Artsnacks Unboxing

June 2022 Artsnacks Unboxing

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Techniques and Tutorials

Mixed Media Movie Stills – The Wizard Of Oz

I’ve started making a series of “mini” 5×7 mixed media works on canvas board that recreate stills from my favorite movies using a variety of materials. This is purely a “for fun” project and a way for me to do some whimsical, low-pressure creating in between my larger projects. I will likely have them available for sale in my Facebook Shop so if you use that platform, give me a like. I’m starting with childhood favorites, and the first one I have for you is Wizard of Oz. Using a printout as inspiration, I am able to do a simple graphite transfer onto the art paper of my choice. In this case, I used watercolor paper. Finding printed fabric or paper for the background that is already similar to the pattern you are seeking adds ease to the art making process.

In each of these videos, I will be using completely different materials, and I hope you will be inspired to try your own mixed media projects at home. Don’t draw or paint and the idea of trying stresses you out? You could do this same thing all collage style and just cut and paste the figure from the photo! There is always a solution, just have fun with it and as always I’m just a message or comment away with questions :). Materials used for this project are: Viviva Colorsheets Watercolors (love the portability and zero cleanup!), watercolor paper, detail paint brushes, cotton printed fabric, a 5×7 canvas board, and Weldbond glue (used because it is a strong hold for all materials since we are using thicker paper and also fabric). Let me know what you think!

What are some of the prettiest movies you remember?

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Exhibitions and Other News, New Work

New Art Series : Peace

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a series … since Unlimited from way back in 2017 to be exact. This new one is going to be on 22×28″ canvases and will be completely multimedia. I love mixed media because it allows the artist to use the best tool for each component of their composition. I draw people better than I paint them still at this point, so figures will be in colored pencil. Interesting silhouettes or clothing … fabric it is! Skies and birds? Acrylics of course, and why not palette knife paint the birds ;).

This series is going to be a way different theme than I’ve explored before. I always like to include deeper messages in my work, but have never done an explicitly spiritual message because it is important to me that my art is able to speak to viewers coming from all different places. Each work in this series will represent one of the fruit of the spirit, and though this idea comes from the Christian tradition, these principles are positive to cultivate in everyone’s life.

I started with Peace, maybe because this is something I have been desperately needing to grow in my own life over the last couple of years.

Peace is active. Peace is a verb, it is not simply the absence of noise. Peace takes work, and it involves risk and often involves stepping out and becoming uncomfortable. Making the changes necessary to grow peace are often painful. To truly be at peace our view of life’s value cannot be determined solely by circumstance, because external circumstances will undulate up and down completely out of our control, leaving us to be in emotional chaos, completely sucked beneath the waves.

Being a bringer of peace in others’ lives and in society as a whole is equally difficult. It means listening when we would rather shout over someone, it means sticking your neck out to protect or defend someone else even at personal risk of how others may view you or treat you afterwards, it means setting strong boundaries.

In this image, a woman is guarding a crowd of people that are behind her, blocking them from the shadows of chaos. These shadows have tried to grab her and drag her down, her arm is marked. However, the shadows cannot penetrate. Doves circle around her head which symbolize an inner strength and calm within her spirit, and can also symbolize her halo of protection that shields her just as she is protecting others.

The source from which we draw our peace protects us. The source can be sturdy and formidable, or … not so much. I am reminded of a speech one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace (who was actually an atheist), gave that really had an impact on me when I was floundering in the waves. “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship”. I’d encourage you to check out the entire speech discussed here. Another author that probably has about as opposite a personality from me as you can get but has really made me think, Mark Manson, writes in his self help book perfect for people who hate self help books, “True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving”. Much of life is composed of struggle, which is why if we wait for the perfect external circumstances to be at peace, we will never have it. Similarly, he discusses the importance of choosing the right metrics to determine what makes us and our life “good”. Faulty metrics used to define our life’s success and value are anything we don’t have control over, such as money, social standing, etc. which DFW also cited in his speech as destructive forces to worship. He calls worshiping these forces slipping into our “default mode”. They are the things we chase after and value when we are living without reflection, consideration, or deeper evaluation. They represent our base human nature, so to speak, and we all slip into this mode from time to time especially when under considerable strain.

