests in your shoe, or the name you call yourself, spiral in and around on themselves like the 23-feet of folded intestine inside your belly. Smooth out your heart of hearts and lay it out to dry in the sun. Sometimes so much dust, released when abandoned corners are stirred, collects in clumps at the back of the throat. Now inside’s out, but something else always gets tucked back in, promising to ferment in the dark, like night blooming flowers.
To see yourself in the round, hold yourself at arm’s length at a safe distance. Your manhandled self will look back at you, head askance. Sometimes these hands greedily grab, or interlock fingers with others, or turn off lights at night. Sometimes these hands work seemingly on their own: the daily repair of the body, the automatic tracing of a contour, the pulling of so many strings.
Fortunes are told by disemboweling the heart and reading how it drops to the floor, but then something has been killed. If humans did not exist, they would have had to be invented. Humans, known for their struggle, are the mark of a great story.