Opacity

cigarette

Photograph “Black Bag” by Kudret Cayiroglu.

I can feel it in my blood. An unfurling, like tongues yawning in ecstasy. Boiling with anticipation and the rush of a quickened arterial beat. I’m a scatter trying to fill voids that I didn’t realize I had. Trying to match fingerprints with stale ink and moist fingertips. Masking feelings in thoughts and putting the rational into jumbled erotic descriptions of – it’s a mechanism for hiding. As fear-based creatures, we’re all stumbling along trying to sabotage anything that feels too good before it rejects, like a poorly performed heart transplant. When really we just want to be consumed; knowing that submission to consumption is terminal. Seeking freedom in a lack of self preservation. Held back by the pollution of self-contempt; the verisimilitude of excessive analysis. In the age of indifference, trying to display the minimum amount of vulnerability while setting clear but distant intentions. I don’t even know how to be honest anymore. Emotion is foreign currency. Now I’m tied down to the obscurity of expression, esoteric articulation. Wondering if it’s really as opaque as I think it is. Wondering why emotions are so disconnected from marionette lips. Wondering what there is to say to stretch possibility and maintain connection.

And what I really want to say is that you set me on fire. And I’ve been left burning.

Necessity and Futility

Waiting. Waiting. I find I’ve spent most of my life waiting, spent time waiting, waiting, waiting on people, on opportunities, waiting on movement, waiting on moments, waiting. Wondering. When. When it comes together, when I figure it out, when life comes together. Waiting for everything to amount to something, when words add up and moments and choices pay off, waiting for fruition, fruition of something, of anything. Just waiting, as if the patience – that of which I may have none and perhaps that’s why fruition is postponement is still waiting. When I do something, make something epic, contribute something meaningful, as if anything makes any difference at this point in sensationalized history. Waiting. Waiting for desperation, for dire times, for the motivation of suffering, waiting to care more, waiting to care. Waiting for necessity, when words are necessary, when passion is necessary. When I’m necessary. Maybe the point is that none of us are ever really necessary. We just think we are.

Melanie Steinway

The first time I got the chance to admire Melanie Steinway’s work was a couple of years ago, during my time working at Ozo Coffee – a staple Boulder business that seeks to support its local community in several ways. I showed up to work at the shop to find fantastical, visceral creatures burned into the wood of sliced trees and guitars adorning the walls. They seemed so alive, as if the artist had somehow burned souls into the inanimate creatures.

The second time I experienced Melanie’s work was a few months later at a RAW: natural born artists event at Boulder’s own Absinthe House.  This small waif of a woman with wispy hair carried a humble smile upon her face and sat at a table behind a display of pendant necklaces carved from deer antlers. She was waiting for her band to be called to the stage – then called Howl Moonshine Howl (since disbanded). When she took to the stage, she commanded an honest and candid presence that struck the crowd’s attention by heart and soul.

The energetic connection between all of Melanie’s work paints an impressive portrait of a creative soul. It is obvious that there is a force driving the visual into the musical back into the visual into words into something indescribably interactive and all of this culminates as an expression of something underivative  and visceral – something completely authentic and engaging. So when I heard that Melanie was beginning a career in tattoo artistry at Urban Element Tattoo in Denver, it felt like a consummation was coming to hand of everything that Melanie’s work could be; becoming something personal shared with the individual, a transfer of spirit. It felt right.

This week I have the privilege of not only introducing some of Melanie’s own favorite works – including those that sparked her unique stylistic path – but also that of digging deeper into the methods and mind behind them.  Check out more of Melanie’s work and follow her future projects on Facebook, Tumblr, and at her domain melaniesteinway.com. Without further ado, Melanie Steinway:

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LMB: Melanie, can you tell me what inspires you to create?

