I’d like to say that the picture surprised me, but that sentiment would get us off to a bad start. It would make me sound dishonest, and that lack of trust is hardly the kind of thing on which to build a healthy relationship (we’ve got to at least get past the introductions before I start lying to your face, and there’ll be plenty of time for that). No, the centerpiece of Carey’s opening was really more vapid than anything else. Sure, it was violent and surrealist, and this was all good and shocking at the exact moment that I laid eyes on the frame, but after that, it just felt stodgy. Mundane. I went from “Oh my God!” to “oh,” in less time than it took to blink. It was just the kind of thing you’d expect her to do.
“I really wanted to do something personal this time,” she explained at the gallery. “There’s such a disjunction between the artist and the art, and I wanted to find a way to bridge that gap.” Disjunction? Who says that? “Even with self-portraiture, there’s this like, disconnect, because you frame the shot, but the camera actually takes it—but it’s automated, ya know? It’s a machine—and then you have to develop the film, and I wanted to find some unity in the process, and explore what it means to be an artist in a post-analog society.”
She went on to explain that the whole idea came about when she accidentally cut herself in the dark room. She was struck by the idea of a photograph that literally bleeds, so after the film was developed, she decided to make it happen. From what I understand, she made a solution of epoxy and her own blood and applied it directly onto the finished photograph with a paint brush. She then sealed the picture in an airtight frame just as it begin to congeal; rather than allow the mixture to harden, she wanted to capture it while it was still fresh and alive and actively bleeding. Apparently, this now qualified her as a multimedia artist.
The picture, she said, was intended to illuminate the violent discordance between youth and adulthood at the onset of puberty. The childish subject of the photograph epoxy-bled from dozens of small holes on its back, while long green grass blades penetrated its rough, synthetic skin. This was supposed to be phallic in some way, something about nature and rape and nurturing matriarchal conceptions in an otherwise patriarchal something something. I don’t know.
I decided to ask the question that I think was on everybody’s mind: “So…why’d you take a picture of a Chia Pet?”
Afterward, I apologized, and told her that I’d had too much of that free champagne they were passing around so readily. This was a lie, of course; I didn’t have a single thing to drink the entire night. Mainly because I didn’t want to sleep with her again, but I lied about that part, too.