My Chapstick Reacted To Your Toothpaste 2022
Altar to La Virgen Maria during performance by Caleb Elem
50 x66 inches
spray paint on square glass
YOUR HEART SOUNDS LIKE A TRAIN
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
Please, listen closely because we are being very specific. Noodle wants to build a gas station in the Milky Way. It will be adorned with a petrol sign reading “MILK” and outfitted with a chocolate-chip cookie bakery inside. Noodle’s figures swim untethered in the cosmos. His cat woman arches her back. Forms frame the flatness, floating the composition. He punches color into untapped dimensions and urges those left on Earth to come quickly or else begin investing in valuable resources. Like Mylar, he suggests. I nod in agreement.
Downstairs, Guadalupe stands in front of the sun, perched on top of the moon. There are stars on her mantle and her robe. She is a disco queen. Nico stencils her image in neon-pink onto a psychedelic tilma and surrounds her with flowers and jewelry and oxygen. Like the folds in her dressing, the window ripples and refracts, the glow of her halo intensifying the glass’s moire. Through her folded hands we are reminded that she is the mother of her own creator. She birthed the world and it looked like a disco ball. Nico’s Guadalupe is cool and technicolor and smells like patchouli. She will eat acid with you and play with your hair while you nap; she will go with your flow, illuminate your path. To paint her in her image is to worship Her, to paint her pink is to love her.
At the site of creation, Caleb produces a map: a topography of sound coupled with an audio-visual lexicon that corresponds to nine marked sites around the perimeter of the blue house. Each musical composition is realized through the texture of these places. Aluminum garbage bins, dried sunflowers, rusty buckets, and Lineaus’s old Communist theory books become surfaces apt for percussion. Caleb invites friends to be a part of his Magic alphabet. I sit in his camper tapping my foot to the beat of a distant pendulum. When using charmed techniques, previously obscured spirits reveal themselves, and a river of questions appear. There arises a pattern of black butterflies and crimson candles. Caleb understands it as an old friend’s spirit paying a visit. The coincidences, perhaps divine, buoy Caleb’s Marfa compositions in the Left Hand path: folk Magic, spell-casting, and all forms of autonomous devotion and merrymaking that exist outside the moral demands of organized religion and empathize instead with the mortal truths of a temporal body. Like quicksand, the method is oblong, layered, brined in earth and meaning. Caleb creates a new language using materials of time and local culture in order to equip the rest of us with a roadmap and an entry point into the Unknown.
Kaylie’s map took her through Marfa on the way to Georgia. She ran out of gas and decided to stay awhile. Her mom is from the land of peaches, and so is her dad’s dad, but Kaylie was going because Ninnie invited her. When she was tiny, her grandma, Ninnie, taught her, among other vanities, to sew. Although she has long forgotten the skill, Kaylie’s present experiments with surface naturally lend themselves to fashion. The work produced in Marfa is slippery like those lizards with the blue bellies. Tripping and dipping between painting and sculpture, couture and theater, fabrication and sentimentality, Kaylie plants her personal history in a new, open landscape. It is at once green and sophisticated. Lace from a prom dress sewn by Ninnie is sweetly repurposed into soft sculpture suspended on a gilded branch. Another surface reveals Floridas of spearmint tea and cotton trees. When Kaylie gets to Georgia, whenever that may be, Ninnie will lug out her sewing machine, and Kaylie will watch carefully this time.
As we wait for the train to pass, we are reminded to take care, to move slow through the evidence of their creation. It is important to remember that breaking ground is a contact sport.
It is with teary eyes that I depart. The heat swells, and it seems like a good night to go to the lightning field, but we are too busy swimming naked in the Rio Grande. Come as fast as you can. The bottom is cold, and the sun is as hot as the sky is heavy, as sticky as the roads are light. At 3 pm the water in my cupholder scorches my lips, but if left overnight, the bottle will be frosty and wet by morning. Drag racers melt their tires before pouring glue on the track. As I bend over to pick a chocolate daisy, Nico holds my cigarette. Sometimes magic needs no catalyst.
(We kiss and) the train gets louder.
Essay by Taylor Payton