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I’m moseying around an enormous gallery in downtown Los Angeles. There are industrial brick walls, soaring ceilings and very few divided spaces. Everything opens out onto a central courtyard so I’m noticing that the soundscape is dramatically airy. For instance, if a bored child were making whimpering sounds in front of a sculpture in one gallery, the chic art patrons in geometric glasses on the other end of the room would hardly be disturbed. It’s not that the sound is dead, it just floats into the air unencumbered and dissipates in little wisps.
I think I like it. The scale, the dreamlike sun and abundant outdoor space, the quiet. The inaugural exhibition is beautiful and it ’s committed abundant square-footage to women in the arts. Super.
Considering that the gallery’s owner recently passed me over for an important position after a very formal interview, I am handling this visit well. I am pleased with myself!
And then, I approach something. I see the enormous, crowning jewel of the sculpture exhibition, an undulating network of bulbous blobs created from found textiles which now adorns an entire wing of the courtyard.
I see a couple of stoic and well-informed art lovers bending over and reading the wall text, but I don’t need to read it. This piece is the handiwork of an artist who attended art school with my now estranged, ex-close friend/ex-boss.
During my tumultuous tenure at a well-known museum, the exhibiting artist who created the assemblage in front of me made a quick art world ascent and major reviewers and museums started paying attention. My then boss/friend hired this artist for a museum commission and she flew out for several weeks of install during an especially unsavory period of my professional life. My boss and I could barely stand each other and the collaborating artist’s ego and affect were inflated by the recent buzz.
I currently have a year or two of meditation and Lalaland hippiedom and peace and love and whatever that separates me from those challenging years, but the physicality of this giant piece engulfs me. I don’t feel angry or hurt.
I feel possessed.
I calmly saunter beneath the work, staring up at the dangling, colorful fabric slowly moving in the warm breeze and a visceral need overtakes me.
I want to reach up, grab hold of the sculpture’s tentacle-like strands, and swing across the corridor. I want to rip the whole goddamn thing from the fucking ceiling.
I see myself slaying the now oppressive silence of the courtyard with nonsensical, wild woman wails whilst thrashing among tumor-like balls of fabric that are puddling on the floor. I imagine ripping my dress from my body, shredding it, and entwining it into the work while laughing and screaming maniacally like a banshee.
The art patrons freeze as though confronted by a rabid wolf.
I’m naked and I’m twirling down the hall confidently while smearing menstrual blood along the walls.
When I reach the back end of the work, I’m relieved I haven’t manifested my vision. I feel outwardly serene and inwardly feral. I snap a picture documenting the stillness of the gallery in contrast with the carnage playing out in my mind.
I look down at my soft, ultra-feminine dress that suddenly reminds me of Frida Kahlo. I am having an out-of-body experience – I am Frida, smiling shyly for the camera, but possessing a look in the eye that would frighten philanderers.
I ask the security guard to take a photo of me with the work. As the steward of this artwork I wonder if she knows what I’m thinking as she obediently replicates my framing.
I glance at the photo as the guard hands it back to me and I thank her politely and exit the space.
I’m calling the portrait, “Pre-meditation.”
ChakRa Khan is a peaceful artworld hippie who resides serenely in La-la-land. She wouldn’t hurt a fly if it attacked her with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.