Leah Tyus, BFR Staff

Leah

Who is the artist behind this piece? Is the individual male or female? What ethnicity? If we were to imagine that individual’s story, what might it be? How would their tale unfold? Regardless of the artist you’ve envisioned, it’s important to consider how our conception of an artist comes into formation.

If I told you the artist is a twenty-six year old African American male, with the physique of a D-line football player, would you believe me? Well, guess what? The artist is all those things plus more. What’s astonishing is how few people would associate such artistry with the true artist. Our preconceptions of what and who constitutes the art world lend themselves to biases. These biases have the potential to be detrimental as they impose pre-judgments. We allow our perceptions to create a limited normality.

Our faceless artist is named Julian.

Birthed within a name is the individual’s personality. Julian possesses a story that reveals his particular journey as an artist. He and other artists are more than fantasized ideas because they are living, breathing individuals. Because Julian does not fit within the societal norm of who an artist aught to be, does that make him any less of one? Have we considered how biases limit success for an artist? Doesn’t Julian deserve to be recognized for his artistry rather than an ability to perpetuate an artist stereotype?

I precaution us all to remember the impact our preconceptions have on artists. Let us not be limited in our understandings but become expansive in our thinking. Let us dismantle our concept of the idealized artist to that of the totality of the artist.

*Art by Julian Tyus

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Andrew Caughey, BFR Editorial Staff

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I’m not much of an artist—or really, any of an artist. I can’t draw, can barely read my own handwriting, and if I paint it looks like a bird took a technicolor shit. But I like Photoshop—the files, clicking, filters: it’s technical, but meritocratic.

Here, I’ve copy-pasted the first lines from Radiohead’s Faust Arp over a rainbow made from a lite-brite, the Sistine Chapel, and ultra-pixelated drawing from a movie poster from Faust.

Madeline Johnson, BFR Staff

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Oh what soft sweet merriment

That carries with it such a beauteous glint

In the hearts of all those who feel its wonder

To cross their paths to make them ponder

On the love that dwells

In their souls as deep as wishing wells

Upon silken soft delight

Oh these creatures of the light!

Reflected loveliness

Within those fledgling nests

Bedded down amongst the downy feathers

Shed by loving mothers and fathers.

Protection sweetness love and wonder,

Dwells within the heart and yonder.

The soul that carries such a beauteous glint

Oh such soft sweet merriment.

Rachel Lew, BFR Staff

The trees are wet. Joey can see this through the small window of his room. For hours he has been roving, mentally, across the moist pavement and stilled cars outside. The sun is rising now, dragging itself out of its bed of clouds; soon its malignant rays will be creeping up his wrinkled sheets. Picture this: innocent Joey, helpless, the light exposing his soft shoulders, curved in meek avoidance of the other inert singularity under his blankets.

A decidedly female singularity.

He has not turned to Harper for hours, and does not do so now. Instead, lying on his side with his knees drawn to his chest like a dead beetle, he has been tracing mournfully in his head an image of her slim self. Reflexively, the voice of his art teacher guides him:

Let us start at the feet.

One curved white sole forms on his imaginary canvas, crinkled and tucked under a smooth calf.

Begin by fleshing out the light and the dark.

There is something both intimate and disgusting about bare feet. On one hand they remind Joey of public bathrooms at the pool, of slippery film accumulating on tiles; on the other, they are beautiful things in the realm of art, and make Joey think of old ivory statues, of new bars of soap, of a bowl of rich milk sitting on a table.

The toes of the other foot: creamy white dots, poking out tentatively from under pale haunches. Very good, says Mr. Meyer.

If only he could conceive this on a real drawing pad!

But Joey cannot wield even a charcoal stick with grace, let alone a paintbrush. After weeks of steady instruction, the marks on his paper are insistently large, dark, and awkward; no amount of lessons on perspective or shadow seem to have reformed his hand. Even Mr. Meyer, equipped with the blind faith of a young teacher, has become less generous in doling out encouragement to Joey.

Perhaps he has become disappointed in Joey. Indeed, even the most exuberant of instructors require the occasional verification from their student: a successful imitation, an independent epiphany—at the very least, verbal acknowledgement of the mentoring effort. But reciprocation has always eluded Joey.

The rest of his teachers have learned to ignore him. Joey is perfectly fine with this. In any case he is not the sort to raise his hand in class; the exchanges between question and answer happen too quickly to allow for the pauses between his utterances.