MS: A large part of my creation process dwells in a very quiet, primitive part of my brain. It’s instinctual, and strange creatures have been emerging from my hands since a very young age. While middle schoolers were trying on make-up for the first time and finding their clique, I had my eyes out the window, flying amongst strange beasts who knew me so much better. I think a large part of my inspiration comes from growing up in Colorado, where I spent a lot of time tromping alone or with my younger sister barefoot through the pine needles. I was always a dragon and she was always a unicorn. I grew up owning a myriad of small animals, including mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, dogs, cats, even a ferret at one point. When I was three or so, I thought I was a dog, and my mom would catch me eating the dog food and running around on all fours. I have occasional dreams still of being an animal – I’ve swam as a seal, howled as a wolf, and soared many a time as a bird. There’s something really fascinating about living according to instinct – this absolutely silent knowledge of what to do that we lack so hugely in our over-evolved state. Some of the emotion in my artwork comes from my love of music as well. There’s a similarity between the feeling of playing music on stage in a band and flying as a bird. That level of synergy is almost sacred in its purity.

LMB: Beautiful. And can you talk about how your work interacts with the world?

MS: For a long time I kept my work to myself. In middle and high school I got into digital artwork, coloring my linework in Photoshop and posting to communal gallery sites like Deviantart. In 2008 I traveled east to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, where I was surrounded by eccentric, brilliant creatives that I really jived with. Here was somewhere you could be yourself. For a couple years the creatures got pushed back in favor of tedious figure drawings and perspective studies, where the charcoal never really left underneath your fingernails. Towards the second half of my RISD attendance I discovered woodburning via a classmate who had used the woodburning tool for a project. I stuck with the medium and spent most of my final year there figuring out how to ideally use the medium in my style. The potential for this medium catapulted into the classroom with two pieces; “The Antlers” and “I Am (Surrender)”. People were impressed and this was the beginning of, “hey, I think I’m on to something here”. These two pieces took people somewhere else. Someone will walk up and say, “I know that feeling”. Around graduation in 2012 I started woodburning on musical instruments, which was a big leap for my exposure. After a couple warm-up instruments I collaborated with Fender Guitars on two acoustic guitars that were on display at NAMM, an annual musical instrument convention in Anaheim, CA (and a large one at that). My woodburning work was starting to get attention. So many people were unfamiliar with and curious about this medium. Last October I had the pleasure of woodburning a telecaster for Ritzy of The Joy Formidable, which felt pretty good. Seeing her play it on stage felt REALLY good. Very recently, my artwork has taken another leap in its worldly interaction via tattooing. Art can’t interact with people much more personally than that. I had been designing tattoos for people for a few years and a few of them were like, hey, you’d probably be really good at this, you should ink people too. So, now I do. It’s an incredibly satisfying and humbling experience to work with people on that level. A great teacher that I had at RISD, I just realized, foresaw pretty much all of this happening. He would refer to me as an aspiring tattoo artist before I even really realized I wanted to do it. He told me that all of these different mediums for my work traced back to the same life force, and that they would all converge again, somehow, in some form. They’re all part of one big picture. I’m not sure if I’ve quite figured out what that big picture is, but I’m starting to get some sort of idea. A medium is just that; a medium. The physical material you use to manifest something greater. Regardless of the way my artwork choses to take form, it’s all striving towards the same perfect, primal energy. Like the way it feels to fly.

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antlersposterSM

Melanie’s winning entry in The Antlers’ poster design contest for  their newest album, “Familiars”, released in June.

YTG_whale_smallest

Melanie’s 2nd place entry in Young the Giant’s poster contest from March for album “Mind Over Matter”.

YouthSM

“Youth” – Woodburning and white pencil on cedar, inspired by the song “Youth” by Daughter.

IAmSurrenderSM

“I Am (Surrender)” – one of the woodburning pieces that sparked Melanie’s unique stylistic path.

TheAntlersSM

“The Antlers” – the second woodburning piece that sparked Melanie’s stylistic path.

