Saturday, February 28, 2009

Found Art: Intestine of a House

I found this object floating in the water at a marina. From a far, it was quite a mystery to what it could possibly be. I didn't know if it was natural or man made. It is the color of many things that are found at sea, so it didn't seem to improbable that the sea had spit up some sort of mysterious object. Once I fished it from the water and inspected it, it became apparent that it was man made. It is still a mystery to what exactly it is. Whatever it is, I like it. It reminds me of an intestine. It also looks like something you'd find in the walls of houses, like maybe something used for insolation. I imagine that if a house was magically given life, similar to Pinocchio, that this is what the live houses intestine would look like. If houses were given life, I imagine their personalities would depend on the people who have lived inside their walls. If the house had people who were constantly bickering, the live house would become argumentative. It the house had a peaceful person living inside, the house would be peaceful and laid back. If these were the rules, that would mean that if an apartment building came to life, the live building would have multiple personalities. Maybe each little apartment would be its own entity and it would be like they were conjoined twins.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Bird Girl

The baby bird girl was left outside of the acrobats tent, flapping her fledgling wings and crying in huffed shrieks. She had flung off her blanket so it lay unused, limp in the dust. The Bird Girls mother and father had been covered with flesh dusted with light hair like most humans. The origins of The Bird Girls appearance were mysterious to all. Although, the doctors had a theory involving drugs, and the pious nurse suspected it was a punishment for the bastard childs mother. The Bird Girls father had abandoned her first. Hearing of the pregnancy, he left town to pursue an old dream on the other coast. Her mother was young and lonely, living in a small town on waitress wages. When she was pregnant she sometimes imagined that The Bird Girls father came back. In her dreams they lived a domestic life with their little child, him bouncing the baby on his knee while she cooked a cherry pie. Mostly she imagined she was a different person living a different life. Even if her daughter hadn't been born half bird, she knew she would have found another way to abandon her. There was no place in this world for a bird girl so she was exiled to the traveling circus with the rest of the homeless placeless beings, lonely but content in their wanderings.
It was the trapeze artist who found The Bird Girl. She swept the baby into her arms. The trapeze artist rocked the baby and cooed to her, but the babies shrieks didn't ease until she was brought to the ring leader. As soon as she was placed in his arms, her cries changed into gurgling tweets.
"Little baby!" The ringleader declared and kissed the top of her fluffy head. Everyone called the ring leader 'The Conductor'. When he laughed he sounded like a train engine rumbling, and The Conductor laughed a lot.
The circus had a fish boy and a buffalo man, but there was no bird people in the freak show. The Bird Girl had wings like a bird but human legs. She had a human face with a big mouth that was kept open apprehensively. Her nose was sharp and her eyes were large and darting. Her whole body was covered with a downy fluff of feathers.
The other members of the freak show eagerly awaited an addition of a new member but The Conductor refused to put The Bird Girl in the show until she was old enough to make the decision to join her self. The Bird Girl learned the arts of circus performance. She mastered the tight rope, the trapeze, lion taming, and sword swallowing. She listed to The Crab Girls account of the freak show.
"They look at us, but we look right back at them." The defiance of the returned stare thrilled The Crab Girl. The Crab Girl claimed that she knew all sorts of things about people just by looking at them look at her.
But as The Bird Girl matured, she realized she had no passion for performance. Instead she enjoyed the backstage. She drew elaborate pictures of the performers and they were posted outside the tents. The sets of the performers were remade with her paintings. The drab, perpetual duskiness was transformed. The Conductor didn't mind that The Bird Girl wasn't on the freak show stage. Her paintings were even more valuable. In the mornings The Conductor would go into The Bird Girls art room with this cup of coffee. He watched her paint, her wing folded around a paint brush, as he told her stories of the night before.
No one minded that The Bird Girl didn't perform except for the tight rope walker, who was bitter because he was no good himself. He suffered up there on that rope, always on the brink of falling. And when he did fall, his pride ached almost as much as his broken bones. He didn't see why The Bird Girl should be shielded from those eyes.
He would talk about it after shows with the other performers, calling her "Turd Girl" which no one found particularly clever.
"Gustov, you are free to leave at any time." Sheila, one of the trapeze artists, said.
"Free to leave!? What am I going to do out their in that world? I've spent my life training to be a tight rope walker."
