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Hugo at the Henry: Writing with Visual Art Fragment

Moon over the Temple of El Karnak

Wall Space

by Judith Yarrow

PG . 5

by Kate Anastasia Fo rster

P G. 37

by Ro ber t D owney

PG . 1 3

The Heads

The Coat Dior

The Gift

by Teal Rice-Narusch

by Lauren Shea

by Ju dith Yar row

PG . 6

PG . 1 4

P G. 41

War Bride

Awaiting My Orders

by Judith Yarrow

by Kate Anastas ia Fo rster

PG . 9

PG . 3 0


Edgy monologues, fairy tales, hypertexts — this summer, students from Richard Hugo House wrote

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Introduction

in wildly different forms and styles, and on wildly different topics, in response to objects at the Henry Art Gallery. Ruins, vinyl records, and haute couture were just some of our sources of inspiration. Searching the museum’s permanent collections and seeing objects up close in the Reed Collection Study Center created a wonderful opportunity to engage with our obsessions or find new ones, and to nourish our imaginations. We’re grateful to Rachael Faust, Assistant Curator of Collection & Academic Programs and the Henry Art Gallery for inviting us to come look at art and write. — Anca Szilágyi, Hugo House Instructor

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pieces not on display in current exhibitions, to follow


 John Divola. Zuma #4. 1978, reprinted 2012.

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Fragment

An old friend sent me a photo of the room I lived in back then. There’d been a fire in it. Charred rub-

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JUDITH YARROW

bish was piled in the center of the room. The window panes of the two big windows in the corner of the room were shattered — by the fire or the firefighters. In that corner had been a table and two chairs. The view was wonderful at all times but especially at sunset when the dark ultramarine of the sea slowly swallowed the rose and peach of the sky. A glass of street, the fragrance of frangipani. The very hint of frangipani can bring it all back to me And the dreams I dreamt then, so rich. Every night the waves lapping on the shore filled my dreams, and in the morning the roosters crowed all over the village. It was a dreamtime in my life. I was so young and hopeful and trusting. Of course it couldn’t last. The burnt husk of a relationship eventually sent me running, but that table in the corner looking out at the sea is still an icon of that time when I thought I could learn the meaning of life and capture it in poems. 5

H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y

wine, the distant sound of children playing in the


The Heads TEAL RICE-NARUSCH

Once there was a woman who was running through a forest. She was on a wood-planked trail. Light trickled down through the trees. Heads loomed up before her in the branches. One woman’s face, hung by its thick dark hair, spoke to her. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know you should be at home protecting your husband? The house is about to catch fire and he is sound asleep.” Mariah got home in time to put out the laundrylint fire, but the next day she was almost unable to prevent the couples’ large-screen TV from toppling over on her husband. She went back to the forest and picked a head. A young blonde girl with guilty eyes — she would talk. Mariah tucked it in her backpack. She brought it out that night to consult. “Where do I find these people who are against my husband?” she asked. “It’s hard to come in contact with the gods,” replied the girl’s head, rocking side-to-side and looking at the ground beneath her. The carpet itched. She asked for her chin to be scratched. The skin felt like stiff rubber. Mariah stepped back, on her guard.

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SU MMER 20 12 H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y Santiago Cucullu. Entrance (smallest bathroom in the world), Kyoto. 2005.

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“A painting’s been stolen,” stated the girl, “They don’t like this. Must’ve been your husband hud-

TEA L RIC E- N A RUSC H

dunit.” Her matter-of-fact attitude irritated Mariah, who questioned herself for having chosen this particular head. She remembered the new painting hanging in the bedroom, but decided not to mention it. She cupped the head and nestled it on a sock in the back pocket of her bag. She zipped it closed and forgot about it until the evening next. Paul tripped on an electric wire in the kitchen and landed on the knife he was carrying. Mariah drove him to the hospital. After the trip, she rode her bike to the forest and set the head on the ground. She scanned the trees for a new head, steering clear of the dark-haired woman who had spoken to her the first time. She picked a pudge-faced man who looked like he could be pushed around. She questioned his involvement with the group. “Who’s your leader,” she demanded, looking down on him in her hands. She began walking T H E H E A DS

before he had answered, and then listened to his story nonchalantly. “Shiva is the goddess of the group,” he admitted, “We all love her. She spits milk and other nourishments at our faces in the morning. My tongue is long, like the others’, and I love to lick the sweetness off my cheeks and forehead.” Mariah patted the head gently. She had a talker, which would help.

