Saturday, January 02, 2010

Contemplating Art

Exercise Two:
Contemplating Art
Spend several moments contemplating a work of art of your choice, and then write a one-page story in which you enter that work of art. (Like Mary Poppins in the park with Bert.)

Background: There is a piece of art that haunts me. I went to an art exhibit with a friend of mine. It was student art and she was displaying a piece. There was one incredibly dark piece that drew me in. I couldn't stop staring at it. All I saw were lines and zigzags in deep reds, blues, greens, and black. It was disturbing and haunting. Interestingly, when my friend asked me about it, I described what I saw and said that I felt this horrible feeling of dread. She asked me if I could see the face. I told her no. I didn't see anything of the sort. Then I looked again and peering from behind the bars and zigzags was this horrific face full of torment. I chose this piece of art because I still think about it over a decade later. I have no idea who the artist is or what it was called.

It started as a joke. Hanging back in the Halloween funhouse, sponsored by the local church to raise money for victims of domestic violence, sounded like fun. What sort of trouble could you get into?

A local college student designed and built the monstrosity that sat in the backyard of the Catholic Church. He was inspired by a class he had taken that made him draw everything in lines and straight pieces. There wasn't a rounded corner or window or nook in the place. Everything was bars and sharp corners and squares. It was neat in its simplicity, but jagged in its crookedness.

I thought it would be fun to hide in a corner and stay after the funhouse closed. It was easy to hide since there were no lights and there were small squares of space perfectly sized to house interlopers. I chose a nook toward the front of the funhouse. I hid.

An hour after closing, that was when I told myself I would move around. I didn't bring anything with buzzers or beepers, I didn't want to be detected. I had a sportswatch with a button to hit to emit a dayglo that would allow one to tell the time easily while in the dark.

It is interesting how the dark plays tricks on the senses and the mind. Ten minutes into my foray and I could hear all sorts of sounds and see all sorts of things between the bars. The bars in front of me were painted black, red and green. The red was slashed on as if splashed by the artist to resemble some macabre act of jealousy or greed.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up. The hair on my arms was at attention. My eyes kept seeing shadows and darting light even though it was impossible to see any of those things. There were no windows in the funhouse. None. What was I seeing? What was I hearing? And now, I could swear, I was smelling something burning.

I couldn't stop myself from hitting my dayglo button to see the time. Fifteen more minutes, then ten, then five. Then the footsteps. In the dark with all the shadows and tricks of the sense, how could I be sure I heard footsteps? I was in a deserted place in the dark. I was in a nook behind bars in the dark with no way out that I could think of since the doors were closed and locked. Why did I think this would be fun? What is wrong with me?

I tried to squeeze out from behind the bars when I could hear the breathing. I thought I could even feel the heat from the breath on my face. I didn't dare scream. Instead I slunk back into the nook hoping whoever it was would leave. I heard it grip the bars, the familiar sound of a ring hitting the metal. Yes, now I heard breathing, panting almost. What was this? Who was this? No one knew I was going to be in the funhouse and I had heard the announcement that the house was closing and I remember seeing the guards coming through to make sure it was clear. Could it be a guard double checking? Then why the panting.

I heard keys this time and the ring on the pole again. Whoever it was was trying to come into the nook with me. My eyes were adjusting better and I could make out long hair hanging wildly around the bars and I thought I could make out red eyes and a large nose. I was surely losing my mind.

I was ready to scream and start flailing like a little girl fighting on the playground when he said "Is someone there?"

Not menacing, just questioning?

"The funhouse is closed and you will have to leave."

Then he turned on his flashlight and all my fears were assuaged. Here stood a senior high student with a flashlight and emo hair. I jumped and them realized it was my friend's younger brother. For a moment, I thought I could take him and run past him to the exit but I wasn't sure if the exits were unlocked. This was embarrassing enough. I had to cop to the fact that I was an idiot in a funhouse after hours.

I walked out of my hiding place without saying a word and he escorted me to the entrance. Neither of us said anything to the other. I hoped he wouldn't say anything to my friend or to others, but I couldn't be sure.

I will say that the evening terrified me and made me laugh when I realized how foolish I had been.

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