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Tuesday
Sep162014

Standing Profile

Robin Jordan

 

Figure 72: This shows the eleven facial profile fiducials that are most often used in facial analysis, and will be used in this chapter. The fiducials are numbered from top to bottom: (1) forehead, (2) glabella, (3) nassion (bridge of nose), (4) pronasale (tip of nose), (5) subnasale (base of nose), (6) labiale superius (top lip), (7) stomion (middle of lips), (8) labiale inferius (bottom lip), (9) supramenton, (10) menton (chin), and (11) throat.

A man in a suit and brimmed hat smokes a cigarette on an enormous stack of books, at least seven stories tall, so he can see the sun graze the ocean beyond the tallest city buildings. Seagulls fly below him as he teeters, hands in pockets. He is standing profile to me. Everything is stippled.

When you bring your face close to the postcard, it looks like a layer of static. Nowhere to send a postcard, I almost put it back and walked out the store. But then I realized I didn't want to send it anywhere. On the back, the postcard says:

Quint Buchholz 'Die Bibliothek'

Aus Dem 'Buchbilderbuch',

Sanssouci-Verlag

The stippled man stands now on my desk in a cheap gold frame, his head tipped down.

Natural Head Position is defined as "a standardized and reproducible orientation of the head in space when focusing on a distal point at eye level." I wonder why stippled man's Natural Head Position is tipped down. The weight of his cigarette maybe, or it could be that the ocean is below him, or that when he walks he likes to look at feet. Maybe he likes shoes. Maybe he's a Midwesterner.

His fiducials 6–10 (from labiale superius to menton) are slightly retrusive, like he's bitten a lemon. Johann Kaspar Lavater would probably say stippled man's profile is phlegmatic.

A phlegmatic's profile looks like this:

Ignore the pronasale. Stippled man's pronasale is sharp, like my father's. Think acerbity: limes, pickles, crab apple wars. Lavater says, "A phlegmatic person is not easily aroused to excitement and lacks emotion expression." The stippled man doesn't smile; his hands stay in his pockets.

It is awful and wonderful to watch a person face something you're not.

When I recall my father's profile, with its slight labiales and retrusive fiducials, it is always blue with a cigarette dipping from his stomion towards his throat. His chair, where he laughed, was ringed with burns. I would look at him, sometimes, when he stopped, to make sure his eyes were open.

When I recall my father's profile, with its slight labiales and retrusive fiducials, it is always blue with a cigarette dipping from his stomion towards his throat. His chair, where he laughed, was ringed with burns. I would look at him, sometimes, when he stopped, to make sure his eyes were open. Lavatar was right; as my father aged his lower eyelids fell away from his eyeballs. It was his "physiodelectatiousness" or his "disposition and inclination for sensual delights" that made his eyelids do that, "as if tired by their situation or weary in assisting the eyes to such low desires." He died in the passenger seat of the Saturn, profile to my mother. The stippled man's eyes are open. If he dropped his cigarette, it would go out by the time it hit the street.

"Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon," Melville challenged, "What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep." To watch someone look at the ocean is like looking at the ocean: you feel the pull and sway just as they do; you feel, as they do, that no matter how far you reach, you can never close the distance. Wallace Stevens would call this the "dumbfoundering abyss."

My mother and Thor took my sister and me to Mackinac Island to sprinkle Bob into Lake

Huron since the ocean was so far. Bob was my mother's childhood best friend; Thor his lover. I was thirteen, hiding my first period, being forced to ride a rented bike along the lake's unsteady shore. Just past Devil's Kitchen, we left our wheels and teetered across the black rocks. Fifty feet up shore, insides gnawing, I watched my mother and Thor look at the water's crumpled surface. My mother's hair churned up around her, showing her profile.