BackFull

Back view of personal woodburned Fender telecaster. (Photo credit to Ian Glass.)

FrontFull

Front view of personal woodburned Fender telecaster. (Photo credit to Ian Glass.)

finished_front

Bison Skull Guitar collaboration with Born Guitars of Broomfield, CO.

CreatorDestroyer

“Creator/Destroyer” – Woodburning, wood stain, paint, mixed media on pine.

dogstringbird

“Dog String Bird” – Drawing.

IMG_0917

Durer’s Rhinocerous – Tattoo on bicep. Courtesy of Josh Berntsen.

Pronounic (In)Significance

Angel

Photograph by Ludovic FLORENT. See more here.

One day, babe, one day (we)’ll be old. Sitting next to (you: objective you; one; anyone; people in general) the porch and laughing toothless thinking of all the inside jokes (you) have collected and all the people (you)’ve lost and disconnected. The love (you)’ve spent and what (you) spent it on and what that gave (you) shivers and what (you) stood for why (you) were standing and (you) are why are (you) still standing.

One day (your: the possessive case of you; indicates belonging, to oneself or any person) skin loose and colored with age. (Your) hair white halo like (you) know where (your) head is. (You) won’t cry anymore because sadness is just a state of mind and (you)’ve collected enough tears to soup for all the grandchildren (you) never had are not having.

And to understand is to think through is to connect memory to experiential input by electric fingertip connection to empath(ize/y) is a responsibility. And (you)’ll have realized long ago that life is masochism and god is sadist if (s)he’s up there at all and you lov(ed/e) it to survive but (you)’re tired – with full force consonants, T and D – and (your) head is lolling with dormant mortality. (Your) eyes will have grown stale, a jaundice at the corners that reminds the mirror that (you) used to be a different person (you) used to be so many different people (you) used to be a construction of so many different people and (you) will look in the mirror and wonder why any of them mattered and what happened to their voices and when (you) began to dread (your) birthday more than irrelevant anniversaries.

Because (you)’ve forgotten that there’s an (I) there somewhere in. (I: nominative I; denoting the narrator of a literary or oratory work in the first person;  metaphysics,  the ego) and responsibility is something (you) take up too late and lose soon after – life as a matter of a series of moments that a brain recollects as a divided and scattered narrative of happenings and images and smell as the greatest conductor of recollection. Stronger by experiential extremity, narrowed into over simplified lists of “the very best” and “the very worst”.

(You) smell(/ed) like cinnamon and (you) gave (my: the possessive case of I; attributive to the narrator of a work of literature or oration) throat the same feeling. Listed under “the very best” as a pupil (you) (were/are?) expansive – (I ) don’t know anymore and what (I) knew when (was/is) exactly what it felt like to slip a cigarette in (my) mouth after lips linger leaving and (I) think (I) said goodbye, but (I)’m not sure. (I) remember thinking “don’t go”, but for the denotative (I) am at loss.

In now (I) suppose (we: objective us; used to denote oneself and another or others) can revert to present, in terms of what (we) consider now, separate and concrete, with nothing but a vague idea of a smell that has long since aired out; stale tobacco erasing bits of faces and eye colors and specific touches and the way a hair falls out of place. And perhaps (we)’re a memory that will wash its way back around again. Until then (I) ponder pronounic significance and try to recapture ghost touches by way of this is what a dream feels like. Longing for something (you) and (I) don’t already know.

- Jaime Dyna La Mondain

Running

Citric sunlight, eye burning and sun juiced.

Bodies are affected.

Products of their environment.

Running from smogged city block to smogged city block.

A carbon inhale.

Wax covered ponke.

That’s not even real coffee.

Synthetic upkeep for organic maintenance.

Bodies grow like mitosis.

Free radicals.

Milk moonlight, gauze warm and glaucoma.