Where does your peace spring from? What creates your circle of protection as you brave life’s trials? Are you more often a bringer of peace or of chaos to the people whose paths you cross in your day to day life? These are all questions I considered while creating this work. I strongly believe this series is going to be true art therapy for me as I work, and that my eyes will be opened throughout the process. I truly hope I am able to impart something of value to viewers as well.

There are layers of meaning, as I am a big believer in the fact that art should make people think. I’d love to hear what others see in this image, so please share if you are so inclined!

PS … I am so honored this first installment won an Award of Excellence at the Midland Artists Guild’s Annual Juried Exhibition last night, especially amongst such a fabulous collection works! Click here to view the entire show virtually. And yes, I made my jacket and paintbrush necklace! More on the inspiration for my wearable art creating spree soon.

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New Work

An Early MerMay Surprise!

Timely as May is getting closer and closer, I recently after long last finished my mermaid painting that I started at the beginning of 2020. This poor little lady kept getting brushed aside for more urgent projects over the years. It is also the first human figure I’d ever started with acrylics when my preferred mediums are colored pencil, ink, or watercolor, so there was definitely a self education process.

I’ve described this project as really giving the proverbial finger to gatekeepers who believe certain supplies can’t be used in fine art. Working at an arts non-profit, I am a big fan of use everything, and actually one of my favorite pieces I’ve seen at a museum in awhile was a giant panther in the jungle that was composed entirely out of flatback rhinestones and pony beads!

I first sketched the basic outline of my mermaid on the canvas base. I then used gesso to apply a variety of textured materials where I wanted a 3-dimensional surface: netting from avocado bags, tissue paper, and yarn. After I acrylic painted the main imagery, I dry brushed over certain areas I wanted to have an iridescent sheen with metallic craft paints which are also perfect for highlighting the texture. I glued tiny shells to the tail and the edges of the rock, brushing over with a watered down coat of black metallic to help them fade into the rest of the design.

She certainly exceeded my expectations! This is why you see projects through to the end past that “ugly phase” in the middle.

While we are on the subject of beautiful mermaids, check out this mermaid themed merchandise created by my Artshop Students! All designs were created by artists with disabilities. Show them some support by checking out our Redbubble Shop! Happy (early) MerMay 😉 …

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New Work

Surviving Winter In MI, Or Unleashing My Inner Bob Ross

I am like a plant. If I don’t stand in the sun every day I wilt. Unfortunately, I also live in Michigan and I am more wimpy about the cold with each year that passes. Incidentally, I have not been outside as much as I should over the last 2 months. I am always a big fan of if you can’t be outside, bring the outside in so I recently started doing something I never thought I would do after university classes … Painting landscapes!

Though I feel most at peace during a walk in the woods, I always shied away from nature paintings because I tend to lose interest creating something that one could easily just look out their window or at a photo to see. But then I remembered Eyvind Earle, who did the breathtaking background illustrations for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. He was able to capture a dreamlike quality in his landscapes that still showed us a world that was comforting and familiar, but that we couldn’t quite access in our waking hours.

Growing up in Midland, MI one of our local landmarks is Dow Gardens, a Japanese style garden that celebrates color and geometry. I chose this place as the subject for my first largescale landscape, replacing the blues and greens with purples, yellow ochres, teal, black, and burgundy. I embellished with abstract patterned upholstery fabric for some of the trees, floral cutouts and lily pads for the foreground, and accented some of the rocks and branches with metallic acrylic.

I actually just finished the above piece this past weekend though I started it before my triptych below. Just as I was starting my landscape, I was contacted by King’s Daughters Assisted Living, also in Midland (I live only a city over now but still work in Midland!), to come up with a piece of art for a blank wall they had that would tie together their newly renovated space. I was excited to not only put my painting brain, but my interior design brain as well, to use for this project. The new upholstery and decor was all in blues and greens, but much of the carpet in this mid-century-modern building was a brilliant fire engine red, and that was staying. I immediately thought of the red bridge at Dow Gardens, and suggested this nature scene as a way to tie together the carpet and the new furnishings. Many of the residents at King’s Daughters lived in Midland for decades, and being surrounded by images of familiar places brings joy and comfort, especially for those struggling with memory.