Ever since the car accident her fiducials 6–9 have had a swollenness to them. Lavater says this is "where the love of liquid first manifests itself." He would say my mother's profile is aquasorbitive. Aquasorbitives have "a relish for water, an appreciation and love of water drinking, water scenery, bathing, etc." My mother loves to swim. She was a lifeguard once, but my older sister almost drowned on her watch, and I was almost murdered by a boy who tried to hold my head under indefinitely in the deep end. She spends a good amount of time in the bathtub, and reuses and freezes the same water bottle over and over, but lives in an aquasorbitive's Hell. It's called Sjögren's syndrome. Her white blood cells war against their moisture-producing glands. Her mouth is always dry, and although she cries easy, so are her eyes. Ulcers sprout on them so that it hurts when she sees.

I have only one memory of my mother's father. He's driving me to get a donut in the white Chevy Caprice Classic my mother will inherit after he dies. He smokes a cigar with the windows cracked. Something, baseball maybe, plays on the radio. I want to look in the glove box. When he sets down the cigar, I wonder why his mouth always gapes. My grandfather's protrusive labiale inferius shines, quivers when we hit potholes. I don't remember if he liked me. "His profile is choleric," Lavater would say, "This means he has a hot temperament, is irritable and easily roused to anger," he would continue. Like this man:

My grandfather's protrusive labiale inferius shines, quivers when we hit potholes. I don't remember if he liked me.

I don't remember him turning to speak to me. I remember wanting to look in the glove box. I've forgotten his name.

I am following a neighbor I've never seen down our dimly damp hallway, flowers beneath our shoes that not even stippled man would find tilt-faced or shivering in the wide open. Standing before our doors, we search for our keys.

It's how we show we're lonely, standing profile.

Lavater would have described his own profile as sanguine, which he claimed represents confidence and optimism. They say all of this is bogus. And yet, it should be noted that Lavater was said to have been shot for his vanity by a grenadier during the French occupation of Switzerland. Interestingly, he was not shot in the face and, thus, was left to suffer for a year until he died.

I prefer my left side. The slope from my nassion to my pronasale smoother; my moles more symmetrically placed. Perhaps Lavater would say I'm slightly phlegmatic, which would explain why my mother said I don't care enough when things die, which helps these pills keep me from crying.

I examine all eleven of my neighbor's fiducials. His glabella just barely closes in on itself and his hand pauses on the brassy glow as if remembering his ex-wife's small fist in his palm as they watched, once, a storm inflate its chest above the water. Then we let loose our doors, spilling through our doorways, profiles first.



 

Robin Lee Jordan received her MFA in poetry from Oregon State University and has published prose (alice blue review, Puerto del Sol, A cappella Zoo) and poetry (H_NGM_N, 42opus, Toe Good Poetry). She is the Writing Center Coordinator at Just Buffalo Literary Center, the founder of the (B)uffalo (A)rt (D)ispensary, and is currently guest-editing an edition of Toe Good Poetry. 

Illustration by Bobby Rogers.

Sourced Texts:

O'Mara, David Thomas John. "Automated Facial Metrology." Digital Theses Repository, 2002.

Bass, N.M. "Measurement of the profile angle and the aesthetic analysis of the facial profile." Journal of Orthodontics, 30.1 (2003).

Hager, Joseph C. "Physiognomy as Practiced in Europe." Dataface, 2003.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. 3-4.


Friday
Sep052014

Bodybuilders and Embroidery: The Artwork of Max Colby (NSFW)

Meher Khan

"Icons" No. 4, Detail

Max Colby has a handle on the ephemeral, with his fragile art straddling the line between creation and destruction (and requiring a lot of planning to not succumb to the latter). In his Icons series, he collages images from body builder mags and delicately punctures them with embroidery, giving beefcakes new embellishments, raising low art to high, and musing on gaze and gender and the value of craft all the while.

"Icons" No. 3

Meher Khan: Tell us about your development as an artist. What skill did you focus on first (or was it more simultaneous)? Did one skill lead organically into another (e.g., drawing into printmaking)?

Max Colby: My fascination with and love for art started in the printmaking department of my high school. I was working mostly in collage and mixed media and the process allowed for a quick way in which to develop work while simultaneously producing a single idea into a full body of work. As my schooling went on at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I developed a more conceptual and academic way of making my art which led to the use of mediums I was not formally trained in for the purpose of properly exploring an idea aesthetically.

