An Artist’s Canvas

The visual effect of geometry in art can be intoxicating. Symmetry is beauty, and vice versa. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and seeing asymmetry. Chaos. A shape, certainly, but not one of mathematical precision or artistic effort. Rather, one of slothful neglect. The product of a blind, talentless sculptor using mud instead of marble. I decided to change. I could be beautiful, too.

Everywhere I went, I looked for inspiration. After a brief period of searching, Nature Herself provided me with all I needed. I knew what I could become.

I began to lose the extra weight I’d been carrying around. It wasn’t as difficult as I’d expected. The speed at which the pounds came off became an added bonus; I was left with skin that sagged over my beltline and under my chin and under my arms. A happy accident.

With 60 pounds lost and a newfound energy I attributed to better physical health, I began to work on my art. Over the last few months, I’d accumulated thousands of the different tools I’d need for the process. I employed the smallest ones first. One by one, I inserted the thinnest of the pins into the pores under my chin. The pain was surprisingly mild; I’d expected my nerves to put up more of a fight. Knowing my body was so accepting of this change made me smile. I was a blank canvas with unlimited potential.

I slept soundly with the hundreds of metal pieces occupying the saggy flesh. Each one was stretching the pore. Each one was making room for the next tool.

The following day, I swapped the first set of pins for the next, slightly-wider set. Again, there was little pain. I twisted each of the pieces around in lazy circles, allowing the motion to widen the spaces in which they’d been set. When I removed one of them to see if I was making any progress, the little hole stayed open. It was working.

Days went by as I repeated the process with wider and wider pins or needles. I was grateful for the loose skin. There was so much more room to work. After three weeks, the holes were the diameter of a pencil eraser. After two months, they were as wide as my pinky finger is thick. I’d reached the maximum size of my tools. It didn’t matter; I was done. I pulled the skin down to expose the holes. There were hundreds of dark, bloodless pits occupying the pores.

I’d never walked around the house with the holes exposed until that moment. The sensation of air against the nerves inside was indescribable. It was as if I’d grown a whole new body part that was feeling for the first time. How much more of me was trapped beneath the surface, deep in slumber, waiting to be awakened? I would have to wait to find out. There was so much left to do.

Mother Nature, in Her wisdom and beauty, had presented me with a wasp’s nest on the day I sought inspiration. I remember studying its pockmarked surface, each hole a beautiful, hexagonal prism. When I returned to the nest, it’d grown larger. I’d planned for this, though. I used smoke to nullify the majority of the adults as I took their home with me. Once there, I carefully cut the nest in half. The few angry wasps that remained were destroyed. I was after their children.

With great care, I smeared small bits of honey inside each of my new holes. Everything I’d read told me how much they loved it. Once the interiors were coated, I used a tweezers to tease the larval wasps from the papery cavities. They fit inside me so perfectly. Hours later, I was finished. I felt full. Every so often, one of them would wiggle inside. Pressed against the sensitive flesh within the pore, it was like the larvae were tickling me. I sat back and watched myself in the mirror, giggling as I admired the work of functional art I was becoming.

I’d have to wait nearly two weeks for the larvae to start spinning silk for their metamorphoses. I dutifully fed them honey as they grew fatter and more active, feeling them stretching the pores beyond the diameter to which I’d grown accustomed. The pain, while greater than I’d experienced before then, was still hardly a concern. It was all worth it.

While I waited, I studied my body to find the site for my next project. My belly was the most obvious, as it was the largest area and had the most loose skin, so it was what I chose. I didn’t want to use wasps again, though. If I was going to be a true piece of art, I wasn’t going to only use one subject. I found a picture of a beautiful frog that kept its eggs inside holes in its back. When they hatched, left behind a lovely, cratered surface. I was overcome by the beauty of it all and decided the frog would be my next featured piece.

I rushed to create the holes in my belly. In a burst of creative inspiration, I included my chest and the skin under my arms. Because of my excitement, I started with much thicker needles than I’d used on my chin. The pain was intense and blood poured from the sites, but the holes appeared quickly. After weeks spent dealing with complications and having to stretch cavities whose diameter decreased as the swelling and infection surrounding it increased, I felt the little cocoons in my neck start to hum. The larvae had spun their silk and sealed off their little homes many days ago. They were changing. So was I.

More days flew by as I grappled with the reality of how I wouldn’t be able to find the frogs in time before the new holes swelled to the point of being nearly shut. I was depressed for a day or so, but its curtain was lifted whenever the babies inside my throat hummed to me. During a particularly dark period of sadness, I noticed flies were landing in the areas of my body that’d been overcome by putrefaction. I’d given up my hope of featuring another piece of beautiful art and was taking consolation in the fact my throat and neck looked so lovely. So fertile.

As the flies gathered, though, I realized what they were doing. I pushed my fingers into the holes and pried them open. Deep within, writhing in the sludge at the bottom of each cavity, were tiny maggots. As tears ran down my eyes, I rushed to the mirror. The openings, while ugly, were still in a clean, symmetrical pattern. Was it all exactly what I’d intended? No. But was it better? There was no doubt. Not all art has to be perfect.

While I stared at my reflection, wondering what I could do next, I felt one of the cocoons hatching in my neck. Then another. And another. Joy overwhelmed me. I was giving birth. It was then I realized I wasn’t only an artist, but a parent. A true contributor of beauty to the world. My art hadn’t only imitated life – my art had created it.

More.
Unsettling Stories is on Facebook.