I’m inspired to capture more locations from my own past as I continue to develop my acrylic painting, a relatively new focus for me. Maybe some architecture will be next!

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Exhibitions and Other News

Now Showing : Breaking The Stigma

I have not been making as regular and in-depth posts as usual over the last year as I’ve gotten busier and have been devoting more time to youtube, but I wanted to share about a very special show I am a part of this month running through February 20 called “Breaking The Stigma“.

I was beyond thrilled with both the priviledge and responsibility of being invited to be part of a show centering around using art as both a personal therapy and a way to communicate inner experiences in a way that makes them accessible and understandable to people from all walks of life. I’ve written often on this site on what an important communication tool art always was to me as someone with anxiety, especially social anxiety. In a recent Throwback Thursday post (Yes, I promise I will be getting back to those!), I talked about how even as a young kid I was prone to using art to tackle darker themes or difficult emotions. Art allows for a method of transparency and vulnerability that can often be easier for others to understand and embrace than by using words alone. Aside from the end result, the process itself of art making has the power to manifest a sense of purpose and peace no matter what else may be going on around the creator.  Creativity allows people to unlock their untapped potential. I see this firsthand in the classes I teach where many of my students are beginning artists or artists with disabilities

You can read the article announcing the show opening which introduces the other artists involved in this show and shows photos of some of their work. I wanted to also share some of my personal thoughts about their art.

David Feingold’s art was exciting for me to see because a lot of it I would consider surreal portraiture which is the subject I myself enjoy creating most, but it was digital rather than traditional. His narratives were very personal, and spoke directly to the title of the show as they addressed the idea of mental health stigma head on. I found myself inspired to once and for all fully explore creating art digitally this year.

2 of Rebecca Allen’s pieces have been familiar to me since before I knew they belonged to her, as they take up residence in our elevator lobby display where I also maintain a showcase for my students with their work for sale. I loved the surreal nature of her figures. They are raw and honest, and the pain they feel is visually represented in the sharp, rough textures of her sculpture. They invite you to step into another’s shoes and imagine yourself in their situation and struggles.

Cynthia Keefe’s art dolls were very … approachable and trustworthy to me, though that may seem odd to say. They felt alive. Many of them have serious or even near faceless expressions and some in contrast are reaching outward, with mouths contorted in anguish or extreme emotion. Still, they seem like beings I would come to for reassurance or counsel in the important act of seeking the perspective of an older and wiser female. They have seen and experienced much, their story woven into their skin and intricate clothing.

For those in the area, we will be having a discussion panel on February 3. Follow the Creative 360 website and get on the mailing list for regular updates :).

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know: Surreal Sculpture At FIA

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve done an Artists To Know post (or a post in general!). Now that things are opening back up again in Michigan I visited the Flint Institute of Art a couple of weekends ago on a whim and saw so much beautiful sculpture work. This was the perfect opportunity to break my hiatus, especially since I myself have finally been taking some clay classes at my workplace after being intimidated by basically any sculptural medium for over a decade after some pretty big fails in gradeschool :P.

Sergei Isupov

Shadow

Anyone who knows me knows I am all about portraits and figures, and representing the human essence in art. On his website, Estonian-American sculptor Isupov states, “Everything that surrounds and excites me is automatically processed and transformed into an artwork. The essence of my work is not in the medium or the creative process, but in the human beings and their incredible diversity. When I think of myself and my works, I’m not sure I create them, perhaps they create me.” I really connect with these thoughts, and feel the same way about the portrait based art I create. I am drawn in by the surreal nature of his work and the strong story arc of his pieces. As a primarily 2D artist, I also appreciate how he incorporates 2D processes into his 3D art, such as the detailed paintings over the surfaces of his sculptures, almost as if the images across their body are allowing you a glimpse into their memories or fleeting thoughts. I am excited to learn more about this artist and investigate his other work.

