the undergraduate journal of humanities
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(above) oil, encaustic paper canvas, collage
My current painting practice stems from translating urban and rural landscapes into grids and shapes. This visual is derived from the patterns revealed when surveying land from an aerial view. I have simplified this grid into patterns and introduced vibrant color to further deviate from the source of natural landscape. As subject matter for my work, I decided to combine these land patterns with my interest in birds. My challenge has been to find a way to make them relevant to one another both conceptually and aesthetically.
on the cover Amanda Breitenbach
acrylic and latex on canvas
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Editor-in-Chief Carolyn Lucas Assistant Editor-in-Chief Brit Estrada Art Editor Olivia Baldwin Art Reviewers x x
Letter from the Editor Poetry Editor Chloe Clark Poetry Reviewers x x x Prose Editor Anna
Head Copy Editor Cailly Morris
Prose Reviewers x x x
Copy Editors Brit Estrada Kiran Gosal
Publicity Director Carly Ettinger
Essays Editor Katie Witham Essay Reviwers x x
Finances Director Kate Neuens WUD Publications Committee Director Sarah Mathews
Layout Editor Gayle Cottrill Layout Assistants Sher Minn Chong Marine Hamersma
Welcome to the Spring 2011 issue of Illumination: The Undergraduate Journal of Humanities! I am extremely proud to introduce another issue. What you are holding in your hands is the product of many months of hard work from our dedicated staff, who, through their passion for the humanities, have brought you the best selection of art, poetry and prose that this school has to offer. This semester, Illumination is featuring one of the school’s most talented artists: Anthony Moore. As an Iraqi war veteran, his artwork reflects both his experiences there, and the experience of returning to the United States. With such a hot-button topic in today’s political atmosphere, I am excited to display Anthony’s unique viewpoint that he displays with such raw talent. In addition, his accompanying essay explains in depth his experiences and also the methods and reasoning behind his artwork. It is truly a moving piece, and I would like to extend my thanks to Anthony for all of his hard work. On behalf of the entire staff, I would like to present this issue for your viewing pleasure! But, before you turn the page, allow me to extend a special thanks to Sarah Mathews, the Director of the Publications Committee, for the endless passion that she continuously pours into all of the magazines. And, on a personal note, I would like to thank my mom and dad for their love and support and my fiancé, Dexter, for always being my sounding board. Finally, I would like to thank my aunt Cathy and uncle David and my grandma Carol and grandpa Joe for twenty-three years of endless encouragement! Salve! Carolyn Lucas
Mission The mission of Illumination is to provide the undergraduate student body of the University of Wisconsin-Madison a chance to publish work in the fields of the humanities and to display some of the school’s best talent. As an approachable portal for creative writing, art, and scholarly essays, the diverse content in the journal will be a valuable addition to the intellectual community of the University and all of the people it affects.
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5 Nick Zukauskas
digital print, 8” x 10”
Untitled 2 digital print, 8” x 10”
illumination 2011 2
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table of contents spring 2011 poetry But In Time You Will Forget 4 Jessica Erbs Camera Obscura 5 Nick Drew Macabre Beauty 6 Rachel Peterson Supply/Demand 7 Chris Apfelbach I Want to be Forgotten 8 Peter Charles Allen Patriots of the Bread Line 10 Eric Maus She Borrows This and That 11 Jack P. Clark Wolf 12 Chris Apfelbach
art Untitled, Untitled 2 Untitled Godspeed Four Braids Untitled Flow Untitled My Brooklyn Ghostly Park Marie Lucia
2 4 5 6 10 11 12 13 17 22
Nick Zukauskas Vivian Cruickshank David Michaels Raeleen Kao Kelsey Eaton Jennika Bastian Raeleen Kao Annelise Kelley Kimberly Quirt Annelise Kelley
literature Blink 14 Stephen FIsher Reflections on Horticulture 20 Dusty Karls before the Apocalypse
Editorâ€™s Page 1 Table of Contents 3 Final Thougts 32
Front Lines to Fine Art 27 Anthony Moore
table of contents
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But In Time You Will Forget Jessica Erbs
Once upon a time An old man went to the doctor Complaining of heartache in his head And headache in his heart The doctor led the old man To the operating table, bade him lay down Picking up safety scissors A butter knife, some paperclips The doctor dimmed the lights And went to work He pried open the man’s chest To see what ailed him Inside all seemed perfectly normal Silk spun lungs billowed with each breath Christmas light rope veins Blinked on and off with life Clockwork heart clicked and clanked With each second passing Then the doc noticed a small red string Tangled up in the gears of the heart He reached forward and pulled And it unraveled between his fingers For the old man it became the moon Crashing into the ocean
Untitled ink on paper
It became his child’s face, for one moment clear As it hadn’t been in years Jessica Erbs: She is a rather absent-minded English Lit Major (isn’t that how is is for all of us lit majors, though?) who finds the best daydreams are rainy days ones spent cruising about on Wisconsin back roads, just enjoying the scenery for what it is.
illumination 2011 4
It became that night, gliding along the beach When the sand caught beneath the tires And there was no one to catch them No one to catch them but the waves
But then the old man blinked button eyes And found himself back in the doctor’s room And in a voice like the clinking of coins The doctor said, “there’s your problem, sir” “you’ve gotten the thread of your thoughts tangled with the workings of your heart””
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Glass eyes tell no lies but only record sins compressed by telephoto lenses. Aperture admits as much light as he chooses. No choice, no agency objective prism, dispassionate voyeur unblinking uncaring ever staring flies flit about festering fruit rotten, split guts spilt seeds overripe blood oranges litter the field falling amongst corpses posed in the act of living. Paused midscream, mid-scene, midSlow death of a life imprinted upon fast film stock at ISO two fifty. When the film is used up so is he, direct your own life efficiently. Extreme close up, pupils dilate Face to face with his own reflection horsefly lands upon the reflection of a killer in a dead man’s eye one of a dozen sprawled amongst the roots, died running away, to? From? Died running amidst
Falling leaves and special effects Who would want to watch their whole life again and again and again? Could he edit and make a montage of moments put conversation in static framing shot, reverse shot, point of view subjectivity continuity created, narration unrestricted A dying man’s hand clutches, reaching for salvation. Falls upon a fallen orange, bloody handprint mars the pebbled aromatic peel. Coughs out his last words Just like they were rehearsed live your life like a movie it was said. But what kind of film would this mess make? Who would want to watch me? He says to himself, behind the lens. Calls cut, and takes five.
Nick Drew: He is a poet, filmmaker and all around no-goodnik who hails from Milwaukee, Wisc. He works for the day when the artist is not a special sort of person, but every person is a special sort of artist. For more of Nick’s work, visit www.zenlunacy.com.
Godspeed digital print
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The flesh is slowly siphoned off my bones Ounce by ounce Fat drips off Meandering, slipping, dripping off my joints Revealing the sharp, crooked exquisite below It weaves a spiderweb of ribcage The ridges of the black widow sternum project Sitting majestically between Shrinking nubs of breast A cavernous, hollowed-out valley of abdomen Lies carved between the jutting, precipitous cliffs of hip bone Spindly fingers caress The vertebral cobra Slithering down my back Reading the daily changes Like some fucked-up version of Braille Shoulder blades like butcher knives Piercing triangles in the surrounding air Collarbones straining to break the mold Of the restrictive skin around them Rusty handlebars Of a Broken bike Of a Body There is a fractured elegance In the gradual Wasting Away
Rachel Peterson: She is a sophomore originally from Hermantown, Minnesota, pursuing a career in Secondary EducationEnglish.
