Writers’ Trigger: I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. The story starts in Mexico in 1929. The first paragraph begins:
“In the beginning were the howlers. They always commenced their bellowing in the first hour of dawn, just as the hem of the sky began to whiten. It would start with just one: his forced, rhythmic groaning, like a saw blade. That aroused the others near him, nudging them to bawl along with his monstrous tune. Soon the maroon-throated howls would echo back from other trees, farther down the beach, until the whole jungle filled with roaring trees. As it was in the beginning, so it is every morning of the world. The boy and his mother believed it was saucer-eyed devils screaming in those trees, fighting over the territorial right to consume human flesh.”
Later, the boy learns that the saucer-eyed devils were only howler monkeys, but at the time… even the mother “ran down the tiled hallway to her son’s bedroom, appearing in the doorway with her hair loose, her feet like iced fish in the bed, pulling the crocheted bedspread tight as a web around the two of them, listening.”
- Brainstorm: As a child, do you remember being afraid? What were you afraid of?
- Use that fear as the subject of your morning pages today. Write in a child’s voice.
Yesterday, artist Helga Schmidt took me to see the Byam Shaw MA Fine Art Show. My favorite pieces were installations, not to be confused with what we would think of a conventional Art.
The first piece “A Drive in the Country” by Terry Dynes consisted of those green, tree-shaped air fresheners, the kind we hang over the car’s rear view mirror to mask the smell of the hamburg wrapper and lost fries lurking under the passenger seat. 250 air fresheners hung on fishing lines from the ceiling. What was interesting was that seen from a distance, the “trees” approximated growth patterns of real trees and the studio lighting on the trees created a shadow – exactly the same had the sun been shining behind real trees. I loved the positive/negative mirror image as seen in the reflection..
A second exhibit, this by Christina Pedreia, was titled “Don’t trust anyone, not even your own shadow.” In this case, a doll dressed in flaring red flamenco skirts was suspended upside down by a filament of fishing line tied to one leg. A slide projector with no slide inserted, beamed a light on the dancer, and in the projection, the dancer was on her feet. The exhibit had me thinking of how I wish that I could trust the tall and thin shadow that I see when the sun is low in the sky and behind me.
But my favorite exhibit was “Sway” by Lucia Rivero.
Do you know the song?
“When marimba rhythms start to play / Dance with me, make me sway / Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore / Hold me close, sway me more…” (I should be able to have “Sway” playing in the background as you read this. Give me some time. I’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, type “Sway” plus Dean Martin into your search engine, and by listening to the music, you’ll be better able to envision the installation which had two hair dryers suspended from the ceiling.
One hairdryer was black and silver; the second dryer was smaller and pink. The two dryers hung by their cords which were plugged into a utility electrical cord suspended from the ceiling. When it was time for the performance, Rivero turned on the music and then with a sweep of her hand, she sent the dryers in motion.
The dryers oozed sex. Dipping and swaying, they circled one another. Together, apart, together, apart, twirling, flirting, clutching and coiling, their dancing scorched the floor. The couple (he dark and handsome, strong and sure; she, girly in pink and following his lead) – sucked us into their passion.
I felt my shoulders and hips come into play. I felt my inner Latina come to the surface. Yes!
Is it art? Yes. Anything that takes you outside yourself and makes the familiar different is Art.