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War Bride

He said I’d love it in America. He said his family would welcome me with open arms. He said we’d

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JUDITH YARROW

have a big house with lots of fine furniture. My parents didn’t want me to marry him. “Too hard,” they said. “No family. You’ll be all alone,” they said. “No Korean food,” they said. But I loved the idea of going to America. And he was so nice to me. Not like the other soldiers in the bars where I worked. He was polite. He brought me presents. wide, such a big bright space. Not like Korea, all narrow dark streets and close mountains. But from the ground, nothing to see in all that space. Too much light makes everything flat. His family didn’t like me. They poisoned him against me. They didn’t understand my English so they thought I didn’t know what they were saying. When we visited them, they treated me like a servant. I washed the dishes while they laughed and talked in the other room. He finally found a job. Long hours, late nights. 9

H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y

From the plane, I remember, America was so


Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #3. 1977.

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Weekends, too. He doesn’t understand why I’m unhappy. He blames me for being so moody. But he’d be moody too if he had to stay home all day in that little apartment. Just three little rooms. Linostained. Paint on the cabinets peeling. We always eat meat and potatoes. “No rice,” he says. “No spicy.” Maybe if I got pregnant, if I’d have a baby for him, things would be different. But somehow it doesn’t happen. I want to go home, to leave this flat,

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leum on the floor, cracked. Faded wallpaper, water

unfriendly place. But I’m ashamed to go back to my family and say they were right. One day I discovered his pills. They were for his pain, he said. Only for pain. Is he always in pain? I feel pain, too. So I started to take them. First, now and then, and later, all of the time. He told me I had to stop. I asked him, “Where’s the big house, the I get bored staying home all the time, nothing to do but clean or stare out the window. He’s visiting his family, but I didn’t want to go. They don’t want me there. So I came here. This is a nice bar. Would you like to buy me a drink?

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nice new things you promised?”


Francis Frith. The Temple of El-Karnak, From the South East. 1857.

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Moon over the Temple of El Karnak

The moon watches over the ruins of the temple of el Karnak — the same moon that shone over this

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K ATE ANASTASIA FORSTER

temple 4,000 years ago, guarding the bustling city of Thebes, alighting the travelers making their pilgrimage, the goat and sheep herders ushering their livelihood across the meadow, the peddlers selling their wares to the crowds awaiting their prophesies. Old moon, how many souls have walked along these stone pillars, these sheltering walls? How many And did you illuminate her way as she silently crept out of our bed, pulled the already-packed suitcase from underneath, and slipped, undetected, into the infinite night, guiding her to places I will never find?

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seekers did you guide? How many journeys?


The Coat Dior L AUREN SHEA

HOW TO READ THIS TEXT:

Click on the underlined words to the right, and explore the story of the coat in any order you like. There is no set beginning, end, or middle. You can also read the story in a linear way by scrolling down or printing it, but my intention is that you will read it in a random order of your choosing. Lost? Each section has a return link to the coat at the end.

Christian Dior (Boutique). Woman’s coat. 1957.

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COAT D’OR

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STAIN

SKIN

SALINGER


STAIN

It was raining and the windshield wipers became a metronome, a heartbeat, a hiccup; they became what

L AU REN SHEA

the two were not: constant, dependable. Whenever Ellen looked at the stain, she remembered the way she felt when he got out of the car with his black duffel, marked with a letter “S”. The fact that his name began with that letter gave her the slippery feeling of redemption, repugnance. She remembered the way she pulled the neck of her Dior coat over her mouth just under her nose, the smell of her perfume reminding her who she was. Not his. Her face was half hidden when he last looked at her, this man who was not her husband. Wool shielding lips. When he shut the car door the raindrops skidded down the inside glass, down the armrest, into the mouth of the metal ashtray. Some drops went flying and clung to her jacket. T H E COAT DI O R

The departures sign lit up her rearview as she drove away. Later, she would discover a perfect lipstick heart inside the rim of the collar. And no matter how hard she tried to wash it out, it didn’t go away.

