Archive for the 'Writing and Poetry' Category

Never Mind the Fool

Posted in Impressions, Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on February 15th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

:: :: ::

Senator Martin went in looking good. Her navy suit breathed power. She had put some starch on Gossage too.

Dr. Lecter sat alone in the middle of the room, in a stout oak armchair bolted to the floor. A blanket covered his straitjacket and leg restraints and concealed the fact that he was chained to the chair. But he still wore the hockey mask the kept him from biting.

Why? the Senator wondered. The idea had been to permit Dr. Lecter some dignity in an office setting. Senator Martin gave Chilton a look and turned to Gossage for papers.

Chilton went behind Dr. Lecter and, with a glance at the camera, undid the straps and removed the mask with a flourish.

“Senator Martin, meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter.”

Seeing what Dr. Chilton had done for showmanship frightened Senator Martin as much as anything that had happened since her daughter disappeared. Any confidence she might have had in Chilton’s judgment was replaced with the cold fear that he was a fool.

She’d have to wing it.

A lock of Dr. Lecter’s hair fell between his maroon eyes. He was as pale as the mask. Senator Martin and Hannibal Lecter considered each other: one extremely bright, the other not measurable by any means known to man.


The Silence of the Lambs

Thomas Harris, 1988

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Who hasn’t had a fool in their lives? In their desperate search for validation, these characters will command all they can, which on occasion will include our presence. But never mind the fool: in and of himself he is inconsequential. Sure they meddle and complicate things, and make no mistake, they can be destructive, but chaos is order ineffable: in facilitating encounters of all sorts they act as the catalyst for change. Much can be gained from being drawn from time to time to places where rules—particularly ours—are being broken. There, a great experiment is carried out both on our behalf and in spite of our efforts to stop it. The mistake most often made when wandering into a fool’s reach is attempting to draw conclusions from the experience before it’s time.

As for the fool himself, not much can be said other than everyone’s fares to the chaos are charged on his account. In The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris does us a sinister, yet amusing service, delivered perhaps more satisfyingly by the film than the novel. Chilton’s ultimate fate is our guilt and pleasure, leaning to the latter as it hints at a tantalizing possibility: a particular life form may experience a great deal of injustice during its existence, but the universe, in the end, balances itself out quite nicely.

With that thought, I leave you. I’m having an old friend for dinner…

Ta,
Angel Villanueva

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Notes on a Vampire

Posted in Dreams, Writing and Poetry on January 24th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

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There once lived a creature in the woodlandsome say a manwho lured children away from their adventures, and drowned them in a well. Hidden amidst the trees, it would watch as the villagers gathered for the mournful task of retrieving the lifeless little bodies from the cold darkness that claimed them, out into a sunlight cruel in its insistence on exposing every detail of the horror. It followed the trail of their grief to the cemetery, taking great pleasure in their rituals, in their attempts to cope with what couldn’t be coped with, the unjust passing of their innocent. For it was not the death of children that it sought, but the waking death of those who grieved them: its soul fed on the sorrows of the living.

::

Undead
You surface once again
But I have known you

You call your works the Children of the Spring
Children drowned
At the bottom of a well

Walk on
Spare me the vacuous inquiry of your stare
The treachery of your touch
The mimicry concealing rigor mortis
Of your signature approach

Spare me the tentacles of your deception
Spare me the righteousness of your reproach
The slithering dance of your tongue
Weaving a dazzling patchwork out of lies

Spare me the tedious record of your anguish
None for the better
The bait and switch
The concealed clockwork diligently ticking
Beneath the outward good of your intention

Spare me the horror
The murder of what’s good in those around you
You are a death heavier than any other
An end before the end

Cartography
The only cross I can lift up against you
The charting of a path which won’t cross yours
Is held up high

I know the blood of pain you cannot do with
Your talent is but one
To live from agony
Now let
The agony you live from
Be your own

Spare me the silent aggravation
Of witnessing your plunge

Back I say, back!

