Made Personal

I’m “Writer in Residence” for the current show at The Alice, a gallery run by Julie Alexander and Julia Freeman in Georgetown (Seattle). The show is called “Made Personal” and is curated by, with works by, Serrah Russell, Joe Rudko, and Colleen RJC Bratton. This is the piece I wrote for the show.

Thing was once a verb

The first thing you notice is the hum. Or throb. A blue-green, metallic sort of sound, with a nice subtle backbeat to it, the quiet oscillation of a mindless drone doing its thing, sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower, but if you close your eyes you can dance to it. In a sort of tripped-out spacey way. Like the noise of the ferry when you stand at the bow, the diesel engines pulsing and the hull cutting through the waves with their cross-rhythms, the foam piling up and spilling back, piling up and spilling back, the gulls hovering along beside.

You’re here alone. That’s important. You’re thinking about the overlooked, the quiet spaces just inside the frame, beside the object, where nothing’s happening, out of focus or just deflecting focus. All kinds of things occur to you. Detritus is a word that comes to mind. What’s here? Scraps of thread and fabric coiled fetus-like on a black surface. A pencil, a level, a banana. A framed object lies on the floor as if forgotten, or left for later. A step ladder, a set of shelves, a table with a measuring tape and sponge all stand out from the walls, awkward, inert. Tea kettle, cups, plastic trays, stray light.

Where do you go from here? The past is always possible—that private place full of these forgotten moments, interstices between events. The grassy, gravelly triangle between the highway and its on-ramp, say, with one young pine throwing a meager shade, where you waited years ago for some thing. The summer light washes out the memory like a photo overexposed. Smells are good. The scent of mildew past its prime, barely more than dust, that rises from the cushions on furniture inherited from other families, other lives, other claims to fame. A hint of paint or linseed oil, full of wisdom. Or snapshots: those mental images that persist for no good reason: a pyramid of sunlight framed by branches. A swirl of combat on a city street, seen through the hazy plastic of a Metro window.

Or do you go in? Through the inviting opening, into the story that waits just inside, just around the corner, behind the tear?

Or do you go up? Lifted by ideas, associations, the way that theory eats itself?

We make objects out of things. A shape, a color, a gesture of display.

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