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Spectacle, spectacle! The seething mass of humanity demands spectacle! Give us travails, battles, pomp, buffoonery! Give us blatherskites and bombast! Give us asinine apes in costume, cantering about! Heroes? They died with Hamlet, my friend. Gods? Did I hear you correctly? You from around here? Rip van Winkle, for how long have you been sleeping? Arise! Smell the perfumes, taste the additives! Substance, oh, what a tough morsel to try to digest; Form, though—Christ, but it melts on the tongue! Why clamor for depth when you have illusion?
Where’s the novelty in filling things in? When did life as an outline become a criminal offense? Brave pioneers, I call on you! Come, come. Discover the new, and abandon the feats of yesterday To the musty annals of the squalid past; Forge our frontiers with sound, and light, and fury— Our future must be ready by press time tomorrow. Go! Hack and mash away at meaning with the desperation Of a people afraid to let themselves confront silence!!
Four Braids graphite
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I Want to be Forgotten
Peter Charles Allen
This is not my homework. This is nonsense instead of sense. Why do I spend so much time talking myself into being a sensible, responsible person? Responsibility is something I abuse, and when the neighbors call me in and the cops arrive at my door, she keep her good mouth shut and wipes the tear away. I see this thought as a possible poppy field on the yellow brick road to my future, You know, a REAL future. Find a job, find a wife; fuck around with the wife without protection until she pops out a couple selfish brats who won’t give a damn about me after they grow pubic hair. My wife will get sucked into the television set and I will be left with only my day-job, which I’ll spend in a fluorescently lit office whacking off to images in my head of what the new intern would look like wearing only tube socks until she walks in on me doing so and gets me fired. My kids will hate me, My wife will hate me, Everyone will hate me more than they already did before I jizzed on the auditing report. No, I don’t want to get fired like that. Maybe I would rather burn out of college, red eyed and bleary, crushed under the rock weight of failure. Or if I’m lucky I’ll squeak by with some kind sweater-vested professors who don’t want my parent’s already strained pocketbook to go to waste. I’m a terrible student. I’m a terrible son for knowing that. I make things like this instead of REAL work. I don’t like REAL work, but oh do I love useless working. But I’m rapidly starting to not care about an American school system based around out how many peers you can mow down with your AK-47 mind I just don’t know how much more business school frat boys circle-jerking to Ayn Rand I can take. But alas, I am a fool. Apathy leads to a lower quality of living for my future – less education, less money, less health care, more problems. I’ve been scared straight by these statistics for a long time. I don’t know how much more blackmail I can take.
illumination 2011 8
I’m a creative individual, I think. I make shitty poetry, I make shitty songs, I make shitty photographs, I make shitty movies,
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5 I make shitty stories too. My drawings are by far the shittiest thing I make. Here’s an example: 333333 CCC========3 3 C l 3 CCC========3 3 333333
Peter Charles Allen: A Madison native, he is a senior here at the University. He keeps busy by playing and writing music under the stage name P. C. Allen, hosting a long running radioshow on WSUM called “Sad Bastards,” and writing and taking pictures for Emmie Magazine.
See, I told you it was shitty. But at least I’m making something other than an auditing report to jizz on. But what is the purpose of all this useless art I make? Does it need a purpose? I’ll go on record saying I’m making this shit, all this so-called worthless art, because I need to create something, anything Please, just anything other than an auditing report to jizz on. I can’t just be another academic talking circles around some brilliant dead white guy, bearded and forgotten. No, I want to take that shot in the dark hoping to hit a forgotten dead white guy in his heart So I can steal the Moleskin out of his back pocket and take one of his good ideas. No one remembers the last page anyway. I’m not trying to be racist or sexist either. I’ll opt for shooting dead black men, dead Latino women, or even a dead little green guys. (Anyone really, as long as they write in English.) Little green guys probably can’t even come to this planet to be shot in the first place, but I’ll fire into the air every now and then, hoping the bullet will escape earth’s gravity and by some miracle find that poor little green guy’s heart and his Moleskin will fall from the sky and hit me on the head as I’m walking to the bank in the morning. The problem is that there’s lot of us assholes out here shooting around in the dark and it’s hard to not get mowed down well before we can be forgotten. There’s even some people that only aim at other assholes, they are called critics. Their job is different. Instead, they enjoy hunting down the weak and beardless before they have a chance to be forgotten. The problem is you have to either be friends with them or get shot. I want to be forgotten. I want to be your friend, fellow asshole. Consider my hand outstretched (no gun behind my back, I swear) Because I want someone else to shoot me only after I’m forgotten, mind you So they take my golden nugget of an idea I stole And then that little nugget will keep getting passed down generation to generation. Because no one really knows who made the nugget in the first place except some professor at a major state university for whom the students don’t finish their homework
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Patriots of the Bread Line Eric Maus
Teeth clatter, white stones cracking quietly When the wind chill dropped below and the hunger carved out my cheek bones, I gave her my blanket, the girl with Mexican skin, Busted nose and swollen tears, her mahogany hair Matted, twisted like a wrung and stained dish rag. I gave her my blanket, she with sunken eyes My mother told me not to, but I didn’t reply. Wrap your body with warmth lovely girl; It’s not all bad. Her dirty face bore a clean smile, a smile missing only one baby tooth. We sat silently, together, in line for an hour. After all that time, I couldn’t help but regret the blanket being blue, white, and red.
Eric Maus: He is the self-proclaimed bohemian of State Street studying the art of poetry and seduction at UW-Madison.
Kelsey Eaton Untitled
digital print, 8” x 10”
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She Borrows This and That
Jack P. Clark
She borrows words she borrows looks she borrows thoughts she loses a little each time she speaks with other peoples’ thoughts upon her lips she loses a little each time she walks in other peoples’ steps tracing lines that are not her minds she loses sleep each time she dreams another’s dreams she borrows smiles she borrows laughter she borrows tears she loses days each time she lives another’s she loses herself.... when she’s alone there’s no one there...
Jack Clark: He has a new baby and is the proud father of several very naughty dogs, one evil cat, and one angelic lagamorph.
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Chris Apfelbach We walked through the summer of our love in a tunnel of green, blinkered by the verdancy of the path. As we reached out to brush the twigs that erupted like lightning from a firmament of fine-veined whispers, their inner tremors—or were they ours?—made our fingertips shake in their haste to intertwine. Hushed downpourings drew our eyes below, to soil; to hands; to earth; to fantasies. If aberrant things stalked in the perfumed peripheries of this time of dreaming, or if serpents slept among the silken lids of petals, they were green— and we saw them not. If the noises of their passing disturbed our relentless forgiveness, they seemed no more than the insubstantial mutterings of the wind.
And now in winter I have strayed from the path alone, alone to watch the cold roost among the barren trees, flapping in on ragged, sullen wing beats. Now wolves flit among the jutting bones of the forest, weaving in black fur the void between pale stars... I remember a heart that beat so loudly I grew deaf to it, an overwhelming mass of sound that mine could not equal; I remember a person, a young boy, listening for its stirrings, dashing articulation to the wind in his haste to name it; I remember a time when warmth was a feeling newly won and easily held and bitterly abandoned. Do I remember them? Did I dream that heart of mine, lying dappled in some shadowed glade? But no, the gathering dusk cannot hide it: here the heart of that forest stood, where once I delved— but only a trunk, blackened and broken, remains. The wolves continue their prowling outside the clearing, the heavy tread of their paw prints demarcating past and future. Flickering fires of ruination leap from their baleful, golden glares, and on the tree, carved in feral gouges by some transfigured soul in an age of autumn and dissipating time, a warning:
“Where does man end? Where does beast begin?”