::

No longer hiding in forests, swamplands, or caves, today these creatures live in our midst, roaming the land in search for the child in us. In them lives on a predatory hunger, an urge that saw its dawn in a time long before ours. The one incantation holding sway against their lurid powers is distance.

Stay away from them, children, stay away…

~A.V.

25 Things About Me

Posted in Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on August 5th, 2009 by Angel Villanueva

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1. I was 11 years old when I understood, in its full magnitude, the burdensome paradox of having no foreseeable desire to listen to others yet always having to live in their world.

2. I am sometimes afraid of the places where my mind goes—self destruction lurks in the shadows. I’ve put measures in place to keep that in check but the knots slip at times. I fear madness may be in my future.

3. Ominous as that sounds, the mind ventures in the opposite direction just as frequently. I have moments of intense illumination that leave me absolutely breathless, to the point that it is difficult to reconnect with my immediate surroundings at will. I hope and pray something like that doesn’t catch me while driving a bus full of people.

4. Life as a flatline is not something I’m interested in. That doesn’t mean I’m committed to going out on a limb to provide myself with thrills at the expense of others (though I’ve been guilty of it, and I regret that, I truly do). What it means is that I strive to experience as much of the spectrum of human existence as my time and capacity will allow.

5. Yet I wish I never had to sleep, eat, talk, have sex… I wish I could exist as a disembodied mind with the ability to see and transform matter, so I could focus on what I’m here for.

6. I have an undying love for the beauty of the desert.

7. I wish I had discovered Ayn Rand as a teenager…

8. …because I understand reality as something that exists independently from the mind. Moreover, I think ultimate truth (the structure of things) is a multi-level, multi-dimensional affair, its reach spanning far beyond our perceptual and cognitive bandwidths. Short of the Einsteins of our kind—whom are/were limited in their own way—most of us can at most aspire to deal with aspects, dimensions, fragments of the whole, which is a recipe for eternal confusion, conflict, and suffering.

9. I am happiest when I’m thinking, alone, and figure something out.

10. I have more art projects in my sketchbooks and notes than I could possibly accomplish in a lifetime.

11. I am well aware of the fact that some (sometimes relevant) people find me troublesome and contradictory, as if undefined or not-quite present. I simply have no reliable way of sharing my internal structure, and fear that even if I could they wouldn’t understand.

12. My particular brand of wicked humor has connected me (personally) with more people than anything else about me.

13. I’ve explored self-perception issues by obsessively photographing myself nude in all sorts of settings… I’ve gotten some interesting results out of that but have yet to decide what to do with the images.

14. Because I think images, in that sense, are ultimately a cop-out.

15. I’ve internally declared war on various causes, systems, and people over time, but get bored halfway through the effort and never carry it out.

16. I think of knowledge as something to be consumed.

17. My hatred for television peaks anytime I’m exposed to Latin American telegarbage.

18. I find it easiest to be friends with people I admire in some way.

19. I find it easiest to love people who share their processes of self-discovery and self-creation with me.

20. My life unfolds in 11-year cycles. I took possession of myself at 11. It was like waking up. That’s how I divide my life now: pre-11, post-11. 22 was quite the year as well. I think I know exactly what will happen at 33.

21. When I was 12 years old, my mother fell ill and could no longer take care of us. This is how I learned to cook, iron my clothes, etc. Today I can iron a dress shirt in 90 seconds (I’ve timed myself!).

22. I used to create land art as a child, using rocks, twigs, and earth. I didn’t even know there was a term for it, or that anyone would care to see it. I just wanted to put my signature in the land, to bring an element of creative order to it in some way.