Christopher A. Vicini

Idiotheim

Surprising nowadays, but I could find no online presence for this artist, aside from a closeup of this sculpture I photographed on Flickr. Therefore, I wasn’t able to learn much about the artist or his process, but I can tell you what made me stop and look longer at this piece. Like the previous piece, there was a strong story being told, but one that was not necessarily obvious and left the viewer to get creative with their narrative to an extent. It is assembled like a collage of Grandma’s nic-nacks, but when you look closer you see all is not what it seems. It reminded me of something you may see when you are walking around a house inside of a dream, familiar but with an odd twist. I also thought making it all white had an interesting effect – all form and detail being dictated by light and shadows.

Rudy Autio

Autio was born in Montanna where he has remained for most of his career, heading up the ceramics department at the University of Montanna for almost 30 years. Like with the first artist, I believe I was drawn to this because of the aspect of wrapping a painting around a 3D form. The style feels classic and modern at the same time, and the fact that there is a “hidden” scene on the back, making it almost a different sculpture depending how you are viewing it, was a lot of fun.

Joan Bankemper

Pimlico

I was interested to learn upon visiting Bankemper’s website that she actually primarily creates public installations based on sustainability and community gardening and farming. In her sculpture, she utilizes discarded or broken tableware and gives them a new life by combining them with ceramics pieces from molds she has collected over the years. Her work reminds me of walking into an antique or thrift store, but in Wonderland as Alice.

Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen

Falcons Series

Karen collaborates with her husband Devin as an artist team to create amazing glassworks inspired by nature. She does a lot of work inspired by birds, which is what grabbed my attention as birds are one of my favorite motifs in art. I love the concept of this trio, and would never have guessed that something like this could be formed out of glass. I like that the birds are stylized, and the flowers winding up the arms remind me of gorgeous 3-dimensional tattoos.

Pavel Hlava

Flower

Plava was “a pioneer for contemporary glass art in the Czech Republic” and came to be quite well known in the United States over the course of his career. As you can see from the other pieces I selected to highlight here, I am not usually as into art that is purely geometric and abstract. However, his pieces, of which this one was my favorite, were a different story. The detailed, fractal quality that shed beautiful rainbow light in patterns around the piece and the unique colors as well as the fact that there were layers of geometry even inside each of the external patterns gave his pieces a depth that had me standing in front of them staring, losing track of the world around me.

Lucio Bulbacco

Watcher

You can’t tell here but this piece is TALL. The first thing I must note is the deep grape purple color choice because though purple is my favorite color, it is not a color you see a lot in art. Even in my own work it just doesn’t come up often, which just adds to the regal mystery of this figure. The scrolling organic shapes that make up her form give her the look of a mystical spirit made of vapor, and there is a soft, wafting smokiness to her despite the fact that she is made out of hard glass.

It was so difficult to choose only a selection of art to highlight – I took a lot of pictures! I hope what I’ve shared inspires you, and if you have any favorite artists please share with me in the comments! I’m always looking to discover more creators.

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New Work

(More) Quarantine Art

Since about mid-November, my state when through a second, more mild, quarantine which put classes and activities in my Artshop program temporarily on hold and sent me back to working from home again. I will be plunging back into things as they reopen TOMORROW, so today I’d like to share some of the work I finished over the last couple months.

This first piece was a very fun commission where I was asked to do a surreal portrait in my signature mixed media, vintage inspired style but based on the song “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix. I was given some guidelines as to the type of figure portrayed and color scheme, but otherwise the project was completely open ended. And so, this piece was born, communicating a sense of love and positivity, openness, kindness and warmth, and creative spirit.

Little Wing Commission, Prismacolor Pencil and Mixed Media

It felt really good during this time, which to be honest though less restrictive seemed to be a hell of a lot more frustrating than the first full quarantine, to continue the trend of just working on creating some beautiful, uplifting imagery. The piece below is my largest to date at 4 entire feet high! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but everyone who knows my work knows I work small, “big” for me usually being 18×24″. Also note, no people or animals in this piece! I have another large canvas still untouched, and to really step out of my box I think I should do something architectural next.