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RETURN TO THE COAT


T H E ICOAT AWA T I N G DI M YO R O R D E RS

RETURN TO THE COAT

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L AUA REN SHEA FORSTE R K ATE N ASTASIA


SALINGER

“She was wearing a sheared-raccoon coat, and Lane, walking toward her quickly but with a slow face, that he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny’s coat. He remembered that once, in a borrowed car, after kissing Franny for a half hour or so, he had kissed her coat lapel, as though it were a perfectly desirable, organic extension of the person

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reasoned to himself, with suppressed excitement,

herself.” — Franny and Zoey It was the kind of fall day that was crisp, but not cold, with all that blue-yellow light and the smell of spice in the air, the sight of lovers, of golden leaves and burgundy, leaves blanketing the paths and benches, fluttering down on her hair as they walked His hand holding hers in the pocket of her coat. Ellen’s coat the color of leaves with light shining through. And it was over now, wasn’t it? All the wondering. She had him, and he her, and it was forgiven. They were just married. His hand rubbing against the silk lining her pocket. The others were so far from them now. She imagined them in their tiny studio compartments, another world. When they found a spot on the grass, she laid down the camouflage blanket that they would have

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through the park.


for picnics during the whole of their marriage, and they sat together, he lying down, she gently resting her head on his chest as he read to her, feeling his voice vibrating, his heartbeat. Later, he would write

L AU REN SHEA

down the passage with his slanted handwriting, the handwriting that always looked like rain, and ask her to keep it in the pocket of her coat. What is love? What is it really? Because this, this was love, she thought. But so was the rest of it. What good did it do, to stack one against the other? Yet, this is what we are urged to do. And, when we do choose one, we are urged to prove everyday that it is best, or leave. But now, after all of it, she thinks maybe that it’s not passion or possession that equals love as much as persistence. Persistence, despite everything, = love.

T H E COAT DI O R

And, perhaps, these moments together in the park.

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H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y

RETURN TO THE COAT

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AWA I T I N G M Y O R D E RS

RETURN TO THE COAT

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K ATE A N ASTASIA FORSTE R


SKIN

The curator buttoned each button, and moved the shoulders and collar just so on the mannequin duma paper passage instead, a gold ring engraved with the letter S, and put them in a box to give back to the family. Then she began to comb the jacket, fluffing the knap, pulling off strands of hair, plucking an eyelash that had woven its way into the material,

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my. She felt inside the pocket for lint, and pulled out

noting the loose threads in places, the few visible stains that would need to be taken care of before it

H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y

went on display.

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C OAT D’OR

His marriage proposal had come after an ultimatum. It was a detail that seemed only to matter now,

L AU REN SHEA

the week after his death, his body laid out like a Thanksgiving turkey on a platter. The whole of his family, flown in from various parts of the globe gathered for the wake: a sea of strangers. Ellen faintly recognized them from yearly Christmas cards, and the framed black and whites they’d cleaned out of her mother-in-law’s house when she had passed five years earlier. When she did the math she realized that her husband’s mother had lived 25 years longer than he did, and it seemed unfair. Ellen looked around the room of wine-veined noses, graying hair. They were replicas of the same Irish Catholic stock that her husband had come from. The stock that she discounted for her German Catholic own, almost all passed. And she could not T H E COAT DI O R

help noticing with a piercing feeling in her gut, that her husband’s people were still very much alive and hers were not. They had rose-flushed cheeks and the living reek of breath, they had eyes that filled with tears when they laughed. “Can I take your coat, Ellen?” It was Molly, his twin sister. Although, she never could see his image in Molly’s face. She clasped the collar of her jacket with her hand. “No thanks, Mol. I’m feeling a little cold.”