An Open Letter of Rememberance and Gratitude

Because I remember your eyes just like that; a near desperate searching. And me with no answers. And how I always felt like a learning experience. You summer tanned and covered  in dust, a dusk skin. Touchable you tasted like drywall. Dreadlocks that drip with sweat and the entertainment of philosophy. The reminder of winter on your lips and how we used to hold hands while I was driving. Why separation always  felt imminent and unavoidable. The prospect of years.

How naive tongues slide around the word love.

That night in the basement. On the carpet. Slick skin sliding and lips like sugar. We knew your brother was listening at the door. You can’t stop immortal moments.

Because we grew together as the feared reflections of our parents. I knew every trick to make you angry. And we were really children playing house.

I still remember that scar on your stomach. Between two ribs. I remember the every textured indent of your lips, from every season. I remember all three of your smiles and exactly how to elicit them. I studied you. For 39,420 hours, I was an expert in you nearly four times over. I could trace the exact shape of your feet, wide and rounded at the edges. I remember exactly where my hand felt best tangled in your mess of hair with your lips parted just like that. I was constant state of dissembling discomposure.

I could see the future in your eyes. Crystal.

I still can’t pinpoint when the touch turned sour, rancid really. We had fermented, drunk on banality. And sometime around the time I noticed another set of dimples. And while I worshipped the dimples at your lower back, right above your perfect ass, I thought of all the other dimples to admire in the world. I hadn’t stopped loving you, but  I needed you to justify removing me, like the burning out of a disease. I never stopped loving you, I was  possessed with this case of wanderlust.

The night you stopped breathing for a full minute, twice, and portented death in drunken ramblings, still infects my nightmares. I wanted to hold you. I wanted to kiss every millimeter of your body and tell you that everything was going to be alright, that we could put everything back together, a puzzle, if only you would stay alive. But I didn’t because I knew I couldn’t. We had long since lost so many pieces. And you lived anyway.

We sobbed together when I left.

Because humans can’t grow backwards. Because the universe is expansive and never-ending. Because potential should never be denied. Because I have this theory that you have to lose everything before you can begin to appreciate anything.

I still mourn you sometimes. In dawn hours, and when it rains. Like an amputee’s ghost limb. Like a shadow cast by clouds on a sunny day. You still have this little bit of me that I never asked you to return.  I didn’t want you to. Because some moments should remain immortal, despite the passage of time.

Some people say love dies. I don’t think that’s how it works. It transforms and modifies to its surroundings. It seeks new ways to push you into being that person you always sought to be. When one form reaches its culmination and maximum effect,  it comes in new, unfamiliar and refitted forms to show you more about yourself. Love has always been a selfish act, the most participatory selfish act. And you must remember to thank and consider every form it comes in. For, without it, you could never stand confident in the light of day as this person today. You could never hold credit for the “who” behind your “I”.

So thank you. I’m glad I am who I am.

Solidarity

To open; physical, like ripping. A puckered tearing. The heart is a thick muscle; impenetrable if need be. It seeks warmth and the world is cold. Dead bodies, dead people, dead children, dead families, death. Dead and still hearts; death. How your eyes remain so dry; death. When a bomb explodes shrapnel, it still takes a person time to die – to bleed and life leeching towards ether. And shock, I suppose, is a painkiller. And shock, I suppose, is an anesthetic. And shock, I suppose. And shock, I suppose. These pictures are bleeding but I can’t smell it; I want to – the sick tang. I want to feel it – a sharp pain. Distance is a removal is lost responsibility and apathy is numb. I can look at pictures of dead children all day. My eyes burn with emptiness and exposed salt. A gag reflex. Nothing comes out. It festers. A nausea. I want to open my heart up. I want to expose. It is a physical thing to open to the world – to spread ribcage and tear muscle apart to bare meaty flesh like a Valentine to strangers halfway across the globe. With no way to give that. I reach inside. I have nothing to give. What do I give? So it sits there, festering and breeding anger. My arms aren’t wide enough to hold this – not strong enough to fix it. My skills are not developed enough to help. I am  useless. All I have is this heart. So I keep poking at it, hoping it’ll do something. I keep opening new wounds. Like, solidarity? What use? And people are still dying. But at least I can cry now. At least I can cry now. At least I can cry now. At least I can cry.

