An absorbing hodgepodge of evocative items from our back rooms, trunks, and garages.
You know your husband is too talented to be considered an amateur sculptor. I don’t know if there’s a name for the genre of his art, or if he really even has one. Whatever it is, you can see his skill in every piece. The somber gray clay giraffe. The irregular ceramic with the menacing ridges … a platter, maybe, waiting for a particular and demanding dish, or a shield waiting for a dark coat of arms with the same animal whose meat would be served on the platter.
Then there is his circular and unseen master work, Iris. I saw Bart wheeling the great circle of plywood slowly across the driveway after he finished it, and I remember the image often: a jagged, tan fusion of wood chips in the center, inside a broad ring of perfectly black paint, with bath towels duct taped around the rim to protect the edge. Its true motion, though, is radiation, not rotation. From the front, it explodes in all directions at once, too much to take in at first sight, and outward at the same time. An eye taller than a person, it grabs you almost against your will (almost) and silently demands your regard.
The pupil is black lacquer, ringed with black wooden dowels. A dense circle of nails with brown heads outlines the eye’s perimeter. Hundreds of strands of yarn and cord and wire span the space between the dowels and the nails, like spokes on a huge bicycle wheel. Even without a white sclera and lashes, it is unmistakably an eye. Before it, I feel as if I’m being examined … not by a giant, but by a god.
Despite its size, it is not meant to be viewed from a distance, but close enough for it to take you in as you are. From there, you can see the random streaks of color under the predominant brown – a yellow here, a blue-green there, a light grey, a bit of copper. The plastic cord he used for some of the spokes is precisely the same shade of brown as the yarn he used for most of the others. There don’t seem to be enough of the secondary colors to make it shine the way it does when you step away from it. I tried to catch the trick, stepping closer and then back. Each time, without warning, it lit up with a disconcerting golden awareness once I was too far away to make out the individual strands.
It should have a space it can fill, like the foyer of a gallery. It’s meant for those who would come in to be seen by it, not for the momentary curiosity of passers-by. Instead, it takes up most of the room in your carport, resting under a tarp.
I wonder all the time whose eye it is. Bart accepts compliments on the piece graciously, but without much interest. It was an experiment, he says, and he’s working on other ideas now. I know it must be an eye into which he gazed with strong intent. I’ve never looked closely enough at his eyes to see if it’s his, because I’d have nothing to convey but the question, and – well … I’m not about to do that. I’ve tried to study yours when we talk, but a why-do-you-ask glint always rises in them when you catch me looking, before I can be sure. Yes, they’re brown, but so are millions of others, and this is one of all those millions of brown eyes … whose?
I know you think I want to tell you a secret or ask you a serious question. You imagine it’s something important, a doorway to an unwelcome truth that neither of us thinks we should open now. It’s become a perverse subtext to our friendship. Is she going to ask me today? you wonder, if you’re going to see me later. What would I say if she did? I keep trying, but I think I need to be quite close to you to see the answer, close enough to have a very good reason to be there.