When my parents came to get me, I’d been lying on the kitchen floor for days. I kept mumbling, “I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die.”
My father, in an attempt to bring me back to reality, said, “What are you going to die from, sweetie?”
“This,” was all I could say, by which I meant the pressure over my sternum that radiated through my chest to my shoulders and throat, making it impossible to take a full breath or to speak above a whisper. Surely, it was on the order of a thousand pounds per square inch and soon my lungs would collapse or one of my vital organs would stop working. I remember reading in seventh grade about spontaneous human combustion. It was puzzling to scientists and to me at the time, but now I felt certain that it was the result of someone’s heart exploding from an insurmountable loss, like mine was about to, and that at any moment I would cease to exist.
For months, whenever a polite stranger at the grocery store or coffee shop said hello and asked me how I was doing, I thought Is this person blind? Can they not see the giant hole through the center of me? Can they not tell that this shirt I’m wearing is the only thing keeping my insides from spilling out onto the floor?
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On the other side, I have learned that if your heart is broken badly enough, it cracks you open. If you survive your grief, it increases your capacity to experience wonder. It fills you with awe. That’s what this sculpture is about. It’s made from over 1500 hollow point bullets, which are incredibly lethal, but dammit if they don’t flower into something beautiful.
The first step was having a mold taken off of me by the obscenely talented, kind, and beautiful artist Crystal Schenk.
Then I poured the casting into the two-part mold.
In the meantime, I had to borrow a gun, which made me deeply uncomfortable, and order tactical ammunition by the caseload, which no doubt landed me on some government watchlist (or even more disturbing: it didn’t). Once the bullets arrived, the challenge was to figure out how to get them to do exactly what I wanted them to do. Artist Shelby Davis helped me brainstorm this part. (I should tell you that the first iteration of our plan involved shooting a gun from the top of a tree. I should also tell you that we weren’t stupid enough to actually do that.)
First, I had to do some target practice to get comfortable with the 9mm loaner. I’m afraid there were some casualties:
The test run was a success.
I got exactly what I was (literally and metaphorically) shooting for.
When my knuckle got swollen from the recoil, my dad took over for me.
The below photo is proof of how much I am loved. These are my pinko commie lefty liberal parents loading 9mm clips for my crazy sculpture project. We had a good laugh about that, believe me.
After that was hundreds of hours of this:
And it all led to this. You can see more photos of the piece here.Back to Writing Index