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Molly only nodded, and ran her eyes quickly over the coat. Ellen knew she was probably thinking it was a terrible extravagance. That she wasn’t even comfortable enough with her husband’s family to some food?” “Maybe some cheese, would be okay. Thanks, Mol.” A woman of many chins and rolls, Molly brought back a plate filled with dilled gouda, smoked cheddar and an almost crystalline bleu. A circle of butter

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take off her coat, let down her hair. “How ‘bout

crackers spread around the plate. Ellen relished the crisp shatter of the cracker against her tongue, utterly familiar and safe. “Thanks,” Ellen started to say with her mouth full of cracker, before shielding it with her hand, her face reddening at the thought of her poor manners. Molly laughed and patted Ellen’s shoulder, “Where’s my husband?” Ellen actually wondered for a moment. She could still, in this very moment, feel his hand in her pocket. Her hand warming to his as they walked. It didn’t take long for Ellen to take her crackers and cheese and go stand beside her husband’s open casket and perch there, to not feel so lonely as she ate. She was used to eating in silence with him. “Mom!” her daughter Kate cried out, walking toward her with her heavy black booted footsteps looking embarrassed for her. She could hear the

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H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y

walked away.


steps pounding on the wood floors, horses hooves, as she walked toward Ellen, took her plate, and gestured for her to look down at her jacket. “Good grief,” Ellen said, “Well that looks like

L AU REN SHEA

hell, doesn’t it?” Her daughter must have thought she looked sad and unseemly, crumbs sticking to delicate knap of her jacket. Kate began plucking the bits of cracker from her mother’s coat, not seeming to notice that she was touching Ellen’s breasts, the material just over her collarbone. When Ellen swatted her away the two of them stood there looking at each other for a moment, awkwardly, before Kate looked down at her father and covered her mouth, tilted her head toward the open casket. Ellen breathed in a great breath of air that stopped completely as Kate leaned down and blew on her father’s face, the crumbs scattering within the satin folds. Ellen could only look at her when she T H E COAT DI O R

rose up again, Kate’s dark hair tied into a tight bun that seemed to pull her features up and back with it, and lent her an expression that Ellen could never have predicted. It was then that she noticed a gold ring on Kate’s left finger. A simple Irish wedding ring. “What’s this?” Ellen touched her finger to the ring looking at the letter “S” engraved in the center of the heart. Of course she knew what it was, but she had no idea that Kate would find it, or that

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it was even still tucked in the boxes with her husband’s belongings. “I was just going to ask you about it. It was in a box in daddy’s office. Figured it belonged to grandShe’d asked her daughter to help her get the finances in order. When Ellen first discovered the ring, the very ring he’d once used to propose to another woman, she told him to get rid of it. Instead he must have tucked it in with the taxes, dental

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ma Sarah. Can I have it?”

work invoices, credit card bills. The debris of daily life. She wondered if he ever took it out and looked at it, tipped back in his chair late at night. His thumb circling the rim of gold, tracing the letter “S” with his fingers. Later he’d proposed to Ellen with a plain gold band, but she asked him to take it back and buy her to work, eying it in the store window. It beckoned her with its fabric, golden and lush. Rich. A hint of a luxurious life she had never had, and probably never would, but wanted. A symbol of his practical, hopeful, love for her. He called it the coat d’Or, as a little joke that only they knew. She dwelled on this for a moment, and circled the button on her coat with her finger. “Between you and me, I think Bryan might propose soon and I was thinking this might be the perfect wedding band.”

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this coat instead. She’d often passed it on her way


“I want it back.” Ellen said, surprising herself. “But mother, you never wear it. I’ve never seen you with it on. What’s the harm in me having it?” “I don’t care. I’d like it back.”

