I draw. I take photos. I write.
For all intents and purposes, I am an artist.
I see things differently. I will be the one people stare at as I take a photo of something they can’t immediately understand, like a hideous doll at the thrift shop complete with sparkly rainbow Hammer pants. I find personal amusement and that respect, as much beauty in the awkwardly mundane as I do in the purest of nature.
My mind is not wired like a non-artist. It is always going at a rapid pace, writing scenes to an imaginary movie that nobody but me will ever see. The movie’s soundtrack is composed of incidental music that doesn’t exist outside of my cranium, and the confines of my head are my little theater with my brain as the screenwriter who doesn’t care about treatments, pitches, or character arcs. This is my movie, and I am the director, producer, and both best boys.
All that said, to me, art is about being different and eliciting a response, which is perhaps I didn’t think 1987’s Piss Christ was a big deal. On its surface the print appears to be of a crucifix submerged in a substance that could be urine yet the artist, Andres Serrano, only alludes to it in the title. The viewer is left to decide. It’s also worth noting that at the time of Piss Christ, I was slowly drifting away from my Catholic upbringing which could have led to my nonchalance about the work.
As a result, I “got” it unlike those whom it offended, those who based their offense on religious grounds even though the artist himself was unclear as to what the crucifix was submerged in. Those whom it offended, were offended by themselves.
Serrano did his job.
So, moving on. At this point I’ve established that my mind is always working overtime, that I’m the one people might think is weird, and that my mind always open to and looking for new ideas. It’s all true, even at work.
I am an artist – an artist who bags groceries for his weekly notes and coins. And it was at my job a few nights ago when I was feeling a little worthless about my work situation. A part-time cart monkey, banana bagger, spill picker-upper, trash-emptier. At age 45, That’s what I do.
To make matters worse, on this particular night I had been resigned to working with a cashier who, for the lack of a better description, has taken her job and all that it encompasses to levels I can’t begin to comprehend. Scanning bananas, and enforcing the rules that come with it, seems to be her livelihood. And with me being the newest person on the job, she’s often pointing out the most obvious things just for the sake of doing it.
She’s also one who has no sense of humor and whose thoughts can’t stay inside her head. I don’t need to know when you’re going to the restroom, why a label is not affixed to a can of beans properly, or that the ties on your apron are too tight. If you’d complain a little less and do more, then perhaps the job you’re working hard at perfecting would go a lot smoother.
Maybe this is her art.
But I digress. I needed a break from bagging for this person and told my supervisor that I was going to go outside and “clear the lot,” grocery store lingo for “be a cart monkey and gather up all the shopping carts.” I went to the office to don my reflective orange safety vest and made my out into the cool of the evening.
I had cleared about half of the lot and was picking up trash along the way because, for some, grocery store parking lots are also magical. They are places where they can indiscriminately dump trash and *POOF*, without a murmur of protest from anybody, it will be gone the next day. And that trash can be anything from cinder blocks to pizza boxes to lottery tickets. I’ve seen them all.
But you can also dump your old beverage from your coffee tumbler in a grocery store lot. I see it all the time but unlike standard trash, I don’t clean it up. The liquid will eventually dissipate after being walked through, run over, etc. which makes my job *this* much easier.
I seem to have gone off on an entirely different tangent here, haven’t I? How did I go from art to my job to spilled coffee? How are any of these related?
A microcosm of this post is now before you: art, the weirdo who takes pictures of odd things, an unknown liquid, my job, a spilled beverage. It’s all there, right above this paragraph.
When I saw this heart-shaped spill, I knew I had to grab my phone and get a picture of it because it meant something to me. I couldn’t start questioning things like my favorite cashier does much too often; I just had to capture the moment and take it from there. And that’s exactly what I did. The artist in me accepted it for the shape it represented and nothing else. Who spilled it, why they did it, what the liquid was…none of it mattered. The heart is what mattered.
I went back inside to my station with my favorite cashier. Fortunately, I was told to take a break soon afterward and did just that.
While on my break I looked over the photo again, still admiring the complete randomness of it all but wasn’t too happy with the quality of the image so took it into a photo editing app and started messing with contrast, colors, etc. After a whole slew of adjustments, I found one that pleased me more than any of them.
I had transformed it from a random spill of unknown liquid and origin to something that could resemble blood, with the heart-shape only lending to the message.
What message? It looked nice but that wasn’t enough, so I kept messing with it and ended up with this.
And so I had.
This is how the mind of an artist works. It’s not the easiest to understand but the artist doesn’t expect you to. It’s the result that must elicit a response.
By the way, that doll I mentioned was no joke.
I told you my mind was different than yours.