To be sensitive is to be human. It is to feel not only by touch but by taste, smell, sound, and sight. It is to use these feelings to create emotion and thought; these are two very different things. When emotion is created through sensibility the host has no choice but to take ownership of it. These emotions are created by them and for them. They cannot give anyone else credit for this creation. This type of sensibility is pure. On the other hand when thought is created through sensibility it is free to roam. It cannot only be linked to the host but to their surrounding environments. This type of sensibility is also pure, but the delusion it is often accompanied with deprives it of its purity. Although it is possible for a host to survive with neither or only one of these forms of sensibility, this deficiency may result in the perception of a lack of humanity.
Olivia Parker – Site I (from “Lost Objects portfolio)
It’s funny how once something is damaged it can never be the same. Not actual funny, but the funny that comes with a statement like “It’s funny how the only thing guaranteed in life is death.” This statement isn’t funny at all. Permanence is never funny.
Going into special collections was a terrible experience. From the gloves you have to wear to the way the office worker runs over to tell you that you can’t lift the photos off the table. It is not that I don’t appreciate preservation; It’s just that I would rather not come in contact with it.
There is nothing gentle about my hands. Delicate things make me uncomfortable. This is why I avoid holding things like newly born children.
Standing over the very large photos as they lay on the table I felt as though I was back home. With my mother and sisters staring at me as my mother says “Stop looking at the baby like that, do you think he’s going to bite you?” while my sisters stand in the background shaking their heads in disappointment. They do not understand that my hands were not made for the delicate.
Looking at the Cowin photos was a process that I many times wanted to cut short. The office worker and I stand at opposite sides of the table, we look at each other to make sure we are on the same page and lift the large photo out of the box in unison. We place it on the table and she raises the flap. I grab the white sheet that is laid across the picture by its opposite edges and slowly lift up, making sure to not drag it across the photo, and place it into the box. She holds the flap up and we both stare at the image. I say “Okay” or nod my head in fake satisfaction as I lift the white sheet out of the box and place it back over the picture. She closes the flap, and we go on to the next one. We do this 6 times. Then one by one, in unison, we move all the pictures back into the box. Through out this process I felt the fear of dropping a newborn baby.
The images were not very interesting to me but I stared at each of them as though they were. I did not want the work that we put into viewing the photos to be in vein. Some of the photos had ridges on them. I found this funny. After all this precaution the photos were still damaged, and there was no coming back. The delicate was destroyed.
Looking at the dolls from Olivia Parker’s Lost Objects I saw both delicateness and the permanence of damage.
There was one doll in particular that annoyed me. It had a crumbling forehead, white eyes, it’s arms were reaching out, and it was looking right at me. Special collections as a whole annoyed me. Being able to touch the art but not really being able to touch the art annoyed me. But this doll in particular with its broken face, that was falling a part and that was delicate was reaching out for me to touch it. I cannot explain how much this annoyed me.
I wondered how all these dolls looked untouched and damaged at the same time. I thought about how the damage on the dolls was permanent. I thought about how this permanence was captured on camera and reproduced into another delicate thing. So now the photo held double the amount of delicate. I thought about how the most permanent thing these dolls will ever experience is their destruction. I thought about how easy it would be to damage these dolls, to scratch a picture, to drop a baby.
I have never liked the delicate.
Floodlit white. Not the white you see on a piece of paper or the white that comes from the soap bubbles that turned your eyes screaming red when your cousin told you to close your eyes but you were too stubborn to listen. But the white that comes from the time you woke up next to an open window, and the sun shone brightly on the white sheets that you were wrapped up in, and the wind blew in the most perfectly tempered breeze you had ever felt. The kind of white so beautiful you opened your eyes and thought you had died. The type of white that makes you feel like an orb of light. The type that comes directly from the sun but doesn’t hurt your eyes, instead is so soft and so peaceful that it let’s your eight year old self calmly accept that you have woken up mid journey to heaven. Not the type of white from the clouds when everyone saw a horse and you were only able to see a misshapen cotton ball. Not the type of white that comes from brushing your teeth as you gag on the taste of toothpaste, not the type of white that still makes you gag when you think about how much you hate the taste of toothpaste. but the type of white you can feel on your skin and inside you, the type of white you can inhale, the type of white that reminded you of a calm that you never felt. Not the type of white from when you spat out one of your tooth fillings after you bit down too hard on a spoon. Or from your Elmer’s glue covered hands that your sister’s friend had to use hot water and a knife to clean. The type of white that looked like it was carved from God’s sclera. Not the type of white from the time your dad ran over a rabbit and tried to convince you that the car in front of you was the culprit. Not the type of white that comes from the time you were blinded by the headlights of the car speeding towards your driver side door. Not the type that comes from eating saltine crackers for three days straight after you caught a stomach virus. Not the white from the seeds left on dandelions after you blow them that meant your wishes wouldn’t come true. Not the type that comes from actually crying over spilled milk. Not the type that comes from the time you bought a whiteboard because you thought it would help get your life together but it just ended up ripping holes in the wall. Not the white that comes from the first time you had a snowball thrown in your face and felt it would fall off if you rubbed too hard. But the type so beautiful you were disappointed when you realized you were still alive. The type of white you’ll probably never see again.
