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TRUE TALES FROM THE SIDE SHOW: For Want of a Canvas - Trickle of Consciousness
For your consideration, the following excerpt from an interview with acclaimed political artist Cassandra Kelley, conducted by esteemed biographer Sarah Mayper...

I think I never knew just how powerful art was until they took it away from me.

Locked in a cell for my latest series of works which cast The Dictator and his men as zoo animals caged by their own limited minds, I was quick to lose my vaunted pride. It is difficult to feel elation in the dark and dank.

There arrived another prisoner, however, who even in that hole seemed to know my work. She insisted I continue. Seeing the light she brought to this black pit, I accepted the challenge.

That first night, I used a stick to sketch into the dirt of the floor. The next morning, the guards forced us to rake it all away. The second night, I gathered mud and dust and the grease from the cell door hinges and painted the walls with a gray and black toned image. The guards handed us soapy water and brushes and forced us to scrub it clean.

I began to despair that, despite the glow my work brought to my fellow prisoner, despite the lightness it gave my own soul, I might never find a canvas the guards would not wipe away in the morning.

But my prison patron refused to give up. She collected my makeshift palette, fashioned a brush end on the stick with a collection of stray hairs we had, and removed the rag she wore to cover herself. And I knew this was our solution, for the guards refused to let us bathe in our prison, wanted us to wallow in our filth as we awaited our release, and so here, upon the flesh of my fellow, was the one place they would never find my art, would never force us to wash it away.

I crafted in secret the art which sustained us both. It was a slow process, between the lack of light and my own unfamiliarity with the way the human body might twist and distort line and color. But we had time, and so I worked on tiny patches of skin, honing and perfecting a masterpiece upon her.

After our release, we lost touch through unfortunate circumstances, and it was many years later when I next saw her. To my amazement, I discovered that my art remained. The crude mud and grease I used in that pit was gone, but in its place, the woman had commissioned a tattoo in the same shape and shades. And not just my work, but all across her body over the years she had built her own massive collection of art, had turned herself into a living canvas, a walking archive, an embodied museum.

An artist often wishes to know her work has pressed itself deep into the souls of those who experience it, but here was a woman who bore her soul across her very body, and I have never had a prouder moment than to witness it.

And where might one see this living museum? Only now through May 5 at The Players Theatre!

Previous entries in the series:
The Fortune Teller
The Cannibal King
In the Blood
If Witches Worked Curses
His Own Boss
A True Lady
In a Foreign Land
By the Sword

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