23. I grew up in rural Mexico, in the Baja California desert. We lived for years without electricity or running water. My grandmother had a water pump in the patio. Shoes were something we would only wear to school. In the summer I worked picking cotton or harvesting grapes in the fields, along with other kids from my school; I remember it was grueling work under a merciless sun, but also a great deal of fun. People bartered food and services all the time. We used to get citrus fruit, cucumbers and fresh milk from nearby farms. We always grew our own chickens and often harvested wild plants to eat. Life was a day-to-day survival process that required a direct connection with the land and the people around us. For all this, I am grateful. I cannot imagine what sort of dull creature I would have become had I grown in the urban conditions that are known to me today. I cannot imagine life as a child without that great open sky, nights ablaze with stars, the riverbank, and the creatures whose secret lives I came to know. To me, civilization was a set of human dwellings that could be traversed from end to end by foot in minutes… then there were the fields, and beyond, the vast expanse and mystery of the desert. I lived in an ideal world and was immensely happy.

24. This is not a ‘woe is me’ note, I’m actually quite content today. 🙂

25. And, as Frida Kahlo once said: “I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return.”

:: :: ::

Angel Villanueva
August 5, 2009
Claremont, CA

The City

Posted in Arts and Culture, Journal Entry, Photography, Writing and Poetry on April 25th, 2009 by Angel Villanueva

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The term urban grit, like most labels, functions as a kind of cognitive shorthand, a free admission pass to the claim of understanding what it describes. It has a faint ring of the inevitable, but it mostly conveys the notion of an evil that can be avoided through a careful routing of our experiences, should we be so fortunate.

The city resists this idea. From the loose debris unevenly coating the streets—a debris that includes human lives—to the steel and glass cages poised like great vessels in the sky, the city unfolds as a continuum, a tapestry with no clear edges. Urban grit as a realm is the result of a process, and it becomes integral to the world that cradles it. There will always be something occupying that space, and that something will always escape the boundaries of notion.

Like an interplanetary spacecraft, cutting across orbits, I traverse the city periodically and gather more data with each pass. Returning from each harvest, in the late hours of the night, I compare the readings in my memory with those captured by the lens. Rather than matching, they complement each other. A different picture emerges each time. It is like observing from the inside the ceaseless inner workings of a giant, undying organism, sprawled over the land. The city is far more than a structure: it is a living process… Its nature reveals the basic traits of the creatures that give rise to it and sustain it, and which it in turn sustains and consumes. The city is nature, in a different guise.

:: :: ::

I also find it useful to think of the city as a weather system. Here, currents meet and coalesce, sometimes becoming storms, sometimes merely dissipating in the night’s breeze. At any moment, a tenuous string may suggest itself between two entities, threading its way through the links between others.

:: :: ::

He’s following me, I think. Three blocks, four galleries, perusing some of the same artworks. Our eyes meet a few times. His are blue, intense or just cold I can’t say… No smile. Faces and voices around us become transparency and silence.

Strange alchemy.

I start to envision possible outcomes; including, why not, my lifeless remains in a body bag.

I recall a similar scenario, a lifetime ago it seems… It began in the desert , under a merciless sun, amidst a dense ocean of people. I think of that story and all that it meant.

I walk on.

:: :: ::

Louise Bourgeois: A Retrospective

Posted in Arts and Culture, Impressions, Writing and Poetry on October 30th, 2008 by Angel Villanueva

By Angel Villanueva

Image: Brian Morris for The Curve.

 

Sensuality, pathos, self-reflection, and humor all find their way into Louise Bourgeois’ sculptural expressions. Born in Paris in 1911, and familiar from a young age with the arts and crafts of her region, Bourgeois’ work spans seven decades, with many of her most iconic and telling works present in the exhibition Louise Bourgeois at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

The installation, rather than attempting a chronological narrative, clusters the works according to their material commonalities. Greeting visitors is a large-scale sculpture, a giant metal spider embracing one of Bourgeois’ self-enclosed constructions, which she calls cells. The work immediately establishes the artist’s strong affinity for material processes and the poetic redeployment of the particular significances of found objects. While walking around it, and within its legs, the sculpture unfolds as a revelation: the spider—a spinster, a crafty wonder of nature—acts as a protector around the cell, as if holding onto a precious and fragile egg sac. In the cell, wire, keys, thread, and other symbols, speak of treasures held in an intangible space, a deep niche of self-reflection in the artist’s mind, a place where memories and hopes can believe themselves safe from the prying eye of the outer world.

