Arthur told me to
stuff it in as deep as I could. I had a good hold around what
I supposed was the neck and shoved it in. The tongue waggled
back and forth to no avail. I set it down quickly before things
could change and lit the fuse. We moved out of range and at
a safe distance watched. We were two little death voyeurs,
Arthur and I. The frog never stood a chance.
We were forever changed that
day. Whenever we got hold of fireworks we found new uses for
them. As we grew older our pyro-techniques also grew. Isn’t
that the way of it? Most of us who are considered less than
normal didn’t simply wake up that way one day. There is a learning
curve to all a person is to become. We opened up to each other
in ways only we could understand. Until one day he said something
that he never grasped as profound.
Arthur was never as deep as I.
He was certainly as much a deviant, but all things in his life
were simple and surface. I, on the other hand, felt the undertow.
I sensed when to lean into the current, how to keep my feet
planted. He drifted with the tides; I became one with the tides.
Oh, the thing he said was this, “Man,
we got this down to an art form.”
That phrase just made things
click into place; suddenly I could see the road before me.
I started to do my homework. I checked out art in its many
forms, whenever and wherever I could. I got a sense of what
worked and what did not from the people I met along the way.
The biggest influences came from those artists who worked with
clay and stone. The sense of textural depth and the resulting
light play really grabbed me. Art on canvas is not meant to
be as textural as sculpture. I was looking to bend that idea
to my new vision.
What I had in mind would be on
canvas, working in organics. The trick with organics is that
you have to understand the medium in order to control it. The
display of art is really the display of an artist’s ability
to master the chosen medium.
The piece I am working on now
will be my most powerful bit yet. I control all that has to
do with my current project. I have chosen a really nice quality
linen canvas to work with. I have primed the canvas with an
oil based, blue-white primer that should show off the organic
matter quite well. And the primer has sealed the canvas completely;
the medium cannot bleed through.
I remember one time when Arthur
wanted to know how many firecrackers it would take to get to
the end of a garter snake we came up with a formula. Five firecrackers
per foot of snake was the working average we had come up with.
Once we had developed the formula, it has proven reliable in
every subsequent case. By then we had it down to a science.
But for a hell-bent deviant adolescent, science has to be fun
and exciting. Firecrackers-per-foot-of-snake is boring crap
once it is calculated. It’s like, how many licks does it
take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? Who
cares? Bite the fucking thing.
On the other hand, a few hundred
bottle rockets and a tree-bound bees’ nest can lead to an afternoon
of fun packed excitement no carnival side show can match.
I think Arthur and I, right from
the beginning, were concerned about suffering, though we never
admitted it out loud. I could sense the whole ‘do-unto-others’ training
seeping in. I mean, it was one thing to blow stuff up. But
it had to be quick and sudden. Even when we were doing garter
snakes, the head went first. Like a light switch, one second
they were alive—then they weren’t. The rest of the snake was
just peripheral splatter.
That is what I am working on
now, the splatter. Get it on the canvas and seal it up. I use
an air powered spray gun to apply a couple of clear coats on
top of the captured remains. That seals it all in so the colors
stay vivid and real. I might tease something up here or there
before I freeze it for posterity with clear lacquer, but most
of it gets treated right away.
Arthur actually came up with
the splatter technique I am using today. He developed a recipe
for an explosive using ammonium nitrate, which is fertilizer.
Well, fertilizer has ammonium nitrate in it. It can be tough
to detonate, but when it goes—it goes big. We learned that
down at the Johnson Farm, and we saw how fast a cow can really
run. That was also the night Arthur decided enough was enough.
I, on the other hand, wanted to work on the explosive power
Placement is key to any really
good splatter art. And you have to have the right amount of
explosive power. Too little and you don’t splatter enough—too
much and you blow holes in the canvas. When you get it right,
you get good splatter, good chunks, and the canvas is intact.
And you have to seal it up right away. That keeps it real and
in the moment.
Right this moment, I have the
charges in place. I am confident in the amount and placement.
I have some canvas in varying sizes, stretched and prepped,
and in place to capture the moment. The money shot will be
the four foot by six foot canvas in front. The rest of the
canvas frames are set up at angles like the mirrors in a dress
shop. My expectations are somewhat lower for those pieces,
but one never knows. They could wind up capturing, or catching,
Arthur is coming to now. He sees
his surroundings first: the canvas, the wires, me dressed in
yellow rain gear from head to toe and wearing a full face shield.
Then he realizes that he is immobilized—tied up. And he sees
he is also naked (for the sake of good clean splatter). His
eyes get big and white, and he tries to wriggle free of the
plastic ties holding him. I hold up the single button with
the wires leading to him, and he freezes as he realizes what
it is I am about to do. I can understand what it is that he
says as he says it through the duct tape.
He utters a single word and the
tape forms like wax lips for the first letter and goes flat
for the last letter, “No”.
I waggle my fingers at him with
one hand, my bye-bye gesture, and press the button with the
other, and it is over in an instant. I move in to seal things
up on the canvas, wishing I had thought of earplugs. It takes
two gallons of clear lacquer to seal the whole thing up.
Arthur would have been impressed
at the showing he had. All the pieces sold. He told me once
that his dad told him to do what he loved so there would be
no regrets. I think his dad might have been drinking that night.
Well, I am doing what I love. And the studio wants me back
for another show soon. I told them I would think about it;
and I will.
Arthur was unique, and still
is, as the only true victim of splatter art.
# # #
Splatter Art by
published August 7, 2009