Where The Light Is Held, Acrylic and Fabric

I also finished a full size bird palette knife painting, the rest of what I’d completed being minis. Yes, these are real birds! I’m always saving photos of exotic and interesting birds on Pinterest, and the colors and adorable yet zany plumage coming out of the top of these guys’ heads was irresistible. I found a couple of reference images, and decided I had to throw a baby in there too.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my new year starts tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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Books, Music and Film

Escape the Mundane: Supernatural Reading List

leonora-carrington

As we’re on day ??? of quarantine and a big day out consists of going to the grocery store, there has never been a better time to let a book take you on a journey to fantastical realms. I have subsequently been streaming a lot of scary movies lately ;). Why I love taking a break from Netflix and enjoying a good book is because it allows me to engage the creative part of my brain even while relaxing to imagine what is being described in my own way. If reading just doesn’t work for you, remember there are always audiobooks too! Below are some of my all time favorite supernatural stories to get you started.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Speaking of Netflix, I was excited to learn this book had been made into a series earlier this year, and will definitely be checking it out soon. A young girl with no inclinations of settling down (definitely a pretty strong feminist before feminism was a thing) has a chance to save herself and her struggling father who was cheated in business from crippling poverty when a strange proposition is made … That she marry a wealthy family’s dead son to placate his restless spirit after he dies of questionable circumstances. She is pulled into a series of surreal adventures in the parallel world of the afterlife that are rich with history and Chinese lore. The vivid descriptions of ghost cities and the spirits she meets along the way are absolutely fascinating. This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read within the last year.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

This is another interesting story that though fantastical is rooted in real history and spiritual beliefs. It is based on the real life person Teresa Urrea, who was the great aunt of the author and allegedly got sick and passed away temporarily, then came back to life, after which she obtained the power to heal. Urrea spent 20 years writing this novel and researching the life of this Teresa, who was and is revered as the “Saint of Cabora” but was never recognized by the church, who instead referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in Mexico”. Taking place in the late 19th century during the beginnings of Mexico’s civil war, there is a lot of history woven throughout the supernatural facets that add to the realism and make you question what actually happened back then …

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

This novel meditates on a lot of heavy themes: familial dysfunction, mental health, guilt, loss, grief … All through the connection between female family members, and parallel worlds and time travel. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and really defies a specific genre. When I found this novel at a used book sale, the teaser synopsis didn’t really tell me much about what the story was actually going to be about. I ended up giving it a try due to being sucked into the cover art, a gorgeous, bleeding watercolor and ink illustration of crying eyes on a stark white background. I guess sometimes you can judge a book by its cover ;).

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is another book that really defies description and you just have to check it out for yourself. It is an experience. I will be honest, you will probably either love it or hate it. The pages sometimes look like this …

hol3

There are stories on top of stories in a way, but the main story focuses on a family living in an ever shifting house that seems to be impossibly larger on the inside, the text often shifting visually with us as we read. Love it or hate it, it definitely will leave you feeling odd and maybe questioning reality a bit.

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

This book is quite literally about an outer space missionary. A man of faith is called by a mysterious corporation to minister to an alien race looking for answers. As he is celebrated and thrives among them, he finds things are crumbling at home as his wife and he communicate back and forth. Natural and governmental disasters abound on earth, and his sense of responsibility is understandably torn. Both an odd sci-fi tale and a drama, I found this novel itself to be quite strange, but also incredibly moving and thought provoking. The focus really isn’t so much on purely religious faith, but the idea of how we determine the hierarchy between our passions and the people who depend on us.

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

First off, this novel was penned by a well known artist that was a part of the surrealist movement, even more remarkable that she was a woman in a time when people still thought women couldn’t possibly be good painters. Insert eye-roll here. Her work shown above was used as the cover for this story. The main character of this tale is a hilarious nonagenarian with a good bit of attitude who is about to be sent to an institution for the elderly. She is understandably displeased, but all is not as it seems … Her new home has apartments shaped like cupcakes and igloos, and some lively leaders. It’s like Alice In Wonderland but in a nursing home, and is one wild ride with some interesting occult spiritualism thrown in at the end.