L AU REN SHEA

Kate worked it off her finger, handed it back to her. “Is this because you don’t like him?” “There will be other things you can have, Katie. And Bryan will propose when he’s good and ready.” Ellen slipped the ring into her coat pocket without looking at it, and, as she did, she felt the hand written passage she’d always kept there brush her fingers. She looked down into her husband’s coffin, and ran her hand along the side of his face as she did sometimes when he was sleeping. His makeup

T H E COAT DI O R

left its mark on her hand.

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RETURN TO THE COAT

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Awaiting My Orders K ATE ANASTASIA FORSTER

I am a soldier. And I have been standing at my post for nine years by the count of the moon. Perhaps more. Perhaps less. I am not confident about the precision of my measurement as I did not start counting the moons for a number of years. I look out over the frozen desert. I survey the scrubland in the distance, the rocky outcrops, the indifferent barren land interrupted by nothing. I await my orders. During this time of year it is too cold to snow, but when the sun shines low and bright across the infinite gray sand, everything is white, so white I cannot see. I am of the Merkit clan, the desert people. We are horsemen, known for our skill as riders, our marksmanship, and our endurance. We have been fighting general Temujin’s army for many years. He is intent on destroying our people and taking our land, just as he has with the many others he has conquered. The desert has made us fierce, and we know how to use it to our advantage. But even we were not prepared for the last battle. The air itself had turned 30


SU MMER 20 12 H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y Paul Jacoulet. The Old Carp Seller. Ibaraki, Japan. 1934.

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against us, filling itself with dust, darkening the sky. K ATE A N ASTASIA FORSTE R

“Stay where you are and await my orders!” yelled our chief. “I will return for each of you!” Clouds of burning sand mercilessly flogged us all. The whistle of the wind screeched in our ears, blocking out all other sounds. It continued throughout the night and into the following day. When it was over, I could not find my army. Even my horse was gone. I know they will come back for me. With my spear and my robes, I have built a crude tent, but it offers little protection. In the winter, the winds scream across the terrible flatness. They tear through my clothing and chill me to the core. When they pass, the landscape is rearranged. In the summer, the winds are kinder. They transport voices, news from distant villages. I listen for my orders.

AWA I T I N G M Y O R D E RS

Father once talked of trees, but I have never seen them. He was 17 when he rode in General Junggar’s army through the forest of Han. “So many trees you could not see where you were going,” he told me. “So tall even the most skillful archer could not shoot an arrow to the topmost branch.” He spoke too of the warm, moist air, the smell of life, everywhere life, and the sounds, especially at night. I think of this often as I wait. Of course there is life here. In the spring, I watch the swans make their way north over the basin, and now and then, vultures chase the smell of a dying

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yak or goat that has wandered from its herd. But even in the spring, signs of life are sparse. I am unable to forget, though, the night of the visitor. It was not long after the sandstorm, and ing sources of water. The moon had not yet risen when the stars dislodged from their appointed homes. They clustered in one corner of the sky as if to scheme a course of action, dispersing only to gather again in another. Then they began swirling,

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I had just returned from unsuccessfully seek-

dancing, spinning. As I watched, it was as if I was among them. I for grabbed for my spear to steady myself but could not reach it. I closed my eyes, yet the stars did not leave me. The sky was shaking and I with it. I lost my balance and fell. I steadied myself and looked up again, and that‘s when I saw her ­­— her large, benevolent eyes, her on her forehead. It was Tolwai. My wife. The sky had painted her face with the stars. Every day since I left, I would try to restore her face to my memory. Her voice. Over the years, time would erode the features that were once so distinct, and I would fill in the gaps with my imagination until the face had become so distorted, the voice so vacant, that even I failed to recognize her. So I stopped. I had lost her. But you never really forget. And that night the stars had brought her back to me.

