When I make a collage, I am casting a spell. I am listening to myself, I mean really listening. I’m trying to listen the best I can without shushing the parts that freak me out and get on my nerves. Then, I am participating in ritual—cutting, pasting, painting, tearing off, cutting in half. More simply, I’m crafting.
This summer as an intern at the RISD Museum, I encountered Robin Nanney’s Pink and red design with fanged mouth, a multimedia collage piece that includes a screenprinted pattern, folding red lines, and a big, juicy red fanged mouth, leering at the viewer. Tangible enough to touch, but a little scary in a way that makes me want to pull away. In this project I set out to make visual and written work in conversation with these ideas. I wish to look at that fanged mouth Nanney has collaged (that is to say, casted) and smile back.
“But then, maybe ‘I don’t believe in you’ is the cruellest way to kill the monster.”
—Helen Oyeyemi, White is For Witching
There are parts of me that are monstrous, I am told. The voices aren’t always clear, but the words are sticky.
Do you have dreams that you feel the urge to smother upon waking, like a blanket thrown over a catching flame? What would happen if you gave the monstrous parts of yourself air? I want to let my desires drink a cup of tea and walk around the backyard for a few minutes. I want to tell every part of myself “Fine, I’m listening.”
It’s a Wednesday afternoon, the air is heatwaved, and I am thinking of tomatoes. My mother grows them every summer in her garden out back. She waters them after work, even though I know she is dog tired and thinking of dinner preparations. She plucks them when they are green and plump, letting them redden under the sun’s gaze on the kitchen windowsill. My mother hates tomatoes. She grows them for me, and I make myself sick trying to keep pace with the blushing fruit. This summer I am a thirteen hour drive from her but I can still smell them rotting on the
Sill side I spy, a baby silk worm on the window. Six years away from my first kiss, I walked over cobblestone to become your silly side baby. I wear gingham and you tell me I look like I’m in pajamas. Comfort is slippery. In this moment, it means hearing you say my name like you didn’t have to think to remember it. You just knew it, you said it
Easily, the mourning doves coo. They coo so breezily, I almost forget they are alive and not just the wind blowing funny. Or maybe they are trying really hard in plain view but just don’t advertise it. They don’t open their beaks to make the sound, just take a slow breath in and out their grey breast, an effortless dirge from the
Chest invested in the price of that movie ticket and the shoes I bought from the Salvation Army that didn’t fit after all. Picked off my smallest pinky toenail like it was lint on a t-shirt. The lint on my t-shirt gives me away, a messy greedy goblin on the best of days. Even when I am trying really hard in plain view to look silent. Even when I manage the perfect coo of “Hi, I’m doing well, how are
You wrote a note to me and slipped it into my brown paper lunch bag on the way out the door to work. It said you love me and I hid it in my mustard crumpled napkin, embarrassed and taking it for granted, this ceaseless tomato ridden
Love sick and twenty and beautiful and dumb, I slip a note into your DMs that catches your phone on fire. It says, Idk what this is either. But ur phone will self destruct in 10 sec. That is the selfish lobbed desire pocked with typos I am feeling nowadays. An apple to the sea, an iphone to the grave. A pothole hit at 50 mph. I know it’s bad, but I’m telling you anyway. Seaside, the fish wink back at me, only slightly judging.
Dana Schneider was the 2019 Andrew W. Mellon Summer Intern in Collection Information and Imaging Resources. Dana is a senior at Brown University concentrating in Public Policy.