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5 Annelise Kelly
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link. In that moment, somebody, somewhere in the world, died. Don’t feel too bad. It’s a part of nature. It’s a part of that give-and-take system we live by. Tonight, I’m on both ends of that system. With the windows open and the car splitting the wind at a hundred miles an hour, the aroma of salt water creeps and lingers in my nostrils. Clenching my abs and straining my neck to peer through the glass, I witness the moonlight creating a glare on calm waves. The light from a distant lighthouse circumnavigates the landscape and continues out over the white foam created by the sea, admonishing nearby vessels. And there’s that feeling again. That vibe. That sensation. It comes, it goes. There’s a hole in my stomach. Only this time...it’s undoubtedly real. Before tonight if I had been told that my best friend would pump a bullet into my gut, I would have had to reluctantly disagree with the idea. Reluctantly...there was always the possibility that Freddy would snap. Freddy Jung, the living rendition of schizophrenia gone rampant. “Tell me what you think about life,” he inquires. As if nothing was wrong. As if this was routine. As if gore weren’t spilling onto the leather in the back seat, slowly working itself into a firm stain. “Sometimes,” he answers for me, “It’s important.” Freddy unglues his eyes from the road to look at me. “Other times,” he continues, “Not so much.” I’m not particularly sure what to make of this and my mind wanders. It wanders, searching, scratching blindly for something to hold on to. Finally, it descends on my lungs. On my breathing. On the Lamaze technique that my overdue wife had had to imbibe again and again and again. Inhale twice. Repeat. Exhale. Relax. Watching her repeat the exercise each week, I always questioned whether it was right for us to have a baby. If it was fair. Growing up, Freddy’s father was an ogre of a Florida state senator. A round, oaf of a man with a receding hairline and a pulsating vein in his forehead. His wide nose and insinuating eyes complimented only by his teeth—straight as piano keys. Of course, he wouldn’t allow the public, especially the voting public, to get its hands on information like his son’s mental disability. So Mr. Jung cooked up—and seemingly burnt—a proposal to ensure his job. He made Freddy a recluse. An acquaintance at school, Freddy found an escape in me. A way to cope. By confiding in me without exception every negligible detail of how his father had treated him, I became his go-to guy. Far-fetched as his stories tended to be, Freddy was able to remain levelheaded as long as I could lend an ear. He could
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Blink ment, Freddy’s beatings started out strong, coming at least once a day, if not two or three times. Freddy’s only breathing room came when the Senator was in Washington on business, filibustering his way home for another round in the ring with his crazy son because he must have done something wrong while he was gone. But as time went by for Freddy, the beatings came further and further apart. Until one day, one week, one month, one year, they didn’t come. They stopped. After almost six years of torture, they vanished. This was what actually triggered Freddy’s schizophrenia. Fear. Fear of what’s to come in the future. Fear of what the senator had brewing for his next punishment. Fear mixed with something so unfamiliar to Freddy—a bruise-free body or a pain-free night’s sleep—brought about a panic in his head. A panic that could only be remedied by my voice for a few hours a day, when I would play psychiatrist at school. A panic that needed a helping a hand. And when Freddy couldn’t find one, he made one up. At first, Freddy spoke highly of a new friend who was staying at his house. A friend who helped him when I couldn’t. A friend that he regarded so highly that he just had to bring him in to meet me. Jesse, he said his name was. And that day that he finally did bring Jesse in, and I sat across from him at the lunch table staring at the nothing that Freddy had his arm around, I just remember thinking: Eighth graders don’t have imaginary friends. “This guy’s crazy,” Freddy said that afternoon, pointing at the empty seat beside him. No. You’re crazy, I thought. “He’s always trying to get me to do stuff. Stuff I don’t really want to do. But he always says that it’ll be fun. That everything will work out in the end.” It’s hard to listen, let alone look at him and his arm hanging there. His elbow twitching from the strain of holding it where Jesse’s shoulders would be. “One time, he made me pee in the sink.” Oh my god, stop. He didn’t. “Another time, we brought in sand from the beach and covered the kitchen floor with it. We blamed it on the dog.” SHUT UP! Jesse was much more than imaginary, but I would keep my mouth shut. Maybe it would
even make me laugh, enough to make my stomach cramp, to the point where my face would turn red and I would feel sick. But a good sick. Keeping Freddy from the limelight became his father’s second profession. Sen. Jung’s watchful eyes stuck to him following one late fall evening. Being up for re-election in November, the senator had become anxious and in dire need of votes and campaign funding. The Florida elite convened at the Jung beach estate to dine, unaware of the forthcoming spectacle. Following their oversized insalata caprese and their thick, steaming lobster bisque, the elites became witnesses to the first of Freddy’s schizoid behavior. Sleepily stumbling in his pajamas to the dining room, Freddy’s imaginary friend—who would, years later, be discovered as very real in Freddy’s mind—coerced him to defecate on the floor as the entrées were being served. Leaving one final course for the senator’s guests. Their mouths gaping, the elites continued to eat their meal in silence. The only noise being the distant yelps that Freddy released as the Senator took out his anger upstairs. He never forgave Freddy for that little stunt. Even after countless nights of Freddy screaming and crying in remorse. Even after the elites left that evening, the image of Freddy’s pajama bottoms at his ankles burned in their minds. Even after innumerable amounts of beatings, the tears shed from Freddy’s eyes were not apology enough. Even after the senator won his election. Even then, he couldn’t forgive Freddy. The car stops abruptly. Inhale twice, repeatedly. Exhale. Relax. Waves crash against the shore just over the grassy hill in front of us. The car is running, burning gas and the ozone simultaneously. Freddy sits still, his eyes closed, contemplating his next move. His next injustice against me. I blink. Freddy’s gone. I blink again. And he’s dragging me up the hill, the lighthouse flailing around. A third time. And I’m alone on the sand. Alone. The way Freddy has felt for years locked away in that house. Locked, mostly. Other times, completely immobile. Unable to move of his own free will. Thwarted by his anterior cruciate liga-
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slowly work itself away. Maybe Jesse would overstay his welcome in the Jung household. I knew the senator would take none of this, and I had never even met the guy. In fact, I had never even seen him, except on TV. So I didn’t say a word. I just sat there, half-listening to Freddy’s bullshit and half-eating the grapes that I pulled from my brown, wrinkled paper bag. Half-watching my own hands tremble and half-staring at the dark bags beneath Freddy’s lids. I sat there, halfpondering how Freddy would react if I told him the truth and half-wondering what the senator was going to do when he found out. Freddy wore an irritated expression on his face, and I knew what I had to do. And I knew that it was wrong. But I couldn’t stop myself. I became an enabler that day, encouraged his behavior. It was too late, for both of us. So I lifted my arm and reached across the table. Taking Jesse’s invisible grip, I shook hands with a ghost. And I waited. It wasn’t three months before Freddy stopped coming to school. Before I knew it, the senator had gotten to him. Caught up to his and Jesse’s antics. I heard nothing for two years. As much as I had denied it, Freddy’s dependence on me had created a dependence of its own. I had become obsessed with his life. I needed him. Each day was a new adventure through Freddy’s psyche, and I lived off of it. But I didn’t let it hang over me. I had my own life. The other kids never really wised up to why I had hung around him for so long. They said he was crazy behind his back, before the thought even crossed my mind. A part of me felt relieved that he was gone, but I always felt guilty. The world is a terrible, ruthless place… once it catches up with someone close to you. I struggled then and I’m struggling now, being sprawled on the beach, unable to move like an overturned turtle. Each move digs me down further into the sand. My clawing at the ground results in mere inches of progress. I might not see tomorrow. Inhale twice, repeatedly. Exhale. Relax. Two years. Walking to school in the humidity on the day of his return felt more like swimming than anything else. Every breath I took left me gasping
