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Thursday, July 3, 2014


Originally published @ www.burquemedia.com

Reality Check by: Frances Madeson
Submitted by BurqueMedia on Sat, 06/28/2014 - 03:14
Albuquerque Burque Media apdprotes myapd Frances Madeson
Through the scrim of memory I see the school psychologist’s flat outstretched hands hovering over the image, hands large enough to touch all the puzzle pieces. He turns the funny horse that had been balanced on its lush tail, its four brown legs sticking out sideways. Turns it so the horse is upright, standing normally.

I'd taken the puzzle apart and reassembled it half a dozen times under his scrutiny, maybe more, but could never get that horse to stand up on its own four feet. It didn't matter how I varied my method, if I jumbled the pieces in the box, worked the frame first, or began with the internal pieces, this horse consistently defied the laws of gravity.

“Do you want to try once more?” he asked in no tone in particular.

I nodded my assent. Concentrating, I slowed all my motions down, but I had the same result. He scratched a note on his form, ticked a box...something.

“Let me try again.” And this time I did it lightning quick, trying to trick this stubborn horse into behaving. But sideways it remained, its proud head held high.

And he, my examiner, was out of patience. He slapped his palms down on the puzzle and rotated it once to the left, counter-clockwise.

The horse stood tall with a mere pivot of his wrists. I cried out, my mind blown. There it was, a horse as it should be!

In my mind, this was always a story about my own misperception—how all the puzzle pieces could be right in front of me, and I still wouldn't be able to see the obvious. A humbling story. A story about my lack. My incapacity.
But that changed when I came to New Mexico.

I'd arrived in Santa Fe just weeks before. Though busy settling in, I'd seen a calendar listing for a Linda Montano performance art piece at SITE Santa Fe, which I immediately prioritized. The piece was part of the closing of the Always Creative show, and it was a counterpoint to a similar piece she'd performed months previous at the opening called Singing My Heart Out—spectacular entrances and exits, the stuff of theater! Here was the irresistible enticement:

On Friday, May 17 from 10am to 5pm, SITE will host Linda Montano's closing performance: Singing My Heart In. For the second part of this endurance performance, the artist will be stationed in the front of SITE singing along to the music of Raka Mukherjee. Montano will descend on a scissor lift from the top of the building, once an hour for seven hours until she has reached the ground.

I arrived around noon and took a seat on a folding chair under the sky white with heat, to behold a wondrous vision of a seventy-something Montano up near the rooftop of SITE, singing along to the ragas, exactly as billed. The elevated platform, her undulating voice, everything all melty in the heat of the day--it was pure, sun-drenched Art.

Inside SITE too, the exhibit was dazzling. One room contained clothes she had worn for seven years, each year its own color and only that color, seven colors associated with the chakras. A purple garment hung from the ceiling with a pile of all the purple clothes worn during the purple year, even underwear, on the floor beneath it. Another for orange, red, and so on.

There was a film in black and white, a close-up of her face dotted with acupuncture needles. She speaks about Mitchell, her ex-husband. He was murdered, she responds to the violence in a stream-of-consciousness monologue. Her anguish is palpable, especially when she says his name...Mitchell, I remember the last time I saw you.... Mitchell, how can you be gone? Mitchell...

Her pieces are vehicles to stratas of experience otherwise unobtainable. Her explorations are like inter-planetary voyages, long in duration, devotional. Crazy to live like that, I thought. Crazy not to, I countered. Outside, I bowed to Linda. Hand on my heart I blew her kisses. I think I even curtsied.

The next day she'd arranged to do "art counseling" sessions, which now that I'd encountered her through her work seemed too valuable an opportunity to miss. But I almost did. By the time I'd arrived at the museum all of the slots had been allotted. About to leave, a bit downhearted I confess, the curator told me there was to be a book signing of Montano's new workbook titled: You Too Are A Performance Artist, and I could meet her then and perhaps speak with her for a few unhurried moments.

She soon came out and we sat together at a small table in SITE's lobby, her book vibrating on the table between us. We talked together intimately. I seized the chance to tell her about the new comic novel that I'd begun composing, set in an art museum. I asked her for her wisdom about insight, perspective and perception, anything she cared to share. She in turn asked me a series of questions which before long evinced the story about the puzzle of the sideways horse. Fifty years later I was still seeking a reality check, but this time from an expert in reality.

Through her coaxing the story fleshed itself out. Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School. Skipping from the 2nd to the 4thgrade. Was I mature enough for such a big leap? Reading comprehension, math tests—all those went swimmingly. And then the damned and damning horse puzzle.

Linda, who'd been actively listening, asking small questions, offering prompts, finally said, “I am ready to sign your copy of You Too Are A Performance Artist.” And I fell silent while she inscribed it. I thanked her and left without reading it. Outside in the scalding light I was flooded with relief and gratitude when I opened to the page where she wrote these words:For Flying Horse Woman.

Frances Madeson is a fiction writer and visionary activist, in that her activism is aimed toward an imaginative vision of Eudaimonia.

(Thank You Frances- We Love YOU.)
All Rights Reserved C 2014

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