The Golem and The Jinni By Helene Wecker

This book is based in Middle Eastern and Jewish mythology and features two mythical creatures that form an unlikely bond. A golem, made of clay and brought to life through occult magic, is created to be the devoted and unquestioning wife of a lonely (and let’s face it, lazy) man who ends up dying on the oversea voyage they take together to their new life. Golems traditionally have a master whom they are bound to forever obey, and without she is quite adrift. A fire-born Jinni, created and encased in a flask in Syria and released in the middle of New York city, crosses her path and these now unbound entities form a strong bond as they try to navigate together a life in which they do not belong. Similar to many of these other stories, history and myth are pivotal which makes this book all the more interesting.

The King In Yellow and Other Horror Stories by Robert W. Chambers

This book of short stories stuck with me long after finishing. They aren’t really scary in the traditional sense, just very odd leaving the reader with both a sense of subtle discontent but also fantastical inspiration. Though less well known perhaps, I actually enjoy this author far more than H.P. Lovecraft.

Are there any supernatural books you love? Please please please leave a comment! I am in desperate need of new suggestions. Happy adventuring (in your mind)!

 

 

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Artist Bio

Throwback Thursday – Art and A Story

Today’s post is going to be a bit different … I’m going to share a story. I used to do a lot of short story or flash fiction writing 8-10 years ago while I was in college, but got out of creative writing in favor of technical as other creative pursuits took over. My first mixed media piece was actually inspired by a story I wrote, and was a bit of a self portrait. I was very committed to and unapologetic about the use of rick-rack. Hard to believe this is where it all started … It’s crazy what 8 more years of practice will do!

Another reason I’m sharing this is because next on my list of new art things to try is to make some sort of illustrated short story or children’s book. The following story is not a children’s book, or a bedtime story. It’s actually rather sad and strange but if you feel like giving it a go, below is the weird little tale about self expression, human connection, grief, dependency, identity, and odd characters that inadvertently got me started in the wonderful world of mixed media art and birthed the piece that was the first inkling of what would be my future defining art style.

i am the room

Cathedral

I am nothing without my telephone. I know when to wake up each Sunday morning because my neighbor and the only man I think I’ve ever loved calls me that day every week at 8 am. He suffers from delusions whilst he sleeps and every Sunday at 8 thinks he is calling his ex-girlfriend who lived in my apartment before me but died a few years ago. When he wakes up, he has no idea he even called. He used to sleepwalk and leave roses at my door too, but now he just calls. I saved them all and pressed them between the pages of a phone book, pretending they were for me.

I have 240 clocks in my one-room apartment, all 11 inches in diameter. I like to perform surgery on them so they all tick to slightly different beats, though I’m sure one of them must read the time right, I just can’t see which one. There are no doors in my apartment save a curtain in front of the bathroom so the 240 sets of clicks can be heard throughout the entire home, a pleasing tune that helps me keep my own personal rhythm in the outside world.

My telephone is how my best friend and I talk when she’s feeling depressed. She feels depressed often. I’ll pick up, and she’ll lament in a timbre so tragic I’m sure it could make angels scream, “I have no one at all. I am completely alone.” When I ask her if she’d like me to come over, she is only a six minute drive away after all, she usually says no, that’s fine. And then she’ll hang up.

If we are what we eat and it is what’s inside that counts, I wonder if I ate my telephone what would I become? I guess it depends if we believe we are defined by what we need or instead by what needs us. It depends if we are defined only by ourselves or by the other living beings that surround us, and if the latter is true whether the ones that shape us are those that choose us or those we chase after.

There is a group of people I call my friends that meet at the same bar every Thursday night. I know they meet there because social media tells me so. I know everywhere they go. I have a theory that the internet is so popular mainly because it is the only other communicable entity that can be as into you as you are. It also allows us to assume everyone else is just as interested. My mobile has a clock in its tiny right-hand corner, a sad clock that does not tick, a clock with no soul at all. These friends never tell me they are going but they say hello to me once I arrive, so that must count for something, right?

I have another theory that says human beings can be paralleled quite closely to furniture and architecture. Some people are chairs, tables, bedside lamps. Some people are windows, doors. Some people are picture frames or Persian rugs, and some people; some people are the entire room. They are the walls that contain all the other items that have no real value or function without them, just a hapless collection of what could have been a catalog worthy design if only there were walls and a floor to set the tone. I was a chair, and my friends were all the room.