Other work clusters reveal the artist’s astonishing array of capacities: Bourgeois’ sculptural hand delivers soft marble forms resembling shapes in nature: the clouds, living creatures, parts of the human body. In their ambiguity, these entities tease the mind with hidden meanings and thoughts, offering no more than a sensual hint at the existence of such ideas. Her cells, constructed with linked doors, effectively transform points of entry into barriers. The resulting enclosed spaces contain yet another fragment of the artist’s negotiations with her memories and dreams. In a more representational series of material explorations, Bourgeois presents us with human figures engaged in various identifiable yet mysterious—even disturbing—activities: hysteria, illness, sex, perhaps death.

Overall, the exhibition invites the viewer’s mind to connect with the artist’s past and psyche, using shared experience as a translator for what is ultimately an alien perspective on life, and the world it unfolds in.

On view at MOCA Grand Avenue, October 26, 2008 through January 25, 2009.
250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
For more information please visit www.moca.org .

Lamento

Posted in En Español, Writing and Poetry on April 12th, 2008 by Angel Villanueva

:: :: ::
La carga de recuerdos apilados
A lomos de mi cuerpo y armadura
Aunados a la percepción que augura
A esta triste figura de Cervantes
Quijote de los ánimos andantes
Los puntos suspensivos de futura
La contraportada de un recuento
Caerá como las últimas de otoño
Las hojas que arrastradas por el viento
Son el cadáver de lo que fue un retoño

Me siento aquí, a la orilla de este lago
Arde en mis pupilas un lamento
En rachas de injusticia me deshago
Extracto de dolor es el momento
Que no hay más que este eterno desconsuelo
Que no hay más que memorias de una risa
Y sombras que se arrastran por el suelo
Presagios del gran buitre que aterriza
Que sobre mi cadáver se aposenta
Que sobre mi silencio se derrama
Que a través del hilván de otra violenta
Mercenaria inquietud me desinflama
Mis ímpetus se lleva para siempre
Hacia la noche eterna que me aguarda
Cuando cante emplumada la serpiente
Cuando en vano fulgor el hielo arda
Cuando en el horizonte se halle un hueco
Cuando no quede más que otra emboscada
Punto final donde se extingue el eco
Martirio errático de la jornada

Allá esperaré como si nada
A que me alcance rapaz pero sin prisa
Vejez o enfermedad inesperada
Eventualidad que me desprenda
De este fugaz regalo que he bebido
Que he tocado, masticado y escupido
Libertad en que me hallo sumergido
Existencia del todo planetaria
Del todo efímera, del todo agraria
Burlesca incomprensible e insensible
Merodeante y retórica, insensata
De todo y de nada predecible
Alegórica y bruja enajenada
Aquella lágrima tornasolada
Que en la faz de una verde hoja se posa
Y que al evaporarse me destroza
Me desgrana y se lleva mi alborada
Mis esperanzas en la madrugada
En el momento en que el cielo se hace negro
Segundo en que el olvido me suplanta
Sobre el desierto el polvo se levanta
Y la rugosa opacidad del viento
Sin cantar, ni mentir, me vuelve nada

~A.V.

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Minotaur

Posted in Dreams, Writing and Poetry on February 6th, 2008 by Angel Villanueva

:: :: ::

I emerge into a night in the remote past.

Something smoky and acrid about the place, as if everything had been replicated correctly except the smell: the scent makes me think of an industrial plant. I expected antiquity to smell dry and dusty, like an ancient scroll pulled from a cave by the Dead Sea.

I am not part of the tableau. Perhaps I am merely a set of eyes in a fresco on the wall.

It is a bar, a meeting place for men. It is very dark in spite of the torches, as if the light had to fight its way through liquid. Tall wooden stools and tables, stone floors and pillars. The space is long and narrow and mostly empty. There are maybe a dozen patrons, all of them young Olympian athletes. Their bodies are muscular and graceful, bare under short sleeveless robes, feet clad in sandals. They lounge about the space, their youth and the outlaw nature of the place evident in their air of nervous uncertainty. They do not speak. They are not here for each other.