"Icons" No. 8, Detail

Meher: In as much or as little depth as you feel like: Tell us about your process!

Max: My process varies drastically, although there is generally a specific subject or topic I'm thinking about and challenging which leads to research and collection of materials. In my recent body, Icons, I first amassed a large collection of publications that focused on body builders and male models. Some are benign and some rather explicit. The benign are used in Icons and more explicit pornography is being utilized in a new, in-progress body of work. Two in particular are "The Male Figure" and "Physique Pictoral."

I was fascinated by the construction of gender and identity in these publications and, conversely, the community this construction was marketed and sold to. I collaged these images in the center of a substrate to emphasize the gaze. The final step was puncturing and eschewing the photographs through embroidery. These lush applications physically affected the photographs and image, thereby reconstituting the initial construct.

"Icons" No. 3, Detail

Meher: What materials do you use in Icons and your other work, and what led you to use them?

Max: The work is made up of a base sheet of handmade paper (made by myself at Dieu Donne in NYC), photographic collages, and hand embroidery.

I've been working in all three mediums for years. Paper tends to enter all of my work, almost subconsciously—it is a process I'm very much in love with. I've used embroidery in past bodies of work, so it also came naturally. The symbolism of embroidery is quite profound to me. On the one hand, it traditionally acts as an embellishment most notably signifying culture, beauty, status and personality. On the other, it requires a physical alteration of material as the threads are laid in. On sculptural or photographic surfaces it tends to damage and puncture the surface, often requiring special planning and consideration. This physical reconstitution and puncturing is the most integral part of the work. 

"Icons" No. 8, Detail

Meher: What place do labor-intensive art practices (that may even be rendered commercially obsolete by mechanized processes) have in the world and in your art?

Max: Craft and labor are very dynamic topics in the contemporary fine art and commercial fields. With the former, you see a large resurgence of their applications—typically used in challenging labor politics and identity politics. Commercially, they sit in a rigid cost-value system. They may be undermined or undervalued by labor from specific regions, or quite the opposite, valued very highly to the more discerning side of the market. I don't believe that craft or labor-intensive processes will ever leave the fine art and commercial fields; only their inflection will change. 

"Icons" No. 1

Meher: What is the weirdest thing anyone has ever said about your art?

Max: I get all kinds of wild associations, especially with the embroidered works. The most common is a reminder of elders who practiced handicrafts, or bizarre associations with alien imagery and iconography. I'm sure there have been stranger things, but I can't for the life of me remember.

Wednesday
Sep032014

The Eye

Lisa Beebe

 

I never meant to take his eye. It was just sitting there in a dish next to the bathroom sink. I guess he took it out to clean it or something. I'm at Uncle Joe's a lot, but I'd never seen his glass eye up close before.

I shouldn't say "glass eye," because they're not glass anymore. They're made of lighter stuff now, some kind of plastic. Mom keeps saying, "We have to find it. Prosthetic eyes cost a fortune."

My cousin Seth and I take turns sitting with Uncle Joe, and Wednesday was one of Seth's days. My mother says it's rude to call it babysitting, but that's basically what it is, except that Uncle Joe is old.

I forgot my English notebook there on Tuesday so I rode my bike over to get it. Seth was asleep in front of the TV, and Uncle Joe was snoring in his chair. I was just gonna grab the notebook and go, but I had to pee. I went in the bathroom, and when I saw the eye, I took it. 

Maybe I should feel guilty for taking the eye, but I don't. What does Uncle Joe need with a fake eye? He never leaves the house.

Well, I didn't just take it. I tipped the dish sideways so it'd look like the cat had jumped up there and knocked into it. I didn't think that through, though. If the cat had knocked the dish over, the eye wouldn't have gone far. People think glass eyes, I mean prosthetic eyes, are round, but they aren't. At least, not round enough to roll very far. If the cat had knocked the eye off the sink, it'd still be in the bathroom somewhere.