They discussed memories from parties I never attended and shared stories about people I’d never met. I laughed along with them as if I had. I was a chair. People always liked the fact that I existed, but were all the same vaguely disinterested. As I sat on the end of a long table sipping a beer the conversation turned to a concert last week that I had actually attended, and when the break in conversation flow called for it I interjected. The others hardly so much as nodded in my direction. I could say the same things they said, use the same mannerisms and vocal inflection, dress the same way and listen to the same music but still my voice would remain at that inaudible frequency that results when chairs attempt to speak to rooms.

I was not the room, and nothing I or anyone else might do would change that fact. You see, rooms are only attracted to other rooms, and so houses are built of big, vacant cubes with no doors leading from one space to another, no windows to see into the other aside from themselves.

Sometimes, often, I feel different than how I seem to have been born. I am tall walls with cathedral-cut windows and boldly colored masterpieces on all the walls, masterpieces that can make viewers involuntarily excrete from one or more orifices, that induce early labor in pregnant women and that make the old and toothless drop their dentures. Only, there are no viewers. There is a round glass table, jade green glass and low to the ground with silken plum colored pillows surrounding; a place where no one sits. And this entire world fits inside a modestly sized rust-orange armchair, covered in dots shaped like pimento-filled olives. I’ve outgrown myself, my skin just a sack of old clothes too short at the ankles and awkwardly fitting under the arms. My visions of myself cannot fit inside my worldly receptacle but they have nowhere else to go, and I realize this now more than ever.

After leaving the bar I walk to the local everything store and pick up a roll of plaster bandages. That man I love, my neighbor, I didn’t tell you before but he works at a morgue. I imagine he too feels out of place, immersed in death yet his own organs and tissues still very much alive. He knows I am “one of those creative types” and together we have a special understanding. When he works the night-shift, dressing and embalming the newly deceased for funerals, he’ll let me in a back door most people who haven’t worked there for at least ten years don’t know about. “Hello,” he smiles and ushers me inside. New for today is an elderly man with a wide, exactly forty-five degree angle wedge of a nose and a distinguished, curled upper lip, a young woman in about her mid-thirties with round marshmallow cheeks and deep set eye sockets and a middle-aged gentleman with an extremely pronounced brow, a cliff casting a dark haze over the collection of facial features below. I set to work covering each cool face, like leather in air conditioning, with a thick layer of Vaseline.

“Not very old at all,” I indicate the one with the cavernous eyes, “What happened to her?”

“Poisoned. Something she ate they said. A severe allergic reaction.” He stops and tips his head up, away from the grey pillow before him, stuffed full with soft, springy fat and tender organs. His hair sways back against his face in one smooth, rhythmic motion, swinging forward again as tangled ropes hit against his elastic skin. Strands move and jump like pendulums and I wish he were made of wire and metal so a sound might reverberate, a sound I could record and add to my clock symphony. He was a clock, that was his parallel. He was a time bomb, but in this place more than any I knew that all humans were in their own way. He’d always said what he wanted to be more than anything was a broken tree branch, torn in a breeze carried far away from its tree.

“You remember how I told you my mother was mentally ill?” I nod. I have finished with the old man and am now laying the wet strips of plaster over the Vaseline, an old tin bucket at my side. Once the strips are smoothed and set, I move on to the poisoned woman, rubbing clear jelly around her soft cheeks, over her eyelids, the skin jiggling back into place after it is rubbed like pudding left sitting too long in a pan. “Well she tried to poison me once. I was home from school sick, nine years old, and she put something in my tomato soup. My neighbor stopped by to drop off the homework I missed for the day since she had a kid in my class. My mom had been outside gardening. When the neighbor realized how sick I was she insisted on taking me to the hospital right away. I could have died.” He shrugged and looked out an imaginary window, for this room had none, “I guess I just thought you should know.”