for the next. My socks were wet that morning, as if my shoes were tiny saunas. Gasp. And sweat stuck the cotton to my chest and spine. Gasp. My dirty blond hair seemingly brown with perspiration. Gasp. All of this just as the sun was beginning another long trudge across the sky. Gasp. This backpack is killing me. Gasp. These books are too heavy. Stepping through the doorway to my first period math class, some kid sat lounging in my seat. Tall and lanky, his long, slender legs led up to his closed eyes. He wore a black brace on his knee and had a scary quiet about him. Gasp. Who the hell is that? Gasp. He opens his eyes, revealing gray irises, meeting mine almost instantly. Gasp. No. Gasp. “Freddy?” Gasp. I ate lunch with Freddy once again that day as I had for years before he disappeared. Shifting around in his seat, Freddy seemed on edge. He looked much older, older than he should have looked at 16. His fingers constantly ran through his hair and his breathing was sporadic. Resisting the urge to comfort him sent a shockwave of guilt up my spine. Neither of us spoke for a while. He merely stared at his food as I confirmed Jesse’s absence. I broke the silence: “Where have you been, Freddy?” “Home,” he answered, suddenly jumping to get a look behind him. “My dad kept me there after the accident.” The senator had thrown him down the stairs, Freddy claimed. His knee popped at some point along the way, and when he crashed against the Persian rug at the bottom, his ACL tore. When questioned about being thrown down the stairs, Freddy went on as if I had said nothing. He wasn’t allowed to leave his room, not until the surgery was over at least. The surgeons replaced Freddy’s torn ligament with his patellar tendon perfectly. He was home in no time… at the insistence of the senator. For the first few days of his recovery, Freddy soared through dizziness and sleep, the work of Vicodin. Slowly coming back to reality, he overheard
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Blink the senator say that he wanted no part in the life of a boy who was so sick that he made up friends to be with. So he told Freddy that he wanted to make a deal. It sounded more like an ultimatum to me. “Either be normal or be sorry,” the senator demanded of Freddy. “If I catch you talking to yourself again, well, you don’t want to know what I’ll do to you.” But Freddy did talk to Jesse again, the next night in fact. And the senator did catch him, as he was trying to escape out of his bedroom window, screaming at Jesse to help lift his bum leg. So the senator pulled him by his bandages away from the window. As he tore away the gauze crusted with dry blood, he revealed Freddy’s healing incision. Scraping across the cut, the senator tore out each of the crisscrossing stitches. Slowly slipping his index finger inside, he made Freddy the victim of his rage. The senator was able to come up with an elaborate excuse to tell the doctor, “He was practicing with his crutches when he fell into the corner of the coffee table.” They became more complex each time, Freddy said. “The dog got a little overexcited and she bit at
Freddy’s knee,” the senator claimed, shifting his eyes from the doctor to the spot on Freddy’s bandages where he had rubbed dog slobber, making the story plausible. Freddy couldn’t continue from there, breaking down as he put his face in his palms to hide his tears. I didn’t make a scene in front of him, but I bawled my eyes out that night, cried myself to sleep. Freddy’s life played out like that for those two years that I pretended I had never known him. I stood by, a dumb adolescent more concerned about my complexion than the well being of my friend. I could have saved Freddy both the physical and emotional pain that he went through. I could have done something. But I just sat around while the senator’s fingers were stained with red, whispering in Freddy’s ear, “Patience is a virtue.” The final two years of high school were arduous for Freddy, but the senator had finally called on for professional help. As long as Freddy had Thorazine pumping through his brain, he could function without his delusions. He could be normal. But no matter how normal Freddy became, that fear would constantly hover over him. The senator ruined my best friend. And he would pay
ink, tea, coffee, 22” x 30”
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for it. Tonight, in fact. About an hour ago. Inhale twice. Repeat. Exhale. Relax. The lighthouse’s revolving beam lights up my brown, tattered loafers as I lay here on the fringe of the Gulf Coast. In this lifeless witching hour, nobody would be able to tell that they’re brown. I just know because they’re mine. And here comes Freddy. He’s walking but I can’t see the chopsticks that he calls legs. That flat, pale face appears closer each time the lighthouse turns its head. His hooked nose shines with the sweat that the adrenaline in his system has created. His seemingly colorless eyes glare directly at my own. I’m a dead man. I only wanted my friend back. The one I had before the incident at the dinner party. The one I had before the countless beatings. Before the senator ripped his ligament and hindered his recovery. Before he insisted that Freddy live at home for the rest of his life. Before the fear. But I couldn’t get him back. So I did the next best thing. Since before high school ended I had been plotting, scheming to get back at the senator for what he did. A part of being what the senator referred to as normal was having friends and inviting them over to the house. Freddy invited me. So I played my part. I was polite. I took the senator’s grip in my hand and squeezed hard enough for him to feel it, flashing a smirk at the same time. I contributed to the conversations. I ate their lobster. I returned to their home again and again, once a month for twelve years, mainly to check on Freddy. Not once had he missed a dose of that Thorazine. Not until a few days ago anyway. The last of my visits to the Jung household occurred earlier tonight. Freddy wasn’t himself. I still acted as if he were a little kid sharing his problems with me. He wasn’t eating like he normally did. The bags under his eyes had returned and his fingernails were chewed up. Every so often he would be looking over my shoulder when I talked to him, at Jesse I presumed. I excused myself from the table. Their marble-finished bathroom hadn’t changed at all over the years. The metal faucets still gleamed. The toilet bowl still shined pearl white. The tiles in the shower were still untouched
by mildew. The lock on the window was still broken. I stared at myself in the mirror. I took a good, long look at the reflection, and I had come to a decision; A decision that I had been contemplating for years. So I went back to the table. Finished my wine. Said my goodbyes. I drove the hour it took to get home. I changed quietly into all black so as not to wake my pregnant wife. I put on gloves. I found my pistol and loaded it. The drive back seemed twice as long as the drive home. It must have been the anticipation, or the nervousness. Creeping around their monstrosity of a house, I lifted the window, pulling myself into the dark bathroom. Lurking through the foyer with my feet creaking on the polished wood floors, I found my way to the study. There, the monster that was the senator slept silently, a pen still clutched in his grasp. A bit of drool slipped from his open mouth and onto his shoulder creating a dark, wet spot. As he breathed slowly and heavily, I reached for a nearby pillow. Holding the embroidered fabric between us, I pointed the end of the barrel through it, against it. A homemade silencer. My heart pounded. I shuffled my feet to get my balance. I pulled the trigger. Feathers flew. It was supposed to end there. I would go home and sleep the best night’s sleep of my life. Freddy wasn’t supposed to be behind me, holding a gun of his own. As I turned to him, the terrified look on his face made me feel lower than I have ever felt in my life. Blink. In that moment, the senator died. In that moment, the fire in Freddy’s eyes sent my mind reeling. I didn’t even know who he was anymore. Maybe the senator had repented for his acts of aggression, made it up to Freddy. Maybe the senator actually had a twinge of generosity in him, not like I had originally thought. Or maybe Freddy’s just crazy. And then he pulled the trigger. Dragging me by my collar outside, he snatched the keys from my pocket. After towing me to the back seat, he disappeared into the garage, returning with a shovel. He got in and turned the key,
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Blink smile on his face has faded into a grimace. For a second, there’s a glimpse of reality in his eyes. As if this was all a facade. We could have avoided this whole mishap, had he gotten help earlier. But I guess that’s what he earned having a public figure as a father who was embarrassed by his crazy son. All he wanted was for his boy to be normal when he is anything but that. Everything but that. I suspect I should stay positive now. Mask whatever emotional connection I may have had to Freddy in the past. He isn’t the same person that he was when we were eight. He isn’t the same person that needed me as much as I needed him. The yearning in Freddy’s eyes has been raised to the extent of his height above me now, the shovel even higher than that. His body shakes. Plasmastained fingers tighten around the wood. Knuckles crack. Freddy inhales, closes his lids, and his biceps flex as he prepares to come down hard. “I love you, Freddy...” And the beam from the lighthouse, it seems, has come to a standstill. As if it, too, were a fervent admirer of my downfall. And then I remember to inhale twice. Repeat. Then exhale. And ultimately, relax. So I blink, wetting my eyes one last time. And in that moment, the give-and-take system works at full force. I had always heard that my life would flash before my eyes as I was dying, but that’s not what’s happening. I’m not just seeing myself. I’m seeing everything. I’m seeing Freddy as a bright-eyed kid, ready to take on what the world was going to throw at him. I’m seeing every time that he came to me in tears after a run-in with the senator. And I still can’t figure out whose side he was on. As I lay here about to perish, I’m seeing my wife after the first time we kissed, biting her lower lip trying to hold back her excitement. I’m seeing her every morning that I woke up early, watching her sleep peacefully as her nose would whistle. And I’m watching her in our bed, right now, running through the same breathing technique as I am, as she gives birth to our baby daughter alone.