Other performers were not as afraid of the outside world as poor Gustov. It was The Crab Girl who was the first to leave. She was convinced by a dashing young man that she was being exploited. She scuttled away with him and his swollen promises. The buffalo man retired and moved to Florida to drink pina colatas and golf. The fish boy left to go to school to become an engineer. The conjoined twins opened up a bakery. The mild mannered woolly woman died of old age during their tour of Michigan. The giant left to become a film star. The only people left in the freak show were two little people, and nobody really considered little people as freaks anymore.
The freak show use to be one of the biggest attractions. The lonely house wives guiltily snuck in and instantly felt less alone. The house wives that weren't lonely marched in and fondly remembered their childrens ten fingers and ten toes. The children just itching to be shocked tromped in as troupes and squealed in unison. Drunk men coming from the peep shows enjoyed the contrast in human form. But word spread from town to town that the freak show was baron. Money dwindled and the performers became more ragged and dirty. The Bird Girl still faithfully painted new signs and murals for the show.
Late afternoon, The Bird Girls favorite time of the day, she hunched over a large board, painting the lion tamer. Gustov, wearing his red sequence pants and no shirt walked up to her. His bulky shadow stretched across the painting and down The Bird Girls back.
"I'm a bit tired of watered down soup, how about you?" Gustov glowered.
The bird girl tilted her head and looked up at Gustov. She blinked her large watery eyes.
"They've all left." Gustov enjoyed being cryptic. He enjoyed watching confusion creep into others faces. "You are the only freak left. The conductor is up day and night, making phone calls, looking for replacements for the show. And here you are, not helping a lick."
Gustov spat on the dusty ground next to The Bird Girl and walked away. The Bird Girl watched the spit glimmering in the sun, the bubbly liquid slowly soaking in the dirt beneath. Gustovs ploy had worked. That night the bird girl stood on the stage with two old little people hunched beside her. She felt dizzy in front of all those eyes. Brown ones that looked like rust in the dim glow of the tent. Blue eyes soaking in the light and looking empty and blind. But mostly gray ones, stoney and sad.
Gustov sat in front with his mean green eyes, digging into the bird girls feathers, glittering with the heftiest of mockery.
The afternoon encounter had left The Bird Girl in an anxious frenzy. She imagined The Conductors robust body withering away to saggy skin drooping on bone. She left her half completed painting on the ground and bolted herself in her room. Fluttering back and forth, she decided what she needed to do.
Her decision left her alone on stage exposed to a frowning audience.
"Fly!" somebody cried.
"Yeah, fly, " others chimed in.
The demanding twitters morphed into a roar as the whole room shouted, "Fly! Fly! Fly!"
The Bird Girl usually flew in private. She had only confided to one person her ability to fly. That person had been The Conductor.
She had still been a young child at the time. The Conductor was sluggishly leaning against a tree trunk, mourning his failed romance with the equestrian girl, Babette.
The Bird Girl went to comfort the conductor out of his cloud of grief. She showed him a goofy picture she drew. He smiled with no conviction. She nuzzled her head into his shoulder, but he just slumped further into the tree trunk. Finally she begun to flutter her wings and fly around him.
"Amazing," he whispered.
She zigzagged close to the ground, her feet occasionally brushing against dirt.
"I just assumed you couldn't fly." he whispered more to himself than the fluttering bird girl.
She flew higher and higher. The Conductor laughed as she flew circles and loops in the sky. His laugh rumbled like a train going 'chuga chuga chuga'. The bird girl began to laugh too, a high whistling, like the shriek of a train whistle. Afterward the Bird Girl would always fly for the conductor on extra glum days.
She didn't want to fly for anyone except herself, or for people she cared for. But the audience was becoming rowdy, throwing and shouting and swinging their angry arms.
"She's flying!" A voice shouted from the midst of the menacing crowd.
The roar of anger puttered into a relieved awe. Gustov shuttered. The Bird Girl would make a far better tight rope walker than him. From the Bird Girls high angle, she saw The Conductor in the back line of the audience. His shoulders were slouched and his mustache drooped over a frown. He didn't look at all relieved to see the bird girl taking part in the freak show. He looked ashamed and hurt. The Conductor shook his head and went outside the tent. The Bird Girls wings stiffened and she fell to to the ground. The audience cheered and hooted, but The Bird Girl hated their applause. She hated everyone of them, especially Gustov. She imagined Gustov falling of the tight rope, and the loud crack that would accompany the breaking of his bones. She stared at the ceiling and wondered what things were going to be like tomorrow. She thought about leaving the circus. Maybe she would go to Italy or Spain.
