This is an edit of the original Estranged Mrs. Pollock, incorporating some of the lessons I’ve learned during my first year as an MFA student.
The knife never left her hand as she traced with it through the air. It was her tool of choice when creating what was, admittedly, an odd sort of art. While she had understood art as being a means of starting a dialogue on the world between the creator and the witnesser, she found that hers was mostly a private matter, and its expression was not meant to create discourse but to create a life force. She wanted more than just the spectacle of the exhibition, the sort of contrivance that tapped into the “decency” of like-minded people. She wanted fear, for only through its use as an ink, and by splattering it across the great canvas of the world, did she truly feel capable of expressing what it was she that felt.
This “paint” was of course difficult to come by unless one had an unwilling—and unknowing—subject. For her, this meant luring men with the promise of a quick and intimate liaison. Her current guest, whom she had acquired in this manner, had allowed himself to be tied to the vertical board beside her easel under the assumption that he was sating an obscure, personal fetish of hers. But now he was quite scared, as the knife she held had little purpose in normal sexual encounters, or at least that was generally the understanding. He tried to object to her knifed presence but was unable to release more than a muffled croak from his gagged mouth. She smiled in response, but never said a word.
Striding forward she began by swishing the knife before her, like a serpent dancing to a piper. She watched his eyes intently as they bulged to enormous proportions, jabbing quickly when the blade was close enough to just caress his body. As he squirmed against the ties she pulled back and with one, grand movement of her body slashed violently and elegantly through the air around him, careful not to actually cut him. It was in this moment that she could first feel her art coming to fruition, the fear being tangible enough for her to plunge head first into.
If she were to be asked, she might say she could see the fear. She believed that the trademark of a good artist was the ability to feel beyond the senses, to see what others could not see, and thereby translate the foreign, and perhaps incomprehensible, into something consumable as a human being. While she did not have an audience, per se, she knew that she was releasing something unique into the world, adding to a vast worldly experience that was only perceptible in small bits. This was how she wished to express herself. It was not for her, or for him, or for anyone else. It was for the world.
Her guest, shaking violently in his ties, continued to stare at her with wide eyes. How grotesque this all must have appeared to him, this constant toying and prodding. He must have concluded that she had some deep perversion, a base desire to exert control over a man in his last moments. Of course she had no desire to see his blood. Her art was born of fear, and a dead man, no matter how fearful he once was, was useless to her. She could not help but smile at the thought of his naïveté, and of how men were all the same in their understanding of emotions and women. They were superficial creatures, easy to manipulate and to entertain, this perhaps being why she always chose them over women.
She stood back momentarily, attempting to envelop herself in his fear and, mentally retracing the movements of her arms and the knife, trying to feel the invisible wake those movements left in the air. She pictured how her movements painted invisible lines and arcs, each one displacing her subject’s fear like blood bursting from an artery. It was this unseen ripping and splattering that she imagined truly breathed life into the world and added to its richness.
A quiet sob brought her attention back to the man. Once again she thrust herself into her steady cadence, lifting her arms and the knife skywards, then slowly snaking them through the air in a downward motion. She began to weave a figure eight but quickly changed to a less structured movement. What she needed, what she wanted, was something newer, something more naturalistic in occurrence, and so what followed was more haphazard. The knife, rising once again, moved freely, making grand arcs and sharp turns, tearing through the fear-riddled air. It sashayed and pirouetted, twisting along its longitudinal axis and flying lazily too and fro. The man squirmed and squealed through it all, his only focus being the knife and its cutting properties rather than the movements.
The confluence of her sublime gestures and the man’s emotions excited her. She imagined that without her movements her art was lacking in existential merit. Indeed, it was through her displacement of the fear that she saw her truth conveyed to the world. Otherwise the fear would stagnate, as would her art, making her as central to the process as her muse. Feeling her chest swell with pride, she once again strode forth and resumed her work.
This time she stood on her toes, and letting her arms—and the knife—dangle loosely at her side, she twirled about herself gleefully, becoming a vortex that caught his fear and spiraled it to the heavens. Her hands rose gradually until they were finally at their apex, and then with a brisk hop she landed firmly in a powerful half-squat. She followed this by heaving forward with a yell, one met with a muffled yelp from her guest. Needling the air with her knife she thrust her arms out behind herself and, with one final gasp, allowed her entire body to fall backwards to the ground. There she remained, feeling her art swirl about her with each breath she took.
It was done, and she knew that from there she could take her leave. She sat up and looked at the terrified man before her, studying his forcibly arrayed body as it quivered helplessly. She would leave him as he was, to be found by someone else and with the hope that he might do her work justice once he was free, conveying to the world the great masterpiece that she had created. She would not truly know what her art would effect, but she knew that in some small way it would live on.