firing up the ignition. Stomping on the gas pedal, he sped me away. And so I find myself here. Freddy towering over me, grasping that shovel, the long handle trailing beside him. There’s sand in my mouth from working like a dog to get away. It tastes like nothing, but it’s uncomfortable all the same. Scraping across my tongue, it makes its way to my already dry throat as I try to speak. “This isn’t what was supposed to happen,” I force out of my mouth. Coughing up blood and sand, speaking is futile. He doesn’t say a word, he just glowers. After a short time—or a long time, I don’t have any sense of the thing anymore—Freddy steps away and starts digging, gouging sand from the beach. The blade of his tool glimmers with each upswing as the beams from the lighthouse slide across our position. Each thrust downward feels like a stab in my back. Freddy angles his head in my direction and moves his lips. There are words that go along with them, but I can’t piece much together. Inhale twice. Repeat. Exhale. Relax. Red is seeping from the newly made orifice in my gut. Pressure would hamper its flow, but I wince at the prospect of feeling my wound and the warm, sticky blood running between my fingers. My tongue sticks to the dry roof of my mouth as I try to swallow. The iron-kick of blood rushes back into my taste buds, making me cringe. Freddy’s back, kneeling before me. Talking softly, it seems, by the way he slowly pushes his lips together. The undulation from the sea crashes against the beach. Somehow, the light is moving slower. And I’m screaming. And I’m in excruciating pain all of a sudden. And the tears that are supposed to waterfall from my ducts are hindered by dehydration. And I’m struggling to open my eyes. And I witness Freddy, his fingers jammed, twisting into the hole in my stomach, a technique learned from his father. And everything that I’ve done for this son of a bitch is taken back in a second. Freddy’s smiling now. He hasn’t quite finished digging my grave, so he must be anxious to finish what he started. My motor skills have begun to fail. Just lifting my head makes my body tense up. Over the horizon of my chest, moving up and down with my lungs, Freddy snatches his shovel. By now the
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Reflections on Horticulture Before the Apocalypse Dusty Karls
he sun broke over the horizon, spilling amber rays through the missing panes of glass in the greenhouse where he worked. Hazy vapor steamed from the moist earth all around him warming the air. It was just the right time for planting; the soil still retained the perfect humidity. He knelt down to drop the bag of tools near a patch of freshly plowed dirt. Out of the bag he plucked a small worn trowel, an old helmet modified into a watering can, and a few young tomato plants. He separated the dozen young tomato plants from a small segregated plastic trough. Each plant sprouted from a square of dirt wrapped in stained cloth. Picking up the trowel, he inspected the blade and turned it slowly in his hand to admire the dappled pattern of grain along the wooden handle. Startled by the sound of wispy laughter nearby, he dropped the trowel to the ground. He turned his head and saw the ghostly image of a child kneeling beside him. The figure blurred at the edges and the shape flickered in and out of focus. The boy looked at the gardener expectantly and a small hand reached for the trowel. Bit by bit, the boy dissolved into the air in front of the gardener, leaving only the fleeting sound of laughter. A jolt of electricity traveled up his spine as he glanced around the greenhouse in search of the boy. Picking up the trowel he took one more look around. Nothing. Somehow, he remembered the boy and his eyes but couldnâ€™t recall how. He shook his head and resolved to take a break after he planted the seedlings. The number of years he had been working in the greenhouse was incalculable to him. Rusty memory didnâ€™t stop him from gardening however; it was embedded in his mind. Each season as he broke the ground and labored over the individual plants he was rewarded with new life and it was a consistency he could rely on. Earlier in the week, he had deposited the corn and lettuce plants into the ground along the outer wall facing the north. The sunflower plants two rows over were already starting to flower. In another part of the greenhouse a hardened dirt path crept past yards of trellis laid out for the newly transplanted grape vines from a week ago. The greenhouse had been built within the deepest part of a small valley just below a rise of hillocks. A worn path of fractured stones crossed over the land to a cottage nestled below the crest of one of the hills. Shabby remains of a picket fence kept a perimeter around the yard. The pathway crept around the back of the house to a set of open cellar doors. Here, outnumbering what remained of the dusty seed bags and supplies towered sterilized jars of fruits and vegetables from recent harvests. Along the rise of land beyond the cottage, rusted heaps marked where the windmill and silos had
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Reflections on Horticulture Before the Apocalypse life. Most of his exterior had begun to rust from the constant contact with water. When he was built, the blueprint called for a humanoid shape with slight modifications for his specific task. Long metal legs balanced a small central torso where two thin encased arms stretched outward to enhance reach. Small amber eyes burned behind a titanium faceplate that covered his various motion sensors and inner wirings leading to his central processing core. The head-casing bore puncture wounds and deep gashes from pieces of shrapnel. One large and jagged piece remained lodged through the top of his metal skull. Ort was a gardener. Ort was also a robot. He planted the rest of the tomato seedlings and stood with a creaking groan. One of the gears in his right ankle began grinding; he swiped at it to stop the sound. Ort now stood fully erect; his silver frame glinted in the morning sun reflected through the glass as he shouldered his bag of supplies to head off to another fresh plot of dirt. His internal memory drives began to hum. Ethereal images flickered past his vision in rapid succession like a filmstrip slipping on the reel. Momentarily blinded by the vision washing over him; Ort sprawled over the ground, feeling himself sink into the dark soil. Audio systems re-synced as more sensors calibrated to the new sounds surrounding him. The hum of insects snapped on as they droned through the fragranced air. Ort saw points of light flash like tiny stars over his vision. The greenhouse blurred into a kaleidoscopic flurry of emerald, too fast for him to process. Sparks rose out of his dented hull and crackled in the air. He remained along the ground as the world around him came slowly into focus. Simultaneously, a gear whirred in his head in an uneven revolution until it stopped with a CLICK, locking itself into a new position. For the first time, dormant valves unhinged to activate an emotional generator. Using his hydraulic arms he rose from the ground, shrugging off the loose soil. Ort felt the grasp of a small hand. He peered down and saw a hazy outline grow more sharp and vivid. The boy reappeared. It was early Septem-
