Maria Santa Lucia
photos by JR Compton
Date: Leningrad, 1950,
an abandoned smallpox munitions plant, originally disguised as
offices for a steel-making facility, nearby recently reopened
(in violation of U.N. securities sanctions) in order to re-mill
and weaponize existing stocks of smallpox and splice in the human
IL-4 gene, effectively rendering all known vaccines useless.
all I could think of on arriving at The Modern for the first
time in the rain last week.
total lack of creative landscaping to offset the colorless, dead
panels on the building's completely inorganic, right-angled façade,
the huge, rusty, peeling sculpture in the "yard," and
the sticky, brown mud puddles all over only added to my dread
as I entered the building.
did not feel welcome. I felt warned.
Cavernous. Surely this is converted to a makeshift morgue when
they want to dissect the bodies of their experimental victims?
the way were the huge expanses of glass overlooking the shallow
pools of water anchored with small rocks (no plants). Suddenly,
as I stood there feeling even heavier than I usually feel in
my old age, I saw something tiny leap up out of the water. Life!
Life at The Modern? It just couldn't be. I practically ran to
the window with childish hope. Yes! The tiny creature once again
leapt from the water using its minute body to scream defiance
at the financial and physical enormity of deadness in front of
then it disappeared, and I ached for its future, knowing only
vast quantities of chlorine come springtime could keep nasty
things like algae and moss and plants from taking root in those
shallow pools under the nourishing Texas sun.
my little friend!
For soon your skin will be scorching from chemical burns."
decided to go to the bathroom. The door was partially camouflaged
in the wall. Menopausal women don't appreciate that kind of confusion.
gift shop next only because it was nearby, and I did not
yet have the courage to shake hands with the art. Perfectly dreadful
merchandise. These were the kinds of gifts one gives to clients
cold, functionless, hard.
resigned defeat, I asked the ladies at the reception desk, "Where
is the art?" She directed me to "the grand staircase"
looked in that direction and saw a wall, but I was sure I could
figure it out. I had remembered my hormone pill that morning,
so my cognitive abilities were hovering at or near normal.
asked how much for an entrance fee, and she cheerfully replied
that the museum was free. Smart move on their part. There's nothing
worse than long lines of people demanding their money back.
The first canvas one encounters is one of those intellectual
masturbation pieces, a huge canvas with broad sweeps of paint,
everything occupying the same plane, an eye-wandering experience
(not dissimilar to searching for the bathroom).
Confessions First: I have no idea what I'm talking about
no degree in fine arts a complete cretin stabbing at a
said, I know I like and respond to LIFE. Coming from a fairly
"left brain" scientific orientation, I respond primitively
to art based upon whether or not it nurtures my life force. Any
life force needs but four elements to sustain: food, water, shelter,
and sexual reproduction.
one stands before a painting that has achieved dimension and
depth, a spiritually sexual encounter between the viewer and
the work is won.
viewer can come inside the painting, enter its body, join its
force, be a part of its life. That kind of painting is inherently
invitational. It's sexy. One of the four elements necessary for
my survival as a living being has just been symbolically presented
to me. What a gift!
a painting reads well leads my eye to a well lit focal
point and lets me rest there in security, I have found shelter.
It's that sense of knowing exactly where you are supposed to
be and being there. It's comfort. Yet a second gift to
my life force.
that include organic things plants, water, animals, curves
all symbolically provide yet more sustenance to my being.
Here I Stood before a canvas filled with unidimensional brush
strokes, no clearly defined focal point nothing for my
wasn't invited to this painter's party. He's masturbating all
alone today and snickering about the fact that only he really
understands his painting. He is self-amused, and he cares not
if my spirit dissipates before him.
I traveled from one to another to another work of art, looking
for someone to stroke my hair, open their door, light up a hallway,
give me a conversation or maybe just an apple. But everyone was
in a private box, whacking away with solitary delight, occasionally
teasing me with a faux "let's do lunch" like
the man in the video digging the hole while I waited and watched
of course, we never engaged because he never finished his job.
Scorned, I knew he liked his dirty little hole more than he liked
my way out, I paused for a moment before Andy Warhol's
self-portrait. The organic form and the green color of life gave
me enough energy to plod back out of the building and race down
the sidewalk to Louis Kahn's fabulous Kimbell where I
ran my hands through some bushes before I went inside to eat
some cranberry rice salad, drink a glass of wine, put on some
headsets (a human voice with background music!) and prance through
Modigliani and the rascals of Montparnasse.
stopped and bought over $100 worth of presents for my family
and friends at the gift shop, including a wild choker that I
am converting to a headband (because I'm weird and because I