Images that are buried deep will always find a way back to you. You’re 21 and in a museum. You see a marble, and then you’re 5. You’re 5 again and standing in front of the vase of marbles in your aunt’s house that you will soon begin to swallow. The same aunt that you wished were your God mother before you understood what a God mother was, so you ask your mom if your aunt can be your God mother. You don’t understand why she reacts the way she did. Now you do, now you’re 21 and standing in a museum looking at a marble, and you’re sad. A marble made you sad.
Buried images will do this to you. They will take you places you did not know existed. This can be dangerous. You need to watch out. You need to keep your eyes closed and your mind shut. Do not go looking for them, because you’ll be 21 and you’ll drop a beer bottle on the ground, and you’ll see the pieces of broken glass. Then you’re 5, and it’s May, and your mom is screaming, and your uncle is holding you in front of a sink of running water, and your dad is telling your mom to stop screaming, and there’s blood everywhere. These images will snatch you up, they will take you from where you are and put you back where you came from.
They never tell you what came first. These images are you playing in the park, eating with your left hand, screaming in front of a blood filled sink, walking up steps, red popsicles, red koolaid, falling us the steps, red hamburger buns, red knees, red concrete, red hands. They are the car ride to the hospital, they are not knowing whether you passed out, blacked out, or fell asleep.
Buried images are everything happening at once but not anymore. Do not be fooled by the fact that they are called images. They come with sound and feeling. They are being 21 and remembering the image you didn’t know you had of a piece of glass wedged through your thumb. Then you’re 7 and you’re arguing with a friend about how you can say ring finger but not thumb finger. So now you’re 5 and 7 and 21.
Images sit still and move at the same time, they never let you know which one they’ll be doing. They bang on your surface but cannot rise, they become the way you feel when you can’t remember the word on the tip of your tongue that you never knew. They are fleeting and ever present at the same time. Do not believe a thing you see, buried images are often full of lies. They are looking down at your bloody hand in the bathroom sink but looking into the mirror and seeing your sister’s face.
- What is it that haunts you? Is it how bad it is to raise the dead? To give life to something that did not own it in the first place? Why does your face fall and twist and gape? Why do you scream with your mouth open and your eyes sad? Where does your passion come from?
- What is it that disgusts you? Is it falling in love with something that you shouldn’t or is it that cupid himself condones this with a smile on his face and an arrow drawn? Is it the unnatural becoming natural? Are you afraid? Are you afraid of what love is capable of?
- Or do you think falling in love with something you’ve created a sin? Do you find it vain and narcissistic? Is it that you’re angry?
- Why don’t you ignore it? Why don’t you turn your head like you see nothing, better yet why don’t you stare at yourself in the mirror? Maybe use your own moral perfections to suppress your feelings of indignation. Do you too want this feeling? Do you find this unfair? Do you find this shameful?
- Are you shocked that something like this can happen? Is it that you’re surprised? Do you think the shallow do not deserve happiness? Do you think the only thing that should be given to them is punishment? Do you not wish them well?
- Is it about the child? The way the mother shields their eyes? Are you frightened for the child or are you against the mother? Do you think this is something a child needs to see? Do you not believe that children should be shielded from the world? Or are you appalled by the child’s presence?
- Maybe you are frightened for the girl? Is it because you know she can never love someone else? Because you know she can have no other purpose than to be with this man? Do you not agree with the fate that she was given? Do you want to save her from him?
- Or maybe it’s because of him. Do you find obsession poisonous? Do see him as a slave to false love? Do you want to save him from his pleasure? Do you want to save him from her?
- Or is it the fish? Are you worried about what will happen to the fish? Are you thinking about how people don’t care about the things that are smaller than them? Are you thinking about the things that are neglected once love is found? Are you thinking about yourself?
- Why do you scream or gape or bellow? Why does your face hold so much pain or anger or shame? Why are your eyes like this? Why is your face like this? Where does your passion come from? What did this to you?
