People who sit next to me on park benches

Photo by Chela Simón-Trench

Writings from being alone literally or metaphorically, sometimes in a disjointed letter format.

In Metal

A question I have been thinking about: do you need to be able to make art to understand it? 

A quote from a friend today: “Art history majors who have never tried to make anything in a studio before say the craziest shit about art.”

Two weeks ago I lied in crit. Crit is short for either critique or criticism, and it is The Worst. In front of your professor and classmates, you declare and explain your artwork. Standing before my Very Cool art major and grad student classmates, I lied about the contents of a stout urn made of scrapped clay from the Pauli Murray pottery studio. I said that my period blood was inside it, but it was completely empty. Not only did I do that, but I also panicked during the five minutes before my crit (my first ever crit) and slapped a half-baked poem on the wall next to my metal form. A bloodless urn, a terrible poem, and a vaguely rib cage-shaped metal form.  

The crit that I christened—or cursed—with my panic devolved into a discussion about language, its capacity to be harmful and dangerous to art, an endless dissection of the connotations that come with the word ‘decay.’ I told my terrible lie, and then there was the whole new discussion about the validity of using bodily fluids in a sculpture. The discussion hung in the room for too long, eventually splatting at my feet ten whole minutes into the crit after mine. 

In retrospect, I don’t regret it. That sculpture was an ode to my personal experience in this metalworking class. Once a week, I show up to the studio to operate an intense power tool with the capacity to cut off a limb while wearing steel-toed Skechers construction shoes. Every third week, in one of the most masculine-coded spaces I can possibly occupy on this campus, I get my period. A truly sick reminder of my womanhood and feeble masculine performance in a space that doesn’t feel fully inhabitable. 

It isn’t fully inhabitable because I am in constant performance at the metal shop. Not just as someone who can operate power tools like a Man, but as an artist in the first place. I’m not even an artist!!! I’m thinking about my questions: whatever I’m making does not feel like art; I also don’t think there is anything to ultimately understand about art. When I stepped into my First Ever Crit, every Metal performance of the semester crawled up my throat to deliver that One Big Performative Lie. An Art History major desperately trying to make something in a studio and still saying some crazy shit. 

Kare is a dear friend in this metal class, and she was the first person I confessed to. Her mouth fell open, her back to the wall next to me, her knees buckled, and she slunk to the ground, cackling. Finally, she said: “I fucking love art.”

Leave a Reply