Many years ago, when I was a university-aged student, I attended a show at the behest of a friend. It was at the beginning of my "art as exploration" stage and, like now, I was trying to open myself to the myriad of ways in which art, and artistry, could change people's perception of their world. It should be noted that the artist whose show we attended, Annie Sprinkle, had an eclectic aesthetic: she was a performance artist who used to be a porn star. Sprinkle's goal, we were told in the program we were given before the show, was to "use the vast frontiers of sexuality to explore, share and document my experiences and findings with explicit films, photography, writing and performance." The art world, she went on to tell us, was a refuge, where, surprisingly, she was made to feel quite welcome. "There was much more creative freedom, less censorship, and more legal protection." Who knew, I thought, to myself as I settled to watch the show.
(SPOILER ALERT! From this part forth, those of you who are squeamish or may want to skip forward to the next paragraph. It ain't pretty!)
Halfway through her performance, Miss Sprinkle inserted a speculum and invited the audience members to line up and each individually have a look with the aid of a flashlight. Although, I was enjoying the show, I decided to decline. (I was 19 and from a small town outside of Sudbury, for Christ's sake! Baby steps, right?) This was followed up with a beautiful ‘sacred sex magic, masturbation ritual’ that included, a board in which giant dildos were attached. Miss Sprinkle went on to show us the best ways to... AGH! You get it, right? I was shocked but, by the end of the show, felt that I had experienced something that was shocking, yes, but artfully executed. It also dawned on me that if we had attended this show 25 years previous, we probably would have quickly found ourselves arrested, found guilty of breaking about half-a-dozen obscenity laws and possibly have gone to jail. Success!
As we exited the theatre, I was enervated. I turned to my friend in order to gage how he had enjoyed the show. He was white as a sheet and looked incredibly disturbed. Are you all right, I asked him. He nodded in the affirmative and then told me, with a worried expression spilling over his face, that he was afraid that one day - when he died - that the image of Annie Sprinkle's cervix was gonna pop in to his brain and that, no matter how hard he tried, he would not be able to banish the image from his psyche. I assured him that such images did not, as far as I knew, come to us on our death beds. It took myself and several of our other art-loving friends the better part of an evening and several pitchers of cheap beer to get him to switch his thinking otherwise.
But the theory has stayed with me ever since. Is it possible that images that leave us disturbed or confused could pop up randomly to us on our death beds? And, if so, is there some way to counteract it? Was there a way in which we could hedge bets and find a way to seek out good images that might outweigh the bad? And so, this is what I have done. Over the years, I have made a mental list of images that I can conjure up when needed. The hope is that one of these might, when the time comes, help stave off, or at least outweigh, the image of a porn-star-turned-performance artist going down on a board of pleasure implements. I wanna suggest you do the same because you never know, right?
Here are a few examples:
- The sparkle in my son's eye when he's telling me a funny story
- Sunset at my cottage
- My father's handwriting
- Seeing my friend, Dave Brown, try to water ski off the dock from a standing position and too much lead rope.
- A raspberry
- My first bike
- A clean kitchen floor
- My husband rocking my kids to sleep
- Seeing the Rockies from an airplane
- The look my sister gets on her face when she's exasperated
- Water moving swiftly over a rock
- Poppies in bloom
Time to start your own......