The Story Of How An Ugly Piece Of Art Came To Be (But Not So Ugly That It Lacked Its Charm)
Saturday, July 17, 2004
The Fiery One’s birthday is coming up shortly after he arrives home from his work trip to Texas, and I am broke. I mean really broke. Ever since he started going on these work trips, my money disappears faster than it ever did before. I think this has something to do with the fact that I take myself out to dinner more and smoke a lot more when he is not around. Anyway, what being so broke means is that I don’t have much money with which to purchase an awesome present. This doesn’t distress me too much, because I am terrible at picking out good presents for people. I actually think that a filing cabinet is a good present.
So, I have decided that I will make him a present. Also due to my lack of funds, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on supplies, so I kept my limit at 10 - 15 dollars and bought two cans of Tremclad rust paint – one of Yellow and another of Fire Red. Why rust paint, you ask? It has amazing coverage and so can be stretched really far, and it’s dirt cheap. I also love how vibrant it is. One drawback to my having bought the rust paint is that I neglected to buy any turpentine (it was outside my budget), so now my kitchen drain is bright Fire Red. Oops. I will clean that out with some turpentine when I get my next paycheque.
I suppose that I should tell you what I was painting. There are some old cupboard doors that are painted a hideous green hiding in our hall closet. I am assuming this was a misfired home decoration attempt on behalf of some previous tenants. I took one of the doors, unscrewed the hinges and the latch attached to it, and peeled off the green paint. The paint was some strange latexy kind that peeled off like a facial mask, so I didn’t have to worry myself about the fact that I also forgot to pick up any sandpaper.
As you have now probably guessed, this ex-cupboard-door is now missing its essential door parts and is painted Fire Red. I will eventually use the Yellow and the Fire Red and varying shades of the two combined as the background colours for whatever will happen on top. I’m making art, don’t you know! I rarely make art. Actually, I don’t know if you could call anything I’ve ever made “art”, but once I get into it, I love it.
I must run off. Art goes hand in hand with smoking, and I left my cigarettes at the restaurant that I went to for breakfast with Friday and P. I am justifying this by thinking of all the exercise I will get by walking the fifteen or twenty blocks there and back.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
When I went out to retrieve my cigarettes from the restaurant, I decided to take a very roundabout route home and ended up running into a guy a know sitting with another guy I didn’t know sitting at a table outside my local pub. The way my brain couldn’t process that it wasn’t my leg that was suddenly so heavy but a large wad of gum gluing my sandal to the sidewalk coupled with the extreme heat, I knew that going back to inhale more of the fumes that were likely still in the apartment was not a good idea. Okay, so it was the offer of free beer that lured me in. Oh, how I love the free beer, despite the fact that it kept me from my art goals for the rest of the day.
Today, though, this art thing is taking over, and all the house cleaning that I really have to get done before the Fiery One comes back home is not getting done. I’m blaming my inertia regarding the cleaning front on this bloody hot weather we’re having, but at the same time, it’s not stopping me from painting indoors amongst heavy fumes. Perhaps I won’t have to worry about this art piece being ugly or ineffectual, because so many of my brain cells will have died off that I won’t have my powers of critical discernment anymore.
I painted four large squares ranging from bright yellow to a nearly-red-orange on top of the Fire Red base and then waited and waited and waited and waited and waited for the paint to dry. Tremclad rust paint takes eons to dry. I turned the can around and read that it takes three to five hours at room temperature for it to be “touch dry”. It is over 30oC in my apartment and humid. This could take a while.
Monday, July 19, 2004
I have been fretting over where I am going with this art piece. Sure, the Tremclad rust paint idea seemed like a stroke of genius when I hadn’t done anything yet, but now that I am done with the rust paint base, I realize that I had not thought ahead to what would come after the rust paint. I have to have this thing done by Wednesday and have the apartment tidied up, and I have no clear plan! (Notice how what was once spoken of as “cleaning” has now become “tidying”. I suppose I must suffer for my art).
Shortly after I realized my time constraints and started panicking just a little wee bit inside, a student left a couple of old textbooks with us at work that he couldn’t sell back and didn’t want to lug all over the place. One of my co-workers foolishly threw them in the garbage, but I knew what a find these books were and fished them out. As soon as I began flipping through their pages, I knew what it was I had to do. Collage! I would collage different images from the microbiology and psychology textbooks into the four different paint panels while I figured out what else to add.
So, tonight, I spent my time diligently cutting out pictures of viruses and bacterium in petri dishes and human brain maps and definitions of psychological terms. My enthusiasm spilled over onto an old issue of Bust magazine, and words that felt appropriate were clipped out and littered all over the floor. I had to make sure to clearly separate the stuff I wanted from the trimmed-off garbage, because the piles looked so similar to each other.
