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I Was Here: An Artist In Search of a Glass of Water

Monster - Mark Lopez - Pyragraph
Monster, by Mark Lopez.

Since I was 11, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I knew that I had something to say and a method to relay it, but I didn’t know the effort, the yearning, the vibration of my bones as I wanted it. I’ve always prided myself on being intuitive. I knew the daily shit, the learned behaviors, the blessed predictability of time passing, but more so, I knew there was something resting beneath the floorboards. Organic matter conjuring its own movements to the rhythm of my unsteady gait. I once had a teacher tell me that I had a strong third eye, that I needed to manifest it more, make it sing, make it move. I didn’t understand what she meant, and I probably still don’t, but it was something that stuck with me. It propelled me. It did make me sing. It did make me move.

It wasn’t until later that I discovered painting, drawing, photography, other methods to relay those same messages, those same thoughts. Delicate musings that had been lingering within my mind. Thoughts of my grandfather’s death, memories of the surgical scar on his shaved head as he lay in his coffin at Memory Gardens. Dreams of my father sitting at a table in a soup kitchen, my lonely tray set across from his, me asking him why he was there, him responding, “Where else would I be?” Everything I created was a roadmap, a guidebook toward things I wasn’t able to express before because I never knew how to channel those frequencies. I’d embraced the static of miniscule moments and hadn’t stopped to understand what they all meant.

I’m still in search of it all. I’m still trying to feel it all. That’s the beauty of art. It never ends. It never stops.

But once I lifted brush to canvas, pen to paper, pencil to pad, I was able to remember it all. Like a lost photo album suddenly found amongst knickknacks and old picture frames. I saw myself as a baby, running through my backyard, my saggy diaper brushing the backs of my chubby thighs, my mother’s voice calling my name from the back door. I could see the looming trees shading me from the bright sun. I remembered bits of its holy eye wandering through the branches. I was dancing for the spirit of joy. The harmony of a calling. I painted those emotions. I wrote them down. I crafted a novel about a child in pain, because what’s worse than that? What’s worse than the tears of an angel?  

When my grandmother died, I wrote more than ever. I wrote a poem the night we said goodbye to her, and I placed it in her coffin. ‘Til this day, I can’t recall what it said, but I remember my family crying as I read it to them the night she closed her eyes and flew away. I never even saw a single feather fall. I took art classes. I danced to Jim Morrison as my paintbrush made colors appear on a piece of wood. I stared at a Frida Kahlo painting at the Harry Ransom Center as I thought of the subject of a new photograph.

I was an artist. I still am. It took me years to be able to say it. Like an addict proclaiming their existence. Not necessarily asking for approval, but maybe a note of acceptance, possibly acknowledgement. It took a Fiona Apple song for me to realize it. Hearing her sweet, hungry voice singing, “I just want to feel everything.” I did want to feel everything. I wanted to embrace it, study it, jot it down, recite it, study it some more, make it apply, harness the formula to come up with a solution that was applicable.

I’m still in search of it all. I’m still trying to feel it all. That’s the beauty of art. It never ends. It never stops. Never halts at the sound of a bomb. It revels in the debris, dances in the fallout. It picks up the pieces. It recalls the memories of the before and influences the after. All I have is this moment. All of have is my pen, my paintbrush, my notebook. All I have is the spirit of Frida, the tenacity of my father, the raw emotional shutter speed of my mother, the hair of my grandfather and that good, ol’ yearning.

Oh, and water. I get thirsty a lot.

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