When he walks in, the space becomes charged with tension, a silent mix of terror and fascination running through the young men. He moves with the destructive self-confidence of a volcano, all thunder and internal fire, his stride the summation of masculine arrogance. With casual calculation, he takes the center spot.

He is far more massive than them, all biceps, pectoral muscles, and giant thighs. His legs are dark, and they are lost into the dark below. The head is monstrous: a bull head made of shadow, his face is shadow, and like shadow it reflects nothing back. Around the pinpoints of light in his eyes the silhouette of it is a vacuum of darkness, more a portal to oblivion than the head of a bull. The set of curved horns at his crest end in sharp tips, their glossy surface increasingly coarser as it approaches the thick root, a handlebar of death, so strong and solid it could probably break through the very rock walls that enclose us in the night.

The Minotaur is here to pick up dinner.

He could have all of them right here, but he prefers to play with his prey. Both hunter and bait, he waits for them to approach him: he knows their fascination will eventually outweigh their fear. And they are all visibly mystified, although caution keeps them at a distance. “Not for long,” seems to be his thought, as his head turns from one meaningless detail of the place to the next. It is fascinating to watch that massive bovine head move so gracefully, so unified, so effortlessly supported by that great dark neck protruding from human shoulders.

To any of the young men, approaching the beast would mean certain death, but his magnetic allure makes them want to believe otherwise. Soon, one of them will give in, come close enough, and be swept off into the night, never to return.

But not tonight.

The newcomer walks in with a difference kind of confidence: the confidence of purpose. He is oddly dressed for the setting: he wears dark pants and a sort of vest made of black leather straps, a garment clearly meant to hold weapons. He is very pale, his head is clean shaven and there is a stern look on what would otherwise be a handsome face. He is also muscular, more than the young men, but not as large as the beast. His arms are covered in symbols, the shapes outlined with remarkable precision against the white skin. There is a contained energy to his movements that reveals training.

He stops a few feet from the beast. The Minotaur turns to face him, and freezes… it is impossible to know what thoughts are forming in the deep, dark nebula behind the pinpoints of light.

When the man speaks, the anger in his voice is the first sound to pierce the silence of the night:

“I knew I’d find you here, you goddamn floozy! Get in the car!”

:: :: ::

Silence

Posted in Dreams, Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on April 11th, 2007 by Angel Villanueva

:: :: ::

The children had been missing for four years. One day they showed up at their parent’s front door, as if nothing had happened.

They will not speak at all.

As we enter the experimental facility I am puzzled by the presence of multiple polyglass walls defining an enclosure that extends beyond my field of vision.

I am part of a team, three other people walk in with me: a doctor, a psychologist, and a reporter. I am the artist. We will each evaluate the children, then our reporter will compile our findings and submit them to the powers that be.

We turn a corner and the kids’ enclosure comes into full view: the girl is about twelve years old, the boy eight or nine. Their glass prison is filled with toys and comfortable furniture, just like a normal living room, here awash in clinical light. There are cameras and massive banks of electronic equipment beyond the transparent walls.

I wonder what the reason is for keeping the children in a bulletproof cage.

The boy sits on the carpeted floor. His eyes are fixed on me. As I am cleared to enter the glass enclosure I recognize him.

Years back, before his disappearance, we played with crayons and paper at someone’s house, at some sort of gathering, perhaps a birthday party. We doodled and colored farmhouses, mountains, trees, cattle, flowers, birds… I remember he was perfectly articulate and extremely bright.

He stands up and goes to a corner, where he keeps a box and a big sketchpad. He takes them and walks back, sits where he was before, and looks at me again. It’s almost a command. I walk over and sit next to him. He opens the box: it is full of crayons. He then finds a blank page in the sketchpad. He does not invite me to draw with him. Instead, he picks a crayon without even looking to see what color it is, and gives me a look that can only mean: Are you paying attention?

I realize with a chill that he is about to tell me, in drawings, what happened to them during those four years.