Life is Not a Waste, Don’t Treat it Like Garbage

A morning after like new, like maybe the night had not happened and maybe, maybe I had not done the things I thought I’d done. It was 4 in the afternoon when my roommate woke me up. Somebody from work had contacted him. And fucking A what was wrong with me and what the fuck did I do this time and who in the hell did I let in our house last night and if I find no excuse this time I’m fired and I have no excuse. I was still drunk, or just fucked up. I didn’t know if it was the pills or if it was the liter of whiskey I’d downed at 5am when I decided I was done being conscious.

I drove myself to work anyway, stumbled in the doorway. The world was shifting under my feet, I could feel it shaking and slippery. My manager took one look at me and told me to get the fuck out.

I went home and tried to process what had happened. Where things had turned away from fun. My mind was spots of light and a broken switch. My bed was rumpled sheets and I didn’t want to touch them. In fact, I wanted to burn them. And I wanted to throw that empty bottle against the wall. And I wanted to purge all of this poison from my system. I wanted to be a normal human being again, but had no idea how to get there.

It dawned on me that I was lucky I woke up that day. I had half-ideas of the words and thoughts that had rolled and spit their way through my brain the night before, after the party died, after I was left alone. They scared me. They weren’t the sort of thoughts a sane person thought. They weren’t the sort of thoughts somebody who wanted to live thought. When had everything I loved turned into everything I hated? Who was I? What had once been a grand social experiment had since consumed my very existence. I was roiling destruction. I finally was Rimbaud’s great invalid, great criminal, great accursed, and I fucking hated myself. No amount of bleach in the world could have make that skin feel clean. I wanted to burn off all of the metaphorical dirt with a bath of acid. I couldn’t.

I had to figure out how to reconcile this existence with the person that I wanted to be, because I couldn’t live like that anymore. As half human. In primal disorder. I couldn’t deal with the great pressure of shame every morning. Of half-assing existence. Of running away. I was tired of being weak – in body, in mind, and in will. I was tired of surrounding myself with people that only reinforced my tendency towards chaos and loss and apathy. I had wasted so many dollars. I had wasted so many nights. I had wasted so many brain cells. I had, like a vasectomy, cut parts of myself off; emotion, feeling, caring, everything genuine. I had lost any sense of control, given it up, given up on sense. Even then, in this day after, in evening light, I couldn’t think straight. All my palate craved was liquor and all my body craved was sleep and all my self craved was escape.

But this was not me. This was not what I wanted. I wanted to gain experience and bring that back to the light. I wanted to be a voice. I wanted to be the words that others lived by. I wanted to be inspiration. I wanted to be revolution.

When I was given an out, I took it. I entered my parents arms and cried until I could speak and when I could I didn’t want to. I just wanted to be free. And with the help of others, I was. And today, with a clear mind and obstinate goals, I can walk forward shamelessly into daylight. I can say with conviction that I want to be alive, that I should be alive, that I am meant for grander things and greater constructs. Revolution. I make my own decisions with care. I am connected. I am not ready to burn out or fade away. I am the fucking sun, bright and constant and leaving spots on your retina. I am a fucking force. And I refuse to accept anything less of myself ever again. Life is not a waste. Don’t treat it like garbage. Find your reason to be alive.

One Weekend of Exhibition

shamestreetart

Artwork: Athens, Greece street art by Borondo. Titled “Shame”.

