Category Archives: Art

Opening the Book

Laocoon Group

Laocoon and his sons. Ancient statue unearthed in 1500s and now on display in Vatican.

This is what my writing ritual looked like this morning:

  1. Eat all the carbs left over from the Leukemia Society bake sale.
  2. And drink two Diet Cokes.
  3. Feel all the guilt for abandoning my beloved children for a few hours so I can go downstairs and write. (They were both staring contentedly at their respective electronics.)
  4. Gather more carbs, the computer, a 44oz plastic cup of ice water, and that book written by the guy I get to study with in a couple of weeks.
  5. Plug in computer, eat a caramel apple (simultaneously).
  6. Stand in the morning sun as it makes shadows of the heart-shaped redbud leaves and read the last 10 pages of The World’s Largest Man. It’s so good, I can’t sit down. So good, I want to stand in the sun.
  7. Snot up 5 tissues because it’s over, along with so many other things in this life. Cry for my daddy, cry for Richard, cry for all those chipmunks that Biscuits has brought to the back door this week. Cry for autumn. Cry for carbs. Cry because the kids might be up there right now eating the last of the fudge cake that is supposed to be my reward for writing. Cry for my kids because they have an awful selfish mother like me.
  8. Climb quietly up the basement stairs to listen to the family up above. I don’t want to go up there and have to explain the red face, but I need to get close enough to hear three sets of footsteps (or at least the buzz of three screens) to confirm that no beloveds have died while I took a few minutes to pursue my dream.
  9. Skulk back down to the office and wake up computer from Sleep mode. Beg Facebook friends to harangue me into writing.
  10. Look up Harrison Scott Key on Facebook then suffer mild panic attack because this uproarious and visceral memoir that he’s written has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. I sent him 25 pages of my manuscript to critique about a week ago. He’s probably at the store to buy more red pencils.
  11. Pull up manuscript. Spot every obvious flaw. Gnash teeth.
  12. Put on some music. Shuffle lands on Counting Crows “Long December” just as I’m thinking about almost writing that part of the story from December 31 of that awful year when Richard called from Baltimore, heartbroken because a doctor had told him it was time to go home and die. I sat in the sun on the last day of that longest December and didn’t know what to say to him. But I knew that this year would not be better than the last.
  13. Pace around small office. Lean in corners to cry. Rest head on molding around door. Crawl into grandmother’s platform rocker and try to remember what it was like before life got big.
  14. Sit down at the fucking hateful computer again.
  15. Glance up to the bookshelves and spot the green Mead notebook that I wrote in when Richard first got diagnosed. Take it off the shelf and contemplate opening it for the first time in a decade.
  16. Chicken out.
  17. Chicken back in.
  18. Step back into July 4, 2014.
  19. Wish I hadn’t.
  20. Distract myself with googling images of the Laocoon group because MAN, I GET THAT GUY. He was a Trojan priest who tried to warn them that the Trojan Horse left by the Greeks shouldn’t be allowed into the city. Athena, protector of the Greeks, struck him and his two sons with serpents. Basically, he tried to tell the truth, he tried to expose the lie that would kill them all….and died for it. Some say that he didn’t die from the venom. He was left to live and carry the loss of his sons, his city, his position, his everything. Telling the truth gets you snakebit, kids.
  21. Conclude that maybe I’m being a bit grandiose and should just get back to writing the simple story of a woman who made it through a couple of snake fights and might have some teeny grains of wisdom to share with other, equally snake-grappling folks.
  22. Write two paragraphs.
  23. Erase one.
  24. Listen to Bonnie Raitt sing “Not the Only One.”
  25. Write another paragraph.
  26. Call it a day.
  27. Climb upstairs, broken but unbowed (maybe a little bowed).
  28. Kiss children on heads.
  29. Eat some cake.

My One Woman Show at MoMA

Some days, you end up rolling around on the floor in a black muslin bag at┬áthe Museum of Modern Art; some days you don’t. TODAY was my day to writhe around on the floor for the edification and entertainment of a crowd of spectators. It’s all Yoko Ono’s fault (she’s used to the scapegoating so we’re cool).

The day started out so normally. A bagel in the hotel lobby, some visiting with other bloggers, a little bit of squealing and much glee. Normal. Then a short walk to the museum where I promptly headed for the Jacob Lawrence “One Way Ticket” exhibit featuring his 60 panel series on the Great Migration of Southern Blacks northwards in the first half of the 20th century.

But I got lost. I went allaway up to the sixth floor instead of stopping on the third and I wandered straight into Yoko Ono’s exhibit “One Woman Show.” I was about to turn around and ask a volunteer for directions because when you’ve seen one apple rotting atop a plexiglass column, you’ve seen them all. (I kid, I kid…kind of) I’ve had positive encounters withe several Ono pieces over the years, but I wasn’t much in the mood for her today.

11143323_10206036801192114_6007822362586092663_oThen I turned a corner into a little room labelled “Bag Piece.” Two walls were lined with small photographs taken of Ono’s performance of the Bag Piece at an art festival four years before I was born. In the corner of the gallery, a large black fabric sculpture moved smoothly like some kind of alien creature. I assumed it was an armature covered in fabric and preprogrammed to move according to Ono’s design.

However…as I stood there watching the bag move through its poses, I realized that there was a person inside. The figure stretched and posed and swayed and slept, all in the burqa-like confines of the black bag. A small sign next to the platform read “All are invited to participate in the Bag Piece.”


I was genuinely moved as I watched the creature move about inside the bag. There was no way of knowing whether it was male, female, young, old, like me or not like me. Having grown a couple of babies, the imagery of the Bag Piece reminded me of carrying another life. It also made me think about how we go from an insulated womb state where we are unlabeled and intact before we have to leave the bag and take our place in the world of labels and assumptions.

The creature in the bag slowed into a Cobra pose then twisted around to a sitting position. The voluminous black bag wiggled a bit until a foot popped out. As the crowd giggled, the foot turned towards the sound, and the big toe nodded hello. Then another foot. The waves of fabric ┬ápulled back to reveal a tall, thin young man–a MoMA employee. He asked if anyone else wanted to give it a try.

Rampant enthusiasm, people. It’s gotten me into many a pickle, but today it got me a One Woman Show at MoMA.

I kicked off my shoes and climbed under the bag. The black muslin was very thin, so even though I was completely shrouded, I could see the outlines of my audience. I discovered that there was a mirror behind the crowd that I could use to watch my own performance.

The platform backed into a corner, so working on the womb idea, I tucked myself into a little ball in the corner. I rocked and swayed. I slid across the surface towards the audience. I stretched up and did some belly dancing arms (another leftover of rampant enthusiasm). I worked the edge of the platform, coming as close to the viewers as possible, but still hidden in the bag. Inside the shroud, I smiled silently. Only movement. I slithered up the wall and back into the corner. Back where I had begun, but different.

I decided my time was up. I threw off the bag and let myself laugh.

Art isn’t some serious exercise in remembering names and dates and movements and theory. Art is about slowing down to look, whether from inside the bag or without.