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long straight nose, her delicate lips, the birthmark


I looked away, suspicious of the mirages of the K ATE A N ASTASIA FORSTE R

desert sky. I know the desert and the tricks it plays on your eyes, on your mind. Often, in the early days, I would see movement in the distance. Goat herders. I was eager for the company. I would shout out, wave my hands, make my way to them. Most of the time, they were illusions. Sculpted by sand and heat and desire. Now, when I see them, I yell insults, curses, demand they remove their herd from the Merkit’s land. If they yell back, I know they are real. No one yells back. Was Tolwai real? It could certainly not be. I looked away. I tried to sleep. As I did, her voice moved gently through my body like a warm breath. Chuluun, she said. I am here to tell you to come home. I am waiting for you. I opened my eyes and

AWA I T I N G M Y O R D E RS

looked again at the sky. She was smiling, just as she was on the day I left. How could she not be real? “I was told to stay, dear one,” I heard myself saying. “They are coming back for me. I want them to know that I have survived. That I am waiting for them. That I will continue to fight for our clan.” Our clan has been defeated. No one is coming back. It is time for you to come home. Lighten your pack before you begin the journey. You will not need your weapons. Travel in the direction of the sunrise. Do not be afraid, she continued. The desert will play tricks on you. It seeks your fears, conjures them

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forth. From those fears it fabricates stories. Lies. Do not pay any attention. Let me guide you. Tears began in my eyes as I realized these were the orders I had been waiting for. “Yes.” I whispered. That night, I dreamt of water, green and marvelous, snaking along a cool, sheltering forest. Leaves like hands guided my way. I glided above the stream, moving in harmony with it. Then I was soaring — higher, faster. I was going home. I had

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“In the first light of morning, I will come home.”

never known such freedom. I awoke laughing, giddy. Relieved. The air was still that morning. I readied my pack, for I could not leave my bows and arrows, and began across the desert. “I am coming home!” I yelled. I was unaccustomed to moving with such purpose. My legs navigated the earth like a newborn colt. bade me slow down. I did not. I could not. My legs buckled beneath me and I fell hard on my belly, the full weight of my pack heavy on my back. Right then a hand extended toward me. I could not see it clearly for the sun. The palm was open and inviting; it seemed to say, Get up. Come. Let me help you. I felt too weak to get up right away. I stayed on the ground for a long time, the hard dirt cold and unyielding against all my length. Fool! For I know the desert and the tricks it plays. The stars do not move. The air does not

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Unable to bear the weight of my excitement, they


speak. “I will not fall for your deceits anymore,” I returned to my feet. I gathered the arrows that had scattered along the earth. With my burden secure on my back, I returned to my post. I have been standing here, between memory and expectation, for nine years. Perhaps more. Perhaps less. I am guardian of the desert, the temple of illusion. I am awaiting my general’s orders. One day I may look again at the night sky.

AWA I T I N G M Y O R D E RS

K ATE A N ASTASIA FORSTE R

declared. Without removing my pack, I carefully

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Wall Space

“You’re supposed to take off the plastic wrap. If you leave it on, it will warp your albums.” She crinkled

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ROBERT DOWNEY

back and balled the plastic away from a Bee Gees live recording. “Stop! What are you doing? I want it; I like the plastic; then the cardboard doesn’t get that round, scuffed edge from the record.” He picked up the ball of plastic to see if it could be reattached to the cover. “Besides, it keeps them looking newer, and I never leave Most of their belongings had been delivered last week, and now, with renewed vigor they were unpacking boxes and working at getting the living room set up. The built in bookcases that lined one wall in the living room was one of the charms that led them to settle on this house. He stepped back to look at the shelves. “It’s nice to get them off the floor. I’ve never had the whole collection displayed like this.” She watched him stare at the wall of album spines. They filled the entire wall, in fact, the long wall of the living room. 37

H U GO AT T H E H E N R Y

them in the sun. Mine do not warp.”