Everyone blamed Seth, even though he said he'd been asleep all afternoon. They thought he stole the eye as some kind of prank. Uncle Joe said he didn't want Seth setting foot in his house ever again, so now Seth doesn't have to babysit, and I have to go over twice as much. I didn't do anything wrong, as far as anybody knows, but I'm the one getting punished.

Maybe I should feel guilty for taking the eye, but I don't. What does Uncle Joe need with a fake eye? He never leaves the house. He just sits there flipping through magazines and talking to himself. Mom brings him groceries, and Aunt Ronnie comes down from Albany every other weekend to vacuum and do laundry. None of us care if he has a pink hole in his face.

I appreciate the eye. I treasure it. I hold it in my hand, and rub the back with my thumb. I carry it with me everywhere I go.

Sometimes I get this itchy feeling that Uncle Joe knows I have it. It's almost like he can see through the eye, like he's there in my pocket, looking for a way to escape. Whenever that happens, I reach in my pocket and squeeze the eye really hard. I like to remind it that I'm in charge.

 


 

Lisa Beebe lives in Los Angeles, where she sometimes talks to the ocean. Her stories have appeared in Pacific Review, Indiana Review, Switchback, and Psychopomp. She is working on her first YA novel.

Illustration by Mercedes Knapp.

Thursday
Aug282014

Instructions on How to Play the Comb

Katharine Rauk

If you practice, you just might make it as big as Mrs. Delilah's hair once she no longer has to get her son to the bus stop but can fill the extra hour in an empty house teasing herself into oblivion.

Take a comb. Fold a piece of waxed paper over it. Blow.

When Mrs. Delilah stands in front of the pull-down Map of the World she is nothing you could moor a boat to. Nobody cries Rapunzel! from the small island of light her bedroom window casts upon the grass.

Listen. It's not true that the hair of the dead continues to grow.

No one can tell what Mrs. Delilah is thinking as she shuffles our papers, but "Grass is the beautiful uncut hair of graves" is what she says.

Make sure you hum into the teeth of the comb. The song is your voice standing in the doorway with muddy shoes and a suitcase of strange souvenirs.

 


 

Katharine Rauk is the author of Basil, a chapbook published by Black Lawrence Press in 2011. She has poems published in Harvard Review, Georgetown Review, Cream City Review, and elsewhere, and she is an assistant editor of Rowboat: Poetry in Translation. She lives in Minneapolis and teaches at North Hennepin Community College and The Loft Literary Center.

Illustration by Alex Fukui.
 

Tuesday
Aug262014

Anna Maria's Guide to Resurrection

Sara Seyfarth

Anna Maria cradled the empty soup can between her palms and knelt at the base of the crooked oak behind the trailer she now shared only with her father. The tree was dead, like her mother. The can was the last piece to fix that, though. Well, that and the wait.

Seven years was a long time, but that was all right. Anna Maria had thought it through. When the girls on the playground had explained all the steps—and there were a lot of steps—this last one had made her pause. She would be nearly seventeen when it was finished.

But then she'd remembered the day she had finally gotten through a pop spelling quiz without missing a single word. She'd run until her legs nearly gave out, almost the entire two miles home. When she'd stumbled in the door, too winded to speak, triumphantly holding up the paper with "A+" scrawled across the top in red, her father had glanced up from his newspaper and grunted. He may have said "good." But her mother had abandoned her dinner preparations mid-baste and taken the crumpled paper from her sweaty hands. "Oh, Anna Maria," she had said, and she had beamed.

So on the playground, Anna Maria had closed the notepad with the detailed instructions the girls had provided, thanked them, and left. She didn't know why girls who had never been friendly to her had suddenly shown her such kindness, but then again, since the funeral people she didn't even know were offering her wisdom, prayers, and something called "condolences." (Not to mention an awful lot of flowers that were dying all over their trailer.) At least this was advice she could use.

So on the playground, Anna Maria had closed the notepad with the detailed instructions the girls had provided, thanked them, and left. She didn't know why girls who had never been friendly to her had suddenly shown her such kindness.

