Bones always conjure a kind of cultural seriousness. Without them we are floopy sacks of water, gristle and glop, and some would argue, we don’t seem to be more than that. Bones are associated astrologically with the planet Saturn, which had that rare “great conjunction” with Jupiter in December 2020. Those planets are symbols, respectively, of sobriety and expansion, as if we as a culture might truly get a hold of our senses, and get it together.
Bones are my metaphor-du-jour as I am literally rearranging them, which is necessary when you have hip dysplasia. Bone surgery means there is no “there” there, for a while. My hip is held together with five screws and a plate, and even when your skin heals, and bone cells creep back, many muscles retreat in a sulk. It takes weeks of persuasion for them to come back, and they will constantly remind you that their society is complex, and requires excellent communication, thank you very much. Simply, do your exercises, feed us, and be nice.
I had the sense, even prior to surgery, that my body was a city planner, assembling engineers and workers, and my job was to watch and learn. Slow-slow yields solid progress, and I have complete trust. Just like your music teacher always nagged you, the building of something, each day, yields a reliability that can’t be destroyed by anxiety, missed rehearsals or plain stupidity. Our bodies are absolute wizards.
While my body is a wizard, the country I live in, on the other hand, lumbers on, with good people struggling to repair centuries of destruction. If the USA were a skeleton it might be a Jurassic Park creation, enormous bones designed to terrorize, lurching in circles and crumbling under its own weight.
Artists are also reliable wizards, who revel in any joyful madness, at any time. Like these stunning interviews with writers Elissa Washuta and Ocean Vuong, whose work is a revelation of structural “bones” and “flesh” that are fresh and truthful.
Bones are a literal theme this year, darkly humorous and deep. Caballito Negro’s other half, Terry Longshore, and I are collaborating with film-maker Chris Lucas to create a video of the Wally Gunn piece, Bare White Bones, that we recorded six months ago.
And while visiting Jane Rigler’s UC Colorado Springs classes as part of an artistic residency (culminating in our 22 minute acousmatic space-opera, Women in Parallel Empires), I talked with students about how dioramas were important to me as a child.
At age six in school, I can remember assembling a diorama valiantly with my left arm, as my right arm was broken. I was besotted by the colored light filtered by the cellophane, and the tiny world under it. I still feel that way.