::

That’s it. That’s when I woke up. My subconscious mind often weaves these mysteries and then catapults me back to daylight without an answer. It somehow feels perversely planned… I tried falling back asleep, concentrating as much as I could on the last image in the dream, but of course that would not happen. Nothing left to do but write the vision down before it faded into nothingness.

~A

:: :: ::

The Magic Lamp

Posted in Writing and Poetry on April 5th, 2007 by Angel Villanueva

::

“I wish to make something clear…”

The Genie, lacking the time or desire to wait for further instructions, granted the man the ability to make gelatinous, transparent turds.

The End.

::

The Great Flood

Posted in Dreams, Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on April 3rd, 2007 by Angel Villanueva

:: :: ::

Claremont is flooded. I don’t understand how this happened. I am chest-deep in water under a deeply overcast sky. All that is left of the Claremont Village are fragments of buildings protruding from the waters. Even the trees are gone. There are other people walking around in the water at some distance, here and there, each of them lost in a search. The mountains have disappeared as well. I am in the middle of an endless ocean, the silver smooth surface of the water extending as far as the eye can see in every direction, a liquid horizon all around. I recognize the archipelago of dilapidated ruins around me as the Claremont Colleges, ironically self-proclaimed Islands of Beauty, now nothing more than piles of rubble surrounded by a silent sea.

I start walking through the water, not sure of where I’m going. I am near the partially collapsed shingle roof of what was once a church, fragments of its once quaint wooden architecture now dark with moisture, the ruins of a spire sticking miserably out of the water like a forgotten hope. To my surprise, as I walk by it, I find my dog. Rose swims out through an opening in the broken spire to meet me. She is as happy to see me as I am to see her, swimming circles around me in joy. Her radiant whiteness is a welcome and uplifting sight in this grayscale nightmare. I don’t want her to swim away so I hold her. She feels big in my arms when I restrain her, but she stays there paddling the water softly and does not try to get away.

People call out to me from a distance, waving their hands. I hear them but there is a strange, muffled and increasingly louder noise in the air drowning out their voices. I tilt my head to hear better, try to decipher what they are screaming, but I can’t make out the words. The noise is turning into a roar. One terrified-looking man points to the north. I turn to see what he’s pointing at, and find my emotions flattened by awe…

Spanning the entire horizon, an immense wall of water approaches, shining like an enormous ripple on a sheet of polished steel. It is a tsunami of epic proportions, the likes of which humanity has never seen. I can see foam flying off its crest and sea birds riding the air wave in front of it as it gets closer, covering more and more of the sky every second. The realization is instantaneous: the endpoint of my human fate, the moment of complete annihilation, is here, and there is no escaping from it. Even if I survived the force of the crush, I could never swim my way to the surface in the chaos that will follow. I comprehend this so readily and on such a profound level that I accept it instantly. Death is on its way, and its utter inevitability leaves me at peace to enjoy the wondrous sight of its arrival.

But the dog in my arms has a different idea.

Rose’s eyes are fixed on the oncoming wave. It does not scare her. She is focused, determined. Suddenly I feel like I am looking at her for the very first time, and as I do, I am reminded of her true nature. Rose is a Labrador, a fisherman’s dog thinly disguised as a pet, a tight 70 pounds of lean muscle, head like a seal, tail like an otter, wrapped in a waterproof coat and equipped with the same webbed feet that enabled her distant Northern ancestors to swim tirelessly through freezing waters, making their way across tangled roots and floating seaweeds, helping their masters to drag fishing nets ashore. Rose, St. John’s dog, hears her genes calling out to her in the moment of truth and eagerly responds in kind. Her waterdog paws tread the water in nervous anticipation, like a racehorse held at the gate. Hold onto me, I’ll get us through this. The realization is at once surprising, humbling, and deeply moving. Tears cloud my vision as the truth of the moment is revealed: Rose is here to save my life.

Deafened by the approaching roar of the tsunami, I hold onto Rose, take a deep breath, and wait for the crush.

:: :: ::

From the Dream Journal
April 3, 2007