Some of it had been easy. First, peanut shells from the floor of Mansey's Tavern. She'd had to sneak in after dark and crawl under some feet for those, but it turned out people were more interested in the girl on stage than something bumping their legs. Three stones from the bottom of a river took barely half an afternoon.

The claw of a hairless beast might have been hard except her Aunt Aggie had one of those cats, and Anna Maria's mother had always helped trim its nails. Aunt Aggie had cried a little when Anna Maria offered to help, but it had been easy enough to swipe one of the clippings when they'd finished. It was nice to see her, too. Her face was round, like Anna Maria's mother's. When Anna Maria looked in the mirror, she saw something different. Something hollow.

Anna Maria had been worried about trying to get a piece of Bobby Cloverton's hair. "From the root," Stephanie had said on the playground. "Or it won't work." Bobby was one of the meanest boys in the school, and yanking on his head could easily lead to having her face smashed in the dirt. In the end, Anna Maria had worried for nothing. He'd been dozing during recess one day and she'd snuck up and plucked a hair right from his head. When he jumped and screeched at her, she assured him she'd saved him from a bee (or maybe a horde).

The biggest item, and the one that nearly ended her quest, took nineteen days from playground to success. For most of that time, Anna Maria had been convinced it was impossible.

Then she'd remembered the sunny day when Jason Brinton had jumped out from behind a parked car so she would swerve and crash her bike. He and his friends had all pointed and laughed at her while the hot cement burned her torn up skin because she was too embarrassed to get up.

Her mother hadn't told her to "find something in common" like their guidance counselor or to "ignore them until they get bored with you" like her father. Her mother had hugged her into her warm, vanilla scent and said, "oh, Anna Maria" in the same tone she'd used when Anna Maria's favorite hamster had died. Then she'd taken her to the bathroom and washed her cuts and bandaged them and smiled at her.

Anna Maria tried to keep that memory fresh in her mind while she'd stared at the item on her list. Mrs. Olinskey's spit. If resurrection were easy, Anna Maria reasoned, then everyone would do it.

Anna Maria tried to keep that memory fresh in her mind while she'd stared at the item on her list. "Mrs. Olinskey's spit." If resurrection were easy, Anna Maria reasoned, then everyone would do it.

Mrs. Olinskey was their fourth-grade math teacher. Anna Maria's mother said (when she was alive) that Mrs. Olinskey reminded her of her grandfather, who worked the fields from dawn to dusk and wasn't interested in anything but food and sleep when he was done. "Stern" was the word she'd used, but Anna Maria would have said mean.

Anna Maria had thought of hundreds of ways to get Mrs. Olinskey's spit, but they all included getting other stuff too. Gum or a soda top or a straw or a licked envelope. Stephanie hadn't been as clear about this as she'd been on Bobby's hair, but Anna Maria hadn't wanted to take any chances. She was pretty sure pure was better.

So she'd taken a little sample bottle from the science room, then she asked. Mrs. Olinskey had looked at her like she'd lost her mind along with her mother, but after Anna Maria explained that she was working on a "project" and yes, it was helping her move past her grief (whatever that meant), and thanked her for her "condolences," Mrs. Olinskey spit in the bottle. A session with the guidance counselor seemed like a reasonable exchange.

Shells, stones, claw, hair, spit. Anna Maria could feel them beneath her, buried in a circle under the dead oak in her backyard. The soup can would complete the set. She dug a small hole and buried the final piece, then sat inside the circle and asked for her mother, as she would do every night for the next seven years.

It was really not so long to wait to hear "oh, Anna Maria" one more time.

 


 

Sara Seyfarth likes to nerd out with spreadsheets, still uses a flip-phone, and is lucky enough to have a day job doing something that matters. She grew up in Michigan as a bit of a wanderer with a family that moved every few years, so her imagination was her constant companion. She wrote her first (short!) book at age nine and has been telling stories ever since.

Illustration by Meghan Irwin.