Today on the Free Bench
Men’s flip-flops and sneakers; a hospital gown; several pink baby clothes; a photo of five dressed-up high school-aged girls; black faux fur-lined women’s winter boots; an Art Ltd. magazine; one silver shoe for a five-year-old girl; and a framed collage.
The collage says “Age” written in string and broken rubber bands shaped into the letters and glued on. A girl’s face looks out from inside the sort of cap that British toddlers wore circa 1926. The figure also wears a long winter coat from the same era. The cap covers the head and ears and ties under the chin, and the effect in this collage is of a face swimming in a space helmet. The space suit motif is completed by three threads that lead from the girl and attach to 1) a small map, 2) an image of variously-stacked blocks from a geometry textbook, and 3) an ultrasound picture of a uterus.
She is her own little Neil Armstrong, attached to lifelines to keep her safe in her universe.
How intentional is what I see, and how unconscious is it? What do the map, the blocks, and the uterus mean? Did the artist just cut them from a book because she/he thought they looked cool? Or are they specifically meaningful?
And are the threads lifelines or leashes? Is it, “I have a map to get me where I need to go, and I know how to build things, and these, along with my basic female-ness, keep me moving forward through the world?” Or is it, “I am constrained by maps that lull me into thinking they can show me the way; blocks are all rigidity and angles and do not brook the soft lines of the natural world; and my body is my destiny, a destiny I cannot escape even if I want to?”
Of course, that’s the point of art, right? To hold the possibility of both: life has its leashes and its lifelines, and sometimes one item can be both.
Thoughtful – thanks. Polly