But the next day, she didn't leave. She stayed for a whole year, but never went on stage again. She had nightmeres about the night she went on stage. She couldn't get the Conductors expression out of her mind. He was ashamed of her, she thought, for not standing up for herself, for giving in too easily. She talked to Sheila about the incident.
"Its not you he is ashamed of, its himself. He felt he should have protected you from experiences like that. This was not the only time he has felt he failed to protect some one he loves." Sheila wouldn't elaborate on details. She said it was the Conductors business.
The Conductor hadn't gone into The Bird Girls art room to drink coffee and tell stories since the incident. The Bird Girl went to look for him and found him outside of the big tent looking at the stars. She wanted to tell him everything on her mind, but they never talked much, so she put her feathered wing into his hand and they stared at the stars together. The Bird Girl hoped that small gestures could mend big problems. But The Bird Girl and the Conductor were never the same, and instead of forcing their friendship, the two drifted a part. The Bird Girl decided to leave, to explore different regions of the world.
The circus survived several years longer before deteriorating into memories. People didn't have the interest in the circus that they use to. Old patrons found entertainment elsewhere and new patrons never materialized. All the performers and workers timidly entered the rest of the world. Some of them had success assimilating while others spent the rest of their lives longing for the circus. The Conductor left to work at a train station, but nobody there called him The Conductor because that title was already taken. To the great surprise of Gustov, he actually enjoyed living in the world outside the circus. He became a fireman and saved many lives. He reflected on his days at the circus with regret. He called The Conductor and other circus members to apologize for a number of different incidents of injustice caused by Gustov. Most forgave him, but some were so wounded by Gustovs past wrongs that they couldn't accept the apology. Gustov wished he could call The Bird Girl to apologize to her. Nobody knew what happened to her. Sheila thought she had seen her at a bar, drinking cocktails under the dim flickering light. But when she looked closer, it was just an woman wearing a feather boa. Most of the performers still kept in contact thorough occasional phone calls and christmas cards every year. They sometimes talked about having a circus reunion, but the talk never amounted to much. Even the performers who ended up enjoying the world outside the circus would have their moments to missing the past. Sometimes, after a particularly tedious day at work, they would go home to sulk and reminisce. The bird girl would flutter into their thoughts. They imagined her in Italy or Spain, flying over the sea, carrying the hopes and happiness of all the performers on the back of her feathered wings.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Fluffy clouds are far more prevalent in Seattle than the last town I was living in. Instead of a gray sheet or a blue sheet masquerading as the most the sky can offer, there are clouds constantly altering the skyscape. Fluffy clouds create a whimsical feeling to the seemingly ordinary. This is why fluffy clouds play a very important atmospheric role, especially in two settings.
First, fluffy clouds are essential to the fairy tale setting. Maybe not during the scenes where children are being devoured by wild animals or princesses are falling victim to the diabolic schemes of witches. But during the scenes that include tromping
through forests and conversing with woodland creatures the sky must be scattered with a plethora of fluffy clouds. Some of these clouds may even have faces with little
smiles and eyelashed eyes. In other story's, the sturdier of the clouds may have a castle or two built upon its wispy surface.
The second important setting is memory flash backs. The fluffy cloud is dispatched far more in the 'good memory' flash back opposed to the 'bad memory' flashback. When irony or a sense of the surreal is needed, the fluffy cloud can still play an important role in a bad memory. Weather it be movie, book, or my own fond memories, there are usually fluffy clouds bobbing on the horizon of these remembrances. Fluffy clouds have the greatest impact in memory flashbacks of the fifties. Anyone who was born after the 1950's gathers there most convincing information about what the era was like through watching old movies. The movies that were done in color in the fifties were done in Technicolor. What Technicolor color is more memorable than that bright blue of the sky? That bright blue is even more enhanced by white clouds contrasted against the blue. When I imagine the 1950's, I imagine everyone and everything in Technicolor rather than ordinary colors. So memory flashbacks of the fifties seem quite realistic to me when fluffy clouds are present to heighten the Technicolor look of the sky.
Both the skies of fairy tales and memories must have heightened coloring and contrasting in order to properly convey feelings of whimsy. Recently, I discovered the 'Picnic' feature of Flickr. I've been having a ball tinkering with sky pictures in order to create my own batch of fairy tale and memory clouds.