once stood. Tufts of dead grass clung around their remains. He had noticed recently that golden daffodils had begun to grow in this area and he had even gathered a few for the garden. The rest of the wilderness surrounding the valley lay barren and bleak. His priority was to maintain the greenhouse and his memory became blank when trying to recall just when the forest had stopped growing. He was constantly busy, bringing in the new plants and maintaining the vitality of the rest, making sure the harvest was prodigious. He watered everything systematically from a manual irrigation system running from the nearby well. There had been an automatic sprinkler system, but now the spigots running along the roof of the greenhouse were nothing more than melted fists of metal. Crumbling shelves running the length of one side of the greenhouse lay encrusted in a thick blanket of dirt where the shattered remains of clay pots and a single cracked watering can sat perched. Nearby, a recent addition of wood from the cottage formed new shelves where propagated plants waited to mature. Coordinating under the cycles of the moon, and then only during the apex, he hauled and redistributed the soil to ensure a well-balanced level of nutrients within the garden. The routine was a perpetual process for him as his internal clock helped gauge the gestation and flowering cycles of all the plants. With his tools laid out in a neat array like a surgeon he began to work. Carefully he scooped out a hole for one of the new seedlings and sprinkled a bit of water to soften the opening. He deposited the young plant firmly into its new home. The sun began to creep further into the sky, detailing a silhouette of his harsh figure on the landscape. Growing things had come naturally to him for as long as he could remember. He was a walking encyclopedia of horticulture, using his knowledge to create life. It was a constant job to make sure his garden was immaculate. He could not recall the origins of his knowledge, but knew that his name was Ort. The coat of green paint had long ago worn away from his spindly fingers but they still created
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Annelise Kelly Marie Lucia oil on canvas
ber and they were checking on the seasonâ€™s harvest. Hand-in-hand they walked along the main greenhouse path. The boy ran off with a laugh through the mottled patches of plants disappearing into the undergrowth. It was some sort of game. He scanned his systems for a relevant data set. Hide and Seek was the name of the log entry. The rule system had somehow remained intact. Ort was not allowed to use any of his extra-sensory devices and so was left with only the default human settings.
Ort shambled along on his stilt-like legs through the garden searching for the boy. For a moment, the memory shuddered, froze and the world was swallowed in a cloud of golden light. The garden drained slowly of color and portions of the memory faded like dead pixels. He felt the circuitry in his chest produce an electrical surge, churning his internal motors. The energy crept through a tangle of exposed wires along the neck and spread up into his metal cortex and over the central processing core. Bit-by-bit the
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Reflections on Horticulture Before the Apocalypse Ort could handle the glow, analyzing the broken missiles as they continued along a path towards the earth. Text flashed over his view screen, simulating the impact calculations. Destruction radius: 2234.73 miles to the northwest. Collision imminent. Time to impact: 2.14 minutes. Trace scans of uranium isotopes confirmed a manufactured weapon. His screen flashed: 200 megatons of yield. Algorithms confirmed a high probability of total destruction. The boy buried his head against Ort’s leg and tried to make himself as small as possible. Ort felt the boy trembling but continued his calculations. A primordial bellow droned over them as more flaming debris sprayed through the air. Heavier fragments rained down, igniting patches of the surrounding forest in lurid fire. “Ayden!” a voice screamed out in the distance. It was coming from the house. “Ayden!” the voice cried out again over the crackling flames. Ayden broke his grip on Ort and rushed towards the cottage. “Follow me, Ort!” he yelled back to the robot. Ayden coughed violently as the greenhouse filled with acrid smoke. Panes of glass melted, raining liquid droplets over the ground. Plants boiled and hissed, spilling vapor into the air with gasped breaths. The temperature was still rising as the object moved closer to its impact point just over the horizon. Ayden ran through the greenhouse door and disappeared through the smoke. He followed, but paused to look back at his garden. Beneath the cover of shattered shelves a single unharmed tomato seedling sat nestled in a clay pot. Ort weaved through the smoldering plants and swept up the plant in a single hand. Ort bounded out of the greenhouse and towards the fenced yard. He crashed through the closed gate, ripping it from the hinges. Across the yard, Ort could see each figure: the father, the mother, and the sister bathed in the harsh flashing lights of the radiation detectors. Each wore a radiation suit and air tanks strapped across their backs. The suits were patched and streaked in a
memory restored and fragments extrapolated to fill in the damaged areas. From his faulty archives, Ort couldn’t quite replicate the emotional concept the game represented, though the records indicated the game had been filed under Fun. He strained his processors further, searching for an answer to these new emotional surges but found only corrupted data. Another influx of static coursed through his wiring and he sensed a dull heat building all over his body. Still the web of archival data showed nothing to identify the boy or explain the electrical disturbances. Ort heard the sound of rustling and then a laugh just out of sight. Leaves shook as the boy moved again. Ort turned and dashed through the foliage; as optical drives adjusted to the shaded reaches beneath the umbrella-like leaves. He found the boy standing motionless and gazing upward through the panes of glass to the sky beyond. The boy’s eyes echoed azure as they traced the horizon. Ort recalled the eyes and that familiar intensity as they gazed into the sky. Two pistons churned in unison from deep within Ort’s chest. A small gearbox stirred inside him and he knew for the first time that he loved the boy. The boy pointed upward, “Look!” he exclaimed. Ort followed the boy’s finger and looked skyward. Over the valley a streak of crimson screamed among the heavens. The trail of exhaust dangled in the atmosphere as a projectile barreled towards the earth. A distant siren resounded from the house and radiation hazard lights blinked in unison across the yard. Ort switched on his extrasensory settings and watched the object rocket over the sky with a brilliant plume of thick smoke. A white-hot flash washed over the horizon. Distant concussions reverberated across the valley with a howl as exploding glass flew all around them. The tail end of the projectile collapsed with a thunderous roar, bursting into smaller clusters spiraling through the air. Harsh rusty light poured over the landscape in a searing heat wave.
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In my earliest memory, I was laying heavily sedated on a hospital bed at three years old. In the four hours prior to that memory, my heart had been cut out from my chest and my body sustained on a machine that replicated a heartâ€™s function of pumping blood through my arteries. I see my work as a record from that first memory through a series of surgical procedures and separate chronic conditions that have forced my body to subsist on indefinite medication.
In my work, I am exploring the body as an object vulnerable to physical and psychological trauma as a result of disease and subsequent treatment. My portrayal of the body confronts the prospect of death with exhausted passiveness represented by figures curled up in child-like and fetal positions that convey the impression of sleep. I see beauty as a mask for the morbidity of deterioration and focus on aspects of the body that can produce a facade of stability and simultaneously display evident fragility. Hair exists as a form of pride, infamously with Marie Antoinette to its modern importance to cancer patients. The use of hair in my frames or mirrors reflects self-idolization and vanity. I am interested in hair as an extension of femininity and its connection to a womanâ€™s role as a sexual being. The manner in which I depict hair demonstrates the delicacy of an individual strand, the strength of a braid, and exposes its easily disheveled nature.
