Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, CA
June 4-July 17, 2021
Isabel put together another sculpture show. It’s going to be an ongoing thing, folding in new artists and works along the way but with a throughline of those who have been with it from the beginning. The first show was called Your Presence is Encouraged and when she told me the title for this new iteration was going to be Psychosomatic I flashed back to the time I took an Uber to the hospital alone on Thanksgiving because I’d been bleeding for days, my underwear spotting bright red at odd intervals in the month. The ER took me in right away. They drew some blood, they took a lot of x-rays, they even gave me a transvaginal ultrasound—the procedure itself wasn’t so bad; more unnerving was the nurse making vague noises of concern, or pursing her lips as she watched the ultrasound screen, which I couldn’t see. They had no idea what could be wrong. I wanted to calm myself down, but I‘d been in this situation before. I have gone to see a doctor, seeking validation that some uncomfortable, nagging symptom is only a minor issue and being given the worst news possible. I knew that there’s no reason for it to not happen again. It would take an hour or so for anything to show up on the tests, so I lay in the little bed, crinkling the paper sheets as I pulled the book by John Berger I’d been reading from my purse, and got to the last page:
What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower). The hundred bones of our feet are scattered like gravel. It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough.
After that I felt, it’s chill. I could die. It’s a good feeling. Very calm, I wish for everyone to have it at some point. And of course right then the doctor came in and said everything on the tests looked good. But, he added...have I been under a lot of stress? Because it’s possible to stress-induce a period. It’s actually quite common. How have I never heard of this before?
I used to have a pet theory of art—that it is a manifest antidote to the insufficiency of language, but I’m not sure that’s all of it. Presence and psychosis are vaguely concerns of sculpture and I think that’s why I’ve been mad for it lately; I think the former is the antidote to the latter. Art is not therapy and it is certainly not medicine but most of us agree, right now, how nice it is to go to a place and look at things
and I do enjoy the kaleidoscope of meaning made possible when things are arranged against other things, and to put on an interesting outfit to hold a plastic cup of wine and arrange ourselves against such things. This is all to say—can’t wait to see you at the opening!
—Christina Catherine Martinez
Anna Sew Hoy