- A photograph means that an image has been stolen from time. The image has been captured and once you look at the image you too will become captured. So you will stand with the image in mutual capturedness being reminded that the photograph, the image, the reminder of a place you can never return, a place that you can never go, a time you can never touch, can only bring longing, nostalgia, a happy kind of sadness.
- The photograph steals a moment from the past and present at the same time. Upon looking at it you long to continue to do just this, look at it; even if it is only for a second a moment from time has been taken.
- If the image is particularly good you will feel the need to go back to this image, see it again, experience it again. But no matter how much you love the image or feel for it you may never get that same feeling you had the very first time you saw the image, the moment, the reminder.
- A photograph always has to be tangible, an image does not. You can touch the photograph but you cannot touch the moment. You can love it but you cannot go back, you cannot feel again, you cannot understand deeper than what you see.
- A photograph can be a very interesting thing. You can take the image from the look on your sister’s face when she caught you in the kitchen seconds before thumb met knife blade and store it in the scar on your hand. If you photograph this scar on your hand you have now managed to steal multiple images from time and place them in one photograph. Upon looking at the photograph you create another moment in time, another possible photograph.
- When you look at a photograph you may think that you gain the ability to steal the image of the moment that you are in. You may think that you escaped the longing, the nostalgia, the happy kind of sadness. Do not be deceived. Unless a photograph is taken you will feel these things. If a photograph is taken, you will still feel these things. There is no escape, a photograph just makes these feelings better or worse. There is no saying.
- If you take a photograph of the scar, then a photograph of you looking at the photograph of the scar, and so on. You can capture a never-ending sequence of moments, but these moments will be lost in you. Photographs will be lost in the world. In the end everything will be gone. There is no escape from this. Photographs were created to bring longing and nostalgia and a happy kind of sadness.
Your bald head
Your brown skin
Your baby powder plastic scent
How everyone loving the way you smelled
The soft movements of your arms and legs
How you snored while you slept
The song they wrote for you
Your pink earrings
How everyone wanted to hold you
The tube in your throat
Your missing leg
How you drowned
Your pee on my leg
Being thrown by me
My name in your locket
Your diaper that I did not understand how to change
Your lost clothes
How you were always forgotten
How you ran out of food
How you were always lost
How no one cared about finding you
Your other leg breaking
Your broken earrings
The toothpick stuck in your throat
How you always seemed to smile, even when you were crying
How your palm was still only the size of my finger
Losing your voice
Losing your voice permanently
The marks on your back
Your painted nails
Your lipstick that smudged down your face
Someone trying to fix your leg
That someone failing
Being let go
How you were forgotten
How you were always falling
Losing your locket
Your baby powder plastic scent that never went away
Being forgotten by me
Being remembered by me
Being left by me
The first time I saw him I was 14. I let out a gentle gasp of amazement and confusion. He was not called by his name then. Instead they called him monster, evil, demon, killer. After learning about what he did, he was called these names by me as well
The second time I saw him I was only a year older. It was in a dark room full of people. They let out gentle gasps of amazement and confusion. I turned to my friends knowingly and told them the horrible thing he did. They called him ugly and scary and sinful. I smiled.
The third time I saw him, I saw his body. It was in a dark room and he came from the only source of light, a halo glowing through and around his body. He attempts to turn his body away from me, as if I caught him by surprise doing something he should not have been. He was crouched over, frozen in time, the evidence in his hand and on his face. I wanted to ask him why he did it in the first place. I wanted to call him guilty, but it was then I saw his eyes. They were wide with something that wasn’t shock or shame. It was then that I was captivated.
I felt as though he came looking for me after that. I would find him in places I did not expect, but when our eyes met I would always look. He looked back at me as though he needed to tell me something, to explain something to me. I was 20 and inattentively flipping through the pages of my art textbook when I saw him. This time we were alone. When I looked at him I saw his tightly clenched hands and his pain. He looked scared and disgusted in himself as if he were forced into his choices.
I saw him again when I was 21 and when I looked for what to call him the word survivor fell from my lips. I understood what it meant to love yourself and yourself alone, and how brave it was to make that choice, and how survival comes with sacrifice, and sacrifice comes with pain. He became a beautiful monster I kept coming back to look at, falling in love with the thing I could never be with each glance.
I am 22 and I speak about him to anyone that’ll listen. If I could speak to him, I’d apologize for what I once called him. I’d apologize for condemning him for self-preservation. If I could speak to him I’d offer him a fork and knife and say “eat up, it’s time for you to save yourself.”
Saturn devouring his son. Francisco Goya. Oil on plaster. 1812 – 1823.