My use of hair as a representation of the body extends to the connective quality of a long braid of hair that both indicates a story and exists as a precise record of health.
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spectrum of dull yellows and dusky grays. Glistening helmets of black metal obscured all expression. One of the figures bent down to help Ayden put on another patched suit. He stepped into the suit and watched Ort with teary eyes as the helmet snapped over his head with a spurt of compressed air. One of the suited figures motioned towards the distant hatch door buried near the silos. Patches of golden daffodils marked the entrance into the side of the hill. A halo of devouring flames surrounded the valley as the figures rushed through the yard. Ort trailed behind them, glancing back at the greenhouse every few feet. Searing heat obscured the sun in hazy undulations. More molten fragments screamed down from the sky alighting the cottage roof and the surrounding yard. The memory hung around him for a moment, bathed only in white light. Text flashed: MEMORY RECALL MALFUNCTION. Just then the sound snapped back on. It rewound a few seconds, skipped and then continued. Skipped again. The resonance of the impact ruptured his internal components. An electronic whine played over the memory as a wall of blackness surrounded him. Whirling hunks of rubble cracked Ort’s casing and shrapnel flew through the air in a lashing whirlwind. Metal fragments cut and pierced his face, as others sliced through alloy casings around his gears and mechanized feet. An aftershock reverberated with a blast of hot air and flew him back like a rag doll, sending him crashing into the windmill. Everything went black. Tinted cascades of light gradually filtered over his vision. The damaged memory stalled and muted. Idle drives purred to life, attempting to recapture the data stream. The memory staggered and fast-forwarded. Ort lay on the ground near the closed hatch. His vision blurred, catching a glimpse of the tall grass around him alight in an aura of brilliant fire. His arms compressed to vault him off the ground. Ort glanced around to see small pools of lubrication congealing at his feet. The hatch door was sealed. Ayden was gone.
The memory drives stopped whirring and the vision stopped. He was back among the garden still holding the supplies shouldered across his back. The western horizon was dyed pink and orange with the last rays of the fading sun. Ort’s legs moved with shakiness, turning towards the remains of the house and the backyard. His amber eyes glowed dully behind the faceplate searching past the heaps where the silos had stood. Ort staggered through the yard and reached the hatch door. It lay buried in a thick mat of grass and golden daffodils. His internal processors began to power down and gears ground to a halt within the metal frame. SYSTEM SHUTDOWN IMMINENT obscured his vision, blinking slowly on the view screen. Ort’s emotional motor had nearly depleted his core power. He recalled a final vision. His memory drives activated again; he viewed Ayden’s hand in his, a softness he felt even with a metal grip. The image burned in his mind as drives burst in his chest and the warmth he felt now surged through him for a last time. Ort dropped among the daffodils. A current of electricity gathered in his hands as he pushed them into the loamy earth. Ort’s gears sounded a final note as arched bolts of electricity coiled out from his frame and dissipated through the soil. From inside the hatch, an echo whined as a rusted mechanism unlocked. The hatch opened with a screech of metal. A figure emerged, climbing over the railing in a stained and patched yellow suit. The visor slipped back with a rush of air. The face of a bearded man met the air; his azure eyes glimmered in the sun. He breathed deep.
h Dusty Karls: While not exploring the ecological impact of robot consciousness on the human landscape and delving into varied planes of existence, he enjoys drinking tea and talking about dinosaurs, sometimes robot dinosaurs.
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Front Lines to Fine Art Anthony Moore
ost of the weapon sound effects in movies are pretty good. Bullets flying past make a sound that is surprisingly similar to the laser gun sound from the GI Joe cartoon series. There are common inaccuracies, such as mortars don’t whistle when they come in–they’re quiet then they explode. However, I’ve never heard anything that remotely resembles an RPG flying overhead. It’s something like a cross between the roar of a jet and an eagle’s cry. It is the most terrifying sound I have ever heard. I enlisted in the Army Reserves while I was still in high school in order to pay for college. I graduated from Madison East High School in June of 2003. In September, I was in basic training and by November I was in advanced individual training to be an electrician. I graduated my initial training in January and attended my first classes at UW-Madison a few days later. I completed the spring semester, but during the summer I was transferred from my unit in Pewaukee to a unit in Detroit. I resumed classes in fall despite the imminent threat of mobilization, but halfway through the semester I was called to active duty. I spent several months in the mobilization process in Indiana, and left the US December 25th of 2004. I arrived in Kuwait a day later, and Iraq several weeks after that. I got back to Wisconsin on December 8th of 2005, my 21st birthday. There are many stories from soldiers about how Iraqis really wanted the American presence. There are also many pictures of soldiers staying in palaces and swimming in giant pools. I can only speak to my own experiences, but that wasn’t my reality in Ramadi, the western tip of the Sunni triangle. Our outpost, Camp Corregidor, was attacked almost daily. I slept on a broken cot on a dirt floor. We shit in 50-gallon drums filled with diesel so we could burn it, because it was too dangerous to employ sanitation services. Female soldiers were not even allowed to come to Camp Corregidor. Madison had become the Shire to me, but it was actually a difficult transition when I got back, not some fantasy. I resumed classes in the spring of 2006. My original plan had been to go to school to be a physics teacher. It was a way for me to pursue physics; a subject I had really enjoyed in high school. Another high school class really enjoyed was art metals, which I took on the chance recommendation from one of the shop teachers. In addition to some physics classes, I enrolled in Art Metals I, taught by Kim Cridler. I was struggling to adjust to college life. My coursework definitely suffered from my trouble sleeping, a common problem for soldiers returning from deployments. Kim was very understanding and put forth the extra effort that I needed, and I thrived. I don’t know if I would have continued school if I hadn’t taken that class. I took advanced metals the following semester, and kept taking metals classes. Eventually I switched from physics education to art. I enjoy making things in metal. While I was deployed, I would sometimes try to fashion something out of spare wire or put a pattern on a spent casing. I never had the intention of making art about my
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Medal of Honor Series gunpowder burned on paper
illumination 2011 28
experiences in Iraq, or war in general. In fact, I don’t even like to introduce my military past until I know someone. When people learn you’re a veteran they make a lot of immediate assumptions, which is true of any group: gay, Hmong, feminist, Jewish, or tall—it’s human nature—but I don’t like it. Additionally, I think there’s a national shame regarding how veterans were treated during the Vietnam era, and people are subconsciously grappling with that shared history. The Germans have a word for that—vergangenheitsbewaeltigung. This vergangenheitsbewaeltigung brings a level of psychological intensity to the encounter when people hear I’m a veteran, and I find that terrifically uncomfortable. The Medal of Honor Series is a series of four portraits depicting the four soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom who were awarded the Medal of Honor. The image is rendered in gunpowder on paper made from a set of my desert uniforms I wore while I was deployed to Iraq. The gunpowder is applied using a stenciling technique I learned in an enameling class with Lisa Gralnick. I don’t think of the Medal of Honor Series as drawings or prints, but rather as grisaille enamels done on paper. Enameling is a process of applying powdered glass to metal and then fusing it at very high temperatures. Once you sift the enamel onto a piece of metal, it can be easily wiped off. It is only until you put the piece into a kiln that it vitrifies and fuses to the metal. Similarly, the gunpowder can’t be removed from the paper until it is lit, at which point the image will be indelibly burned into the paper. I don’t think the portraits are complete until they’re burned, but I prefer to present them unfinished. There is a potential there, a play between the evanescent and the permanent. Valor, Part II is the image of a nude male soldier rendered in several layers of gunpowder on a substrate of cotton osnaburg. Valor, Part II used the same stenciling technique used to create the Medal of Honor series, but on a larger and more complex scale. The powder is then ignited, burning in the image. There were five stencils and