I want you to take a camera. I want you to take a camera with video and find yourself in the middle of the plaza on a Friday evening. I want you to give that camera to a stranger and tell them to press record. I want you to scream for as long as you can, as loud as you can, guttural, blood-curdling. I want you to scream until strangers stare. I want you to scream until strangers recoil. I want you to scream until the cops show up. I want you to curl up on the ground and scream until your esophagus is bleeding. I want you to scream until you can’t make sound anymore.  Then I want you to take your camera back.

I want you to take a camera. I want you to take a camera with video and find yourself in a mall, in the center of the food court around noon on a Saturday. I want you to give that camera to a stranger and tell them to press record. I want you to climb on top of a table. I want you to get on that table and strip down to your underwear. I want you to stand in your underwear and I want you to cry. I want you to sob. I want your face red and wet, eyes swollen, breath heaving, shoulders tense and wracked. I want you to fall to your knees on that table and cry until your rib cage aches. Until a stranger wraps their arms around you and assures you that everything is okay. Then I want you to take your camera back.

I want you to take a camera. I want  you to take a camera with video and find yourself at a dingy bar with pool tables on a Saturday night. I want you to give your camera to a stranger and tell them to press record. I want you to buy ten shots of whiskey. I want you to line those shots up on the rail of the pool table. Take three of the shots in a row. I want you to climb on top of the pool table. Take three more of the shots.  Now offer one shot to a stranger. I want you to throw the remaining shot glasses at the wall and watch them explode. Watch the glass rebound from the wall in shards and fall. Watch the sick liquid drip its way down the wooden paneling. I want you to lay down on the pool table. I want  you to piss yourself, release it onto the table, into it. Lay there for a moment in your own urine. Then I want you to get up and take your camera back.

I want you to take a camera. I want you to take a camera with video and take your lover, a lover, by the hand. I want you to find yourself in a park on a Sunday morning, where people walk their dogs and swing their children and tie slacklines between trees. I want you to give your camera to your lover and tell them to press record. I want you to take your lover by the lips. I want you to strip your lover naked and strip yourself naked and I want you to treat your lover like the most holy item on the planet, the most revered god or goddess. Ignore the strangers that gather. Touch them in all of the ways you know they like to be touched. Make eye contact with them. I want you to bring your lover to the brink and lead them over. Hold that eye contact. I want you to forget that the rest of the world exists. I want you to sweat on the sharp grass with them until you’re both covered in the bodily juices that yield from delectable satisfaction. Until you’re both too exhausted to touch anymore. Then I want you to dress yourselves and take your camera home.

I want you to take a camera and a permanent marker. I want you to take a camera with video, a permanent marker, and find yourself in a nice restaurant on a Sunday evening, a nice restaurant with dim lighting and quiet couples whispering to each other.  I want you to give your camera to the waiter and tell them to record. I want you to strip yourself naked and stand on the table. I want you to take your marker and circle all of the parts of your body that you hate, one by one. I want you to grab those parts of your body as you circle them and grip them tightly until they turn red. Grip them and scream loudly why you hate them. Tell the restaurant where your fat is, where your cellulite is, why your shapes are incorrect, where your birthmarks lie, where your scars show. Tell them everything that is wrong with you and grip those places violently. After you have pointed out every flaw, after you have shed light on every imperfection, , after your body is covered in bruises, climb down from the table. Put your clothes back on. Take your camera back and exit the restaurant.

I want you to lay in bed on Sunday night. I want you to lay in bed alone and hold yourself softly. Let your hands drift down to touch yourself in nice places and let your body warm to the movement of your hands and fingertips. I want you to bite your bottom lip and moan for yourself. I want you to treat yourself as the most cherished lover in your life. I want you to pass the precipice and shake and flush. Then stop and wrap your arms around yourself. Know that you are a true and authentic human being. Know that there is absolutely no shame in being alive. Shame is a construct created to keep you from being truly human, to keep you from genuine connection, to distract you from true feelings. Know that as long as you are honest, you are the inspiration of expression that the world needs. Tell yourself you love yourself and drift quietly to sleep.

- Jaime Dyna La Mondain