April 12, 2011

I am an Institution of Shadows on a Street Black as Windows

by Kari Larsen

(Printers Devil)

I patterned shadow as a child using words. I only did portraits, fixedly, I loved faces in negative space, and the way faces drain and manipulate what surrounds them. I scrawled walls of text to form what wavered after faces. Text in art, I was taught, was expository, and in frustration I burned my work. Text demystified image: words could not be misleading, possess a unique efficacy, confront or distract, waltz out from behind a tree knowing everything, dressed in their hard black lines.

I dreamt of a suave omniscience under a nearby tree. His voice was stern and straightforward as a hand on my shoulder and replete with meaning betrayed as much by the innocence of syllables as Morse code is by the keening straight key. I wanted to be at all times slightly off camera with my reserved posture ready to step out and quantify, elegantly and ominously, what was hidden. To get to the bottom of the nature of fear and be so cool about it as to let my cigarette burn at my side: I wanted that in my voice. I wanted that to consume my scenery.

I wanted to be Rod Serling but I was not very literal-minded. My desire was addressing his affect; his image did not impose upon my effort. Clothes were the best place to start since that took less discipline. Discipline was integral. The outfit is an all-encroaching command: he taught me this.

I dress so words would waver after me. I dress so I will not forget what my mission was. I adopted a uniform: a black dress. In a black dress I obscure and insist. Like I am wrapped in thick, layered smoke. I derive pleasure from the limitation and what it forces me to transcend: I wear only what forces me back to my work. What frees my legs to explore corridors, does not misdirect by means of signage, what aligns itself with my personality with all the ease of natural authority.

The seduction of repetition, the creation of mystery by means of a lull, the suggestion of fixation and mania—I am riveted by this as I wear it around me, as I learn what to do with my words. I keep myself in a whir; I keep pushing myself out from behind the tree. Printer’s apprentices were called printer’s devils because they would turn infernally black with renegade ink. Until you know how to wield it, stay submerged in the fire.

Bio: Kari Larsen dwells on the banks of the mighty Susquehanna.