One of the things I like about collage, at least when I do it, is how a strong theme will emerge as I go along cutting out images and text without my having settled upon any particular ideas at the outset. This is what happened tonight. Themes of biological / institutional / societal strictures and the stress and internal conflict they inspire seemed to rise up out of the piles of clippings as they were glued to the work, but still, something seemed flat about it.
I decided that I needed a head to draw the four panels together, so I got out the jute twine I’ve been saving and began coiling it in a spiral around a picture of some emo kid’s head I was using as a base shape. I now have the beginnings of a head sculpted out of string and liberal amounts of white glue. This new addition to the piece takes a lot of patience, because after every couple of layers I have to let the glue set for a while so that I don’t end up pressing the whole thing into a mushy pile.
At any rate, it will take most of tomorrow night to finish the head and collage work, so I have given up on making this place look really clean, because after all the gluing and whatnot, the living room is covered in dried rolls of glue, paper clippings, and bits of string. I don’t know if our little Hoover can handle what it’s got coming.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
I was right. It did take me all of tonight to finish this thing and then some. It’s already two hours past my bedtime. The head took some work. I coiled and glued and coiled and glued and eventually was able to build up a round, empty mouth about 3/4s of an inch deep and a matching eye socket. I built up the other eye just a little bit and stuck a screw in it out of laziness. Then, I glued long strings coming out of both the eye and the mouth that wove themselves around the collage work on either side.
This mess of an art piece grows creepier with each addition but in a bright, cartoony kind of way, and I don’t know if I like it. I have prepared the Fiery One for the eventuality that he will find his birthday present to be quite ugly, and he’s very nice about this kind of thing, but still, I am starting to feel like the six-year-old with a lumpen, clay ashtray on Mother’s Day when my mother doesn’t smoke – a little sheepish, a little proud, a little embarrassed, and really, really, really hoping for positive reinforcement.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
The Fiery One arrives home at midnight tonight, so I applied some finishing touches to the piece before getting down to tidying the apartment. The gaping eye and mouth holes looked unfinished somehow, so I filled the mouth hole with melted red crayon and the eye hole with two shades of melted green crayon. Believe it or not, this worked quite well. It did not diminish the cartoonish horror quality of the work, but I gave up trying to stifle that part of it shortly after beginning the string head sculpture part of the thing.
The apartment has been vacuumed, clothing has been removed from the futon in the living room, under the computer table by the kitchen, and the bathroom floor. Dishes have been done. The bed has been done over with fresh sheets and blankets. It is late, and I should try to fit in at least a little bit of sleep before he gets here, but I am too nervous for that. I haven’t seen him in three weeks, which always puts me back to feeling like I did when we were first dating: worrying about my hair, my skin, my weight, my smell – will he still like me? Also, after three weeks, I am going to hand over the scariest looking present that he has probably ever received, and he is going to be so nice about it, and I am going to hide my head under a pillow and chant stupid stupid stupid, because I want it to be perfect somehow, but it’s art, so it can’t be, but it’s for him, and I want it to be.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
He liked it! He really liked it! I was so excited when I finally came home last night, and we chatted and cuddled and kissed, and it had been so long that the excitement made me nauseous. I sent him to get his present from under the table cloth I had hidden it under, and he carried it back into the room, looking at it with this totally unreadable expression on his face, but then he said he liked it for real, and we had romping dirty sex for the first time in three weeks. (These run-on sentences are an expression of buzz and joy).
Today, he told me that I should do a really big piece, huge, which is a sure sign that he truly does like my art piece, because if you make an awful train wreck of ugliness with no value, someone does not tell you that you should make even bigger train wrecks of ugliness with no value. I may take a picture of it and I may consider e-mailing the image to those who request it, but I make no promises.
Due to this positive reinforcement, I am already planning out what might be my next art project, which revolves around the theme of sock monkeys. It’s true. The Fiery One may live to regret his support-my-spouse stance.
Eight U.S. states and New York City have filed a law suit against several power companies for their contribution to global warming.
This quote so makes me want to read this book:
“Debauched people and writers like to present themselves as gourmets and connoisseurs of fornication; they are bold, resolute, resourceful, they have intercourse in thirty-three different positions on everything but a knife blade, but this is all talk; in reality all they do is screw cooks and visit one-rouble brothels. All writers lie. It's not easy to make love to a woman in town as their writings claim. I have never encountered an apartment (at least not a respectable one, obviously) where it would be possible to upend a woman in a corset, skirt and bustle on to a chest, or a couch, or the floor, and do her without attracting the attention of the servants. All these descriptions of doing it standing up or sitting down, etc, are so much nonsense. The best place is in bed, and the remaining thirty-three possibilities, whether of the simple or complex variety, are only suitable for separate hotel rooms or a barn.”