the rule of thirds
Alisha Bose | Art by Catherine Li
on and on and on, trapped in a vicious cycle of painting and hating his work and painting over it again, but what else is there to do? he would go crazy if he had to stare at blank walls any longer, if he had to stare at his godforsaken paintings any longer, if anything in his suffocating room stayed the same for more than three minutes. it is the rule of thirds: break the work up, two lines up, two lines down, frame the painting in the middle and no, that’s not right at all. keep shifting it to the right till it’s center, keep reshaping and redoing it because it’s not perfect yet, yes, it will be perfect soon, he just has to keep going on and on and on.
you deserve this.
could you argue that anyone deserves to be dead within a painting, to throw your soul into the canvas, to only ever think of the art? to be like Sisyphus and be so close to the peak but never reach the top? to be like Eve and told not to eat what’s in reach? to be like Dorian Gray and ruin yourself for Beauty? but he’s already ruined himself, for reasons far worse than Beauty. a thirst for Beauty can be justified, he thinks. actions stirred by anger can only hurt other people, and yes, he has hurt other people, hurt them to the point where they barely resemble people and are more like little dolls with glassy eyes and bodies that one can convolute in any which way (legs pulled up to the neck, arms reaching all the way around, all easy feats when one doesn’t have any bones in the way), and when he is forced to sit in silence and stare at his paintings and redo them over and over and over until it all comes back to him and he thinks, yes, perhaps those people who wanted him locked away are right.
he smiles when he remembers there is a running joke with the guards that he must have been an artist in his past life, but he remembers in his rare bouts of consciousness that as a child he had hated art. there was no practical use for it and he had always thought of himself to be methodical, orderly, without need for materialistic things. arrange his tasks in groups of three, keep a small friend group of three, take care of his three cats (and if he had accidentally let out one of the four kitties to get run over, well, it was all for the sake of order). it isn’t that he can paint well at all. there are simply too many images in his head and he wants them out, out, out so he finds his solace in splattering them on the wall. besides, art is subjective, and it is impossible not to admit that his earlier works were all gorgeous, especially in death. he has not seen anyone as exquisite in a very long time (you deserve this) and the guards always have black masks on with eyes cast down—ha! maybe they are scared of being infected by him, but there is no need for fear, no, his affliction is grown, not caught. no mirrors are allowed, though there is no need for him to see himself anyways. yes, there is no need to see human figures to paint his visions because those people are not human in his eyes. he draws them as blobs, as red paint with yellow eyes (eyes are windows to the soul, no?), and once he deconstructs them, well, they aren’t human anymore at all.
the warden doesn’t like his paintings but he is forced to give him the privilege of using the walls as his canvas because he had asked oh so nicely and the behavioral specialist had thought of the process as ‘healing.’ still, on the days that visitors come in and he is shepherded to another room, he knows that the janitor is painting over his work and covering it with white (one can still see traces of his art underneath but the purpose is to give Dale County Prison an aura of purity). as if Dale was anything but filthy and ruined and stinking with pungent odors, but he gets it. easier to pretend everything is okay than own up to what is wrong, easier to add a touch of glitter to cover the part you messed up on, easier to cover her lower body with a blanket than see her dismembered legs. he gets it.
you deserve this.
he is an artist who will never run out of ideas because is always reliving the moments he wants to paint, and he remembers them in such detail that it will never be a problem that he has been in solitary confinement for fifteen years and seen no one and nothing. one moment he will be painting the yellow taxi where he committed his first act of art, and then the next he will be capturing the likeness of a tiny foot in a pink sock, mixing red and white and purple to get that exact shade of pink and yes. he is an artist.