He sat down on the ottoman, held his chin, and sighed. “I’m bummed that none of the covers can be seen, but I think I’ve got a solution for that.” He

ROB ERT DOWN EY

continued to talk while looking at the shelves. His arms are outstretched, hands holding an imaginary album out in front of him. “You know how in a bookstore sometimes the book covers face out? Online I saw these frames the size of record albums. I thought about buying, oh, maybe eight of them for that wall over there. It’d be fun to rotate my favorite covers into the frames.” He then picked up a stack of jazz and slid them in next to the end of the symphonic section. She asked, “Another wall?” He had opened a new box, labeled male vocalists, and hefted them up and onto the shelf, sliding them into place, patting them flat against the back wall. “I think, even though it’s the smallest part of the collection, they’re the ones I listen to most often so I’ll keep them closest to the turntable.” He pushed them up against the jazz. WA L L S PACE

She looked at the black stereo components stacked in a tall, birch case, the glass door open and wires gushing out. She turned to the bare wall he had earlier referred to. “You know, Tom, I have plans for that wall already. Remember those photographs I took from Napa. The ones I submitted to the gallery for their show of amateur photographers and landscapes. The show ends soon, and I had worked out a space for them here.” She stood in front of the wall with her

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back to him making arrangements for the prints with her fingers. He continued to stuff albums onto the shelf. “But

ROB ERT DOWN EY

where would we put the album covers? It wouldn’t make sense to hang them in the bedrooms or basement. They should be next to the collection.” She turned to him, hands on her hips. “Tom. Two of my pieces won awards, small ones I realize, but awards all the same. I’m proud of them, and I’m not going to relegate them all to the basement. You’re treating these music covers as if they’re… they’re all pieces of some kind of installation. They’re not art.” Tom stared at her, his mouth open, ready to speak, but nothing came out. He left the room and returned with another box in his arms. He set it on the floor, ripped open the flaps, and pulled out a stack of albums and set them on the floor. His fingers fanned the top few. Then he pulled out an album. On it were four men, three in suits, the lead in white, walking across the street. He slapped it onto the glass coffee table in WA L L S PACE

her direction. The next one — all black with a thin, white line entering from the left and hitting a triangle and out emerges a prismatic rainbow. He tossed that one next to the first. Then three more hit the table, bam bam bam, an exploding Hindenburg; a vase of lush roses; a bright, yellow, silk-screened banana. He swung his body around to face the shelf, put his fingers between a few spines and mumbled, “Hmm. I thought I had more Springsteen.”

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The Gift

On his lunch break, he stopped into the gallery on a whim. When he saw the arty photo, it grabbed

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JUDITH YARROW

him. As he stood staring at it, he thought of his wife. They’d both been working too much. Hardly ever saw each other except for coffee in the morning standing up in the kitchen or brushing their teeth at night. When he took the IT manager position at the biotech firm, he knew it was going to mean unpredictable hours, always long days, sometimes nights. week, too. Lucky they had a downtown condo not too far from their jobs or they’d never see each other. He decided to get the photo as a surprise gift for her. So she’d know he thought about her during the day. The photo was mysterious, in a surrealistic way. Lots to think about when you looked at it. An elk head floating upside down in the air. A marble Roman bust, the ultimate image of cold logic. The heads divided by a streak of red neon light. Two totally different ways of being facing each other across a space that electrified them. And the photo wasn’t too big. 41

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And she was usually at her job more than 50 hours a


Ann Hamilton. Cordova. 1987.

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Big enough to make a statement, but not so big that it would take over a wall. They should hang it where you’d come upon it unexpectedly, he decided. That would help keep the mystery alive. When something disappeared. You just didn’t notice it anymore. He charged it to his own account, rather than the house account — after all it was a present for her — and carefully loaded it into the back of the Cherokee. He was pleased with life, and with himself.

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was out where you saw it all the time, pretty soon it

She was putting groceries away and mulling over the day’s events. Mentally composing a to-do list for tomorrow. Thinking about a call she’d put off making. Really should make it now. Her counterpart always worked late and would probably still be in the office. Before she could make the call, she heard her “Honey, I’ve got a surprise for you,” he announced when he came into the kitchen. She looked with some trepidation at the bulky package he was carrying. His presents were always a surprise, though not necessarily good ones. Once a sky-driving trip. Her body still remembered the terror and wonder of freefall. Once a lovely red hand-tooled leather purse. Another time, bungee jumping, though she’d passed on that. He unwrapped a framed painting, held it up proudly. The painting, no, a photograph of some kind, was somewhere between the purse and freefall. When