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three different types of gunpowder use to create a gray scale. Slow-burning powders result in a dark char, while the faster ones just singe the fabric. Valor, Part II makes a fairly direct reference to the Shroud of Turin. It also makes more oblique references to tapestries, championship banners, and even the liminal properties of a curtain. I am interested in awards of all kinds, specifically military medals, and even more specifically, the Medal of Honor. It’s a pretty obvious place to start to explore for someone interested in art metals simply because of the metal/medal connection, but military awards can be pretty controversial as well. For instance, I received the Combat Action Badge (CAB), which is a really contentious award. The CAB was originally meant to be a non-infantry replacement for the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), which only infantry could receive. The CAB was awarded for many actions that would not have earned a CIB, and the CAB quickly became a matter of contempt among the infantry. I would say nine out of 10 CABs are undeserved, and I would include my own in that number. My CAB would not have been awarded, except for the fact that during the action there was an officer present who wanted one. He was able to push through the paperwork for all those present. It may seem like a small issue that only concerns the egocentric, but there are large ramifications to awards. The CAB awards promotion points, as do almost all medals, so it has a direct impact on someone’s military career. The CAB is one of the few items other than rank that can be worn on a duty uniform, so it has a significant impact on how soldiers are perceived. It also serves to cement and legitimize something as ephemeral as an event and some text. That insignificant little piece of stamped metal is a really potent signifier, but there is a huge chasm of abstraction between that piece of metal and the action that it is meant to represent. That abstraction of the soldier is exemplified by Marsden Hartley’s series of portraits of German officers. The paintings contain no features at all, just the symbols worn on the officers’ uniform. Before anyone looks at your face, they look at your chest to see your rank, to the left to see your name, and to the right to see if you have badges or a combat patch. The same thing happens when a
Front Lines to Fine Art
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Valor, Part II gunpowder, 3.5’ x 7.5’
illumination 2011 30
soldier is in a dress uniform, but it’s an even more extreme example. The soldier’s entire career is supposedly displayed on his chest, somehow summed up by random patches of color that signify awards, citations, and actions. The Gunpowder Broaches continue this discussion. Through the material, smashed bullets, the broaches make a statement about the gap between the ribbons on a uniform and the actions they represent. When viewed alone, they seem like a mark of destruction, but when worn, they make a statement of impenetrability. The pins are not sculpture; they’re very much jewelry. They can’t fully function on display. The act of pinning a Gunpowder Broach to oneself, literally broaching a protective garment, emphasizes the conflict between destruction and invulnerability
present in the pin. The pin’s piercing is a psychologically charged gesture that serves as a memento mori. Every single piece of jewelry addresses three critical terms: Preciousness, beauty, and the body. Gunpowder Broaches deal with preciousness by subverting it, beauty by presenting an alternative view, and the body as a site of both violence and honor. Despite all the significance that can be attributed to things like gunpowder and bullets, I am just as interested in the phenomenological aspect of the materials as the iconographical. I don’t like to think about how things appear, but rather, how I experience them. The way gunpowder behaves when someone is encountering it in a room is substantially more important to me than the pattern into which it happens to be arranged. This desire for material experience comes from metalsmithing. Every alloy has its own characteristics in terms of conductivity, ductility, resiliency, shine, and many other categories too numerous to list. It is necessary to know how each metal behaves and pick the correct material for the correct job, as well as the correct process for the correct material. I want to understand how something bends, sticks, smells, and feels while I work with it, and I hope to communicate some of that through my work. In addition to demanding technical knowledge, metal is also burdened with heavy material connotations. Because gold is so infinitely recyclable, there is a literal physical history present in gold. Whatever jewelry someone has, there are bound to be atoms from the ransom of Montezuma, ancient Greek coinage, and old electronics. Yet, the jewelry industry is also saturated with half-truths, misconceptions, and outright fiction. Diamonds are very common. They’re not very “precious,” and can even be synthesized in labs. Even if you can’t get a real diamond, cubic zirconia, moissonite, and clear sapphire are all very good substitutes. It’s difficult to tell that to someone and
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Front Lines to Fine Art
Zero Karat White Gold Ring (left) white gold master alloy, 3/4”
Diamond Ring 5x (right) sterling silver, diamond, lens, 4” x 1”
are essential characteristics of gold. Zero Karat White Gold Ring takes the material characteristics of white gold to the extreme, and questions the rift between gold as a material and gold as a name. The rift between signifier and signified is important to everything I make and it is a rift that is fundamental to contemporary art. All my pieces explore that rift, but more importantly, they are explorations of material. Material can engage an audience in a deep, powerful, or subtle dialogue. Materials matter.
Gunpowder Broaches lead, copper, sterling silver, steel
then tell them that they should pay you thousands of dollars for a sparkly pebble. Diamond Ring 5X make a critical statement about the nature of the diamond industry. No one buys diamonds; they buy the idea of a diamond. Jewelers are quick to show a stone under magnification and a special set of lights. No one will ever view the stone in those circumstances. Diamond Ring 5X highlights the absurdity of magnification and asks more general questions about how people will view diamonds in relationship to the body. White gold is another material fraught with crisis. Most people who say they like white gold really like rhodium, a white metal used to plate almost all white gold jewelry, because white gold is really an unpleasant offwhite. Gold purity is measured in karats, as a fraction of 24. 24 kt is pure, 12 kt is half, so Zero Karat White Gold Ring has no gold in it. It is created from casting the master alloy, the alloy added to pure gold, into an ingot. That ingot is then forged, drawn, formed, soldered, polished, and stamped 0K. As gold has become more expensive, lower and lower karats are increasingly popular. 10 kt jewelry is fairly common; that’s 58% some other material. That means the majority of what is being called gold is not, atomically speaking, gold. It’s also not yellow or soft, which
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Final Thoughts B
ehind every great issue of Illumination is an incredible support system that usually tends to go unnoticed. The Publications Committee, or PubCom, is that support system. Illumination is one of several incredible magazines that work with PubCom – The Journal of Undergraduate International Studies, or JUIS; Emmie, the incredibly creative music magazine; and Souvenirs, a collection of art and prose concerning study abroad; and the brand new MODA, Madison’s first style magazine – in addition to groups like Working Title, a student-run workshop to critique student’s work. For the first time, also, the Publications Committee is expanding into events. It began with the incredibly successful Yule Ball, featuring many Harry Potterthemed events including ballroom dancing and themed food. The events continued with LitFest, a week long festival in April with features like poet laureate Billy Collins, a celebration of Madison’s local bookstores, and a panel of experts that can fill you in on how to get published.
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The Publications Committee relies on the creative ideas of its members. We work together to brainstorm ideas for events, critique the journals, and even plan events like a members-only Chicago trip! If you are interested, head over to http://www.union.wisc.edu/wud/publicationsabout.htm and see how you can get involved with the many opportunities that PubCom has to offer!
Your work could be in the NEXT issue of Illumination! Go to www.illuminationjournal.com
to find out how to submit your work or get involved. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
with any comments, inquiries or just to keep in touch!
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arylic and latex on canvas
acrylic on masonite panel
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il lum in ate to enlighten intellectually; to make illustrious or resplendent
5 5 5 illumination illumination 5 5 im taunlilm u l l i i 5 5 5 3/30/11 3:20:49 PM