I didn’t really know how to respond, so I just looked up attentively. Most stories like that don’t want a response. These stories just yearn for the simple knowledge that the storyteller is no longer the only one who knows. We spent the last twenty minutes while waiting for the plaster to dry in silence. This was not uncommon though. There are a lot of people that wouldn’t believe me but sometimes relationships can be built simply by both persons existing at the same moment. A misconception is that interaction only applies to two of the five senses, hearing and touch. Simply by thinking about someone you are interacting because they are occupying a space in your mind, changing your thoughts and perceptions either by replacing those you would have had were you not thinking of them or by interjecting within your psyche some of their own words or ideas … just as I was interacting with the dead. Twenty minutes later I had lifted the faces from their fallen owners and bid farewell to the clock and his companions.

Why do I do it? Why do I collect the dead’s faces? It is not for the reasons you’d expect. It, for starters, has nothing at all to do with preservation or memory. The dead are just subjective faces no longer present in the world at this given moment. Their fleshy counterparts do not speak and move and act out a life independent of the plaster faces any longer. They can be whomever I imagine.

In my apartment I have 240 clocks hanging right now. I grab three new faceless clocks out of the storage closet, housing clocks being all it is used for, and affix my new faces to them with strong, chemically smelling glue. I will have to find a space for them somewhere; the party is getting crowded.

I need these faces to define myself, just as much as I need my telephone. That is why I do it, face collecting. This way I am not the only one who knows I have a world inside of me with cathedral windows. It’s another question that bothers me often: Are we the people we see ourselves as or are we a collection of how others see us? Do we define ourselves or are we defined by the effect we have on others outside our own world, by the adjectives we bring to mind in their world? Or are all definitions as useful as broken clocks …

It is 4:30 am when I hear a frantic pounding on my apartment door. The rattling of the wood adds a new pattern to the rhythm of the clocks, their own sounds offset by the fact that they shake along the walls. I run to the door before the whole place comes crashing down. Through the peephole I see that, thankfully, it is just my neighbor from the morgue. I unlock the door and ease it open; he forces it the rest of the way and jumps into my arms, knocking me backward over the arm of my couch. My form is instantly surrounded by soft pillows and I can feel the contours of his limbs pressing into mine, imprinting. His breath is warm against my chest, my heartbeat pushing his face in and out. He is sobbing, the tears containing as much heat as his breath so that it feels as if I am being soaked in blood.

“It’s my fault she … it’s my fault … it’s my fault she died,” he gasps for breath. “She drank poison. I poisoned her.” His eyes are upturned and silvery blue, moisture on the tips of light yellow eyelashes like dew on a field of grass dead from winter. “I had meant the poison for me, but she accidentally drank from the cup …I, I hadn’t wanted her to be left knowing I killed myself. We were together, I loved her … I couldn’t have her knowing that was the cause of my death, I couldn’t do that to her. I was trying to protect her, have her think it was just a random act of fate. Instead, she’s left this miserable place and I’m all alone, still here …” he paused, “I wasn’t meant to live since I was nine years old, and now, now I can’t die. But if I would have, she would never … she would still be …” He turns his head and brings up his arm to caress the face of a clock on the wall behind the couch. “I’m so jealous of them all, every single day,” he caresses the plaster as one would a lover. His hand is shaking until suddenly in one final act of brutality he throws the clock from the wall, afterward burying himself inside of me once again. The woman from earlier now lies broken, dead a second time and so soon amongst scattered golden screws and clock parts, still making a slight twinkling din as they roll across the floor and into each other. Her eyes are in pieces now, but I can still feel those dark holes upon us, judging, always judging.

His frame is so tiny and fragile in my arms, I’m cradling him like one would a small child. I want to protect him from the woman’s gaze. His arms reaching tight around my neck, I can feel the smooth contour of muscle against my shoulders and clavicle and I know he could hold tight enough to strangle me but despite all his strength, I have never seen anyone look so small. “I’m just like my mother,” he whispers. “No matter how hard I tried to stay away, how hard I tried to make my branch fall. I became her I became her I became her …”

I hold him tighter until his face seems to seep through my chest … his eyes crying my blood my heart pumping his tears until I can feel us containing each other. His eyes might seem vacant now, his face expressionless but that is only because he is wandering in the room with the cathedral windows, looking outside upon a tree with many fallen branches. I can hear the clocks even louder now as he has stopped crying, and to their rhythm I in my own mind chant, I am the room. I am the room.

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