Despite what his teachers think, Joey is not deaf. In their voices he can discern not only the meaning of the words they speak so readily, but also certain sympathetic undertones and the leaden march of speech reserved for the uncommonly stupid. Yet, slow he may be, but not stupid—he only needs time to practice the purse of his lip, the lift of his tongue; each word must ripen before it is borne into the air. This his teachers do not understand. They catch him mouthing syllables and rush to his rescue with careful enunciations, hoping to wipe up the sentence before it dribbles down his chin. Unfortunately it is a dynamic that goes not unobserved by his classmates.

“Joey. Joey-Joey-Joey.”

“Coo-ee!”

“Fatty-says-what?

they whisper, trying to get him to utter the hallmark of the hearing-impaired.

Joey has tried to gratify them in the past. Each time, it has ended poorly; each time, he has imagined that if he is to give them one word, it will be the most articulate, scathing monosyllable that anyone has ever pronounced; whipping his head around, he will deliver it like a blow, and they, unfortunate animals, will be shocked into their own silence. Naturally, when he does turn around in his seat, he is so furious that the word comes out in funny puffs: “Wh-wh—wh—”; his classmates, capitalizing on his likeness to a heavy freight train, only burst into further mockery.

“Look at him!”

“Look at how red he is!”

From fleshy canals in his head the heat spreads; his hands creep up and cover his ears, lest they begin to spout fire. What a self-conscious dragon he is, more agitated by the sound of their laughter than the cause of it. Ugly laughter! he thinks. Unseemly, large-mouthed, like the monstrous approximations of people that blossom on his sketching-pad. And yet he makes little effort to prevent future episodes like these. Such unattractive details of his life he is only too willing to hide from others; for the sake of their own ears he stuffs them deep in cerebral folds, camouflaging them, with a sort of sick delight, amongst the couch-debris of his brain (dimes, hair-clips, crumbs, oh my!).

Elva Bonsall, BFR Staff

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While it’s easy to forget stories, their details, characters, and perhaps even the imagery so painstakingly created for the page, it’s unnervingly difficult to forget the impression it leaves upon you. Cold, slippery, and often creeping into your thoughts long after the story itself has been filed away and stored in memory, old emotions from stories often appear to the reader in different forms.

Miserable, lost, and fed up with underpowered technology, I once happened upon this little house, deep in the woods somewhere in a countryside far away. There’s no joy in being lost. Nothing wonderful about being late and out of place, either. And while consumed with hunger, disorientation, and a general aura of grumpiness I stumbled halfway up a muddy hill and found this tiny, tiny home.

While it’s easy to forget stories, it’s hard to forget the emotions behind them; what first connects someone to a page. Seeing this tiny house, I was no longer miserably lost but in one of the fairytales that was read to me as a kid. A sense of place from a small piece of literature I had read long ago made finding a random shack, far away from my intended destination, a magical and special happening. My emotional connection to this sense of place from a story meant I was no longer lost, and instead needed a picture to remember it by.

By Georgia Peppe, BFR Editorial Staff

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This charcoal and ink drawing was inspired by Frank O’Hara’s poem, “Lana Turner Has Collapsed.” I had always loved the poem, and was inspired to draw this image when my English GSI this semester said O’Hara was one of her favorite poets. This poem had always haunted me, especially as someone who grew up in Hollywood, California, the place where Turner finally crumbles. I had always imagined a crashing to the floor, a crumpling occurring simultaneously with a curling up into a fetal position. Either way, this collapse is very disorienting to the reader considering that people remain upright for the majority of the day and that with the exception of sleeping, our verticalness somehow embodies both our humanity (animals remain on all fours) and liveliness. O’Hara profits off this association and presents the glamorous Lana Turner who has collapsed and lays there as the poem ends with an address of “get up, we love you.”

Marie Maier, BFR Staff

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When you spend your days following train tracks, the past of your surroundings is unveiled quietly, laid out around you. The tracks run through the land, the ones safe to explore, or safe enough anyway, don’t lead to your future; they are a sidewalk for window-shopping through the past. You can follow and follow the paths that have been trail-blazed by others, without seeing anyone. But the remnants are there. The marks left by the ones crazy enough to have gone where you are now. The ones that started this hidden-treasure, hide-and-seek game. The tracks stretch on for a mind-numbing forever, they lead to the secrets that the earth holds. You have to follow them to find your way there and home. But maybe the tracks are your home.

Looking for new outlets for your writing or art? Check out Synchronized Chaos!  They are an international monthly web magazine welcoming submissions of all genres of writing as well as visual art.

They especially welcome those contributors who may not yet have found a home for their work in the publishing world, who prefer the process of creating to the process of selling and promoting their work.

Find them online at www.synchchaos.com and people may submit work to synchchaos@gmail.com. They’ve got a ton of unique poetry, travel essays, and visual art–a bit of something for everyone.

Sync Chaos blog
Sync Chaos blog