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husband rattling through the front door.


she looked at it, she felt nauseous. Muddy brown colors, a white marble head staring down some poor upside-down elk. She held back her tears. The elk head hung helplessly opposite the cold white marble head JU DITH YA RROW

on, what was that, a battered steam cabinet? What was the subtext here? What was he trying to tell her? That they lived in worlds that didn’t and could never communicate? Was this the first hint of an inevitable separation, divorce lurking in the shadows? “It’s all gloom and doom,” she said. “Honey, I thought you’d like having a piece of real art. This is by Ann Hamilton. It’s a great investment.” She couldn’t hold her tongue. “It’s a gift you’re giving to yourself, not me,” she said. “Look at it. What are you trying to tell me? That we’re hopelessly divided? That we can’t reach each other across some horrible divide? That we’re on the way to splitting up?” “We’re not hopelessly divided. This is the beginning of an art collection together. Why would I be thinking of leaving?” T H E GI FT

“Where are we going to hang it? I don’t want to look at it all the time.” “Seriously, this is the beginning of a collection. Our collection. With my new job, we can afford to splurge a bit.” She felt suspended in a yawning gulf. “If you don’t like it, you can pick out the next one,” he added. “One you like better. Even if I don’t

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like what you pick, that doesn’t matter. It’ll make for an interesting dynamic in our collection. Point and counterpoint, you know.” He propped the photograph up on the table and stood back, elbows akimbo, to Suddenly she noticed a bright, yellow lemon lying on the floor between the two heads. The lemon was so obvious once she saw it. It’s reflection gleamed on the polished floor. Squiggling up from the lemon into the space between the two heads rose a red

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admire it.

neon light. It straightened out and darted into the shadows. She leaned forward and examined the photo. The red light connected to a luscious cluster of grapes that hung half hidden in the shadows. She put her arm through the crook of her husband’s elbow and snuggled against him. “It’s the kind of art you need to see up close, but not too often,” she

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said. “Let’s hang it at the end of the hallway.”

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Images

PG . 4 John Divola. Zuma #4. 1978, reprinted 2012. Pigment print on rag

paper. Henry Art Gallery, Monsen Study Collection of Photography, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen, replacement print by the artist, 2012.6. PG . 7 Santiago Cucullu. Entrance (smallest bathroom in the world), Kyoto.

2005. Watercolor on paper. Henry Art Gallery, Henry Contemporaries Acquisition Fund purchase, 2006.12. PG . 1 0 Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #3. 1977. Gelatin silver print.

Henry Art Gallery, Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company, 97.152. PG . 1 2 Francis Frith. The Temple of El-Karnak, From the South East. 1857.

Albumen print. Henry Art Gallery, Monsen Study Collection of Photography, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen, 92.11. PG . 1 5 Christian Dior (Boutique). Woman’s coat. 1957. Plain weave. Heavy

fulled wool with medium weight plain silk lining. Henry Art Gallery, Mrs. Theodore Plestcheeff Collection, 87.4-18. PG . 31 Paul Jacoulet. The Old Carp Seller. Ibaraki, Japan. 1934. Color

woodcut print on handmade paper. Henry Art Gallery, bequest of Miss Edna Benson, 69.51. PG . 3 9  The B-Side (installation view). 2012. Henry Art Gallery. Photo by

Robert Wade. PG . 4 2 Ann Hamilton. Cordova. 1987. Chromogenic color print. Henry Art

Gallery, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, 97.310.

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1634 11th Avenue Seattle, WA 98122 (206) 322-7030 hugohouse.org

HENRY ART GALLERY University of Washington 15th Ave NE & NE 41st Street Box 351410 Seattle, WA 98195-1410 henryart.org

Hugo at the Henry: Writing with Visual Art  

Fiction by students of Hugo House's Summer 2012 writing program, inspired by works from the collection of the Henry Art Gallery. hugohouse...