a wooden vagina, simple masculinity, and the foundation of ideas

I’m currently working on making mantel versions of my piece “the ineffective ways we choose to measure time”. You can see the test of the first one here: http://markvonrosenstiel.posthaven.com/cock-first-run. (Also: “mantel version” refers to the fact that this version is more mobile than the original, which seems to imply to me that, as a timepiece, the mantel would be an appropriate place for it to live. I’m planning on making a wearable wrist version soon). 

I decided I really wanted to make a his and hers version of the piece, so I started working on a wooden vagina. This is the reason why I found myself watching the sun rise this morning on the roof of the building where my studio is, angle grinder in hand, getting a vagina to appear out of a block of wood. And as I sat there in the sun (realizing how hard it is to find a vagina in a block of wood, even after I had previously sculpted one in clay to figure out all the bits and pieces. My clay endeavor was accompanied by internet research and I have to say that finding anatomical pictures of a vagina on the internet is actually a somewhat difficult thing, given that they are awash in a sea of porn.) I started to think about how different it is as a piece to have a vagina versus a penis hitting a rock.

I don’t think it’s really even important to talk about the concept of the original piece, but if I think about the act of a wooden vagina hitting a rock, versus a wooden penis hitting a rock, the first seems so much more complex than the second. (These next sentences very much illustrate how I, at this particular moment, thought about relationships of men to their cocks, versus women to their vaginas. I guess what I’m saying is I’m not making these statements as some general statements. They’re just the things flying through my head while I’m carving a vagina on a roof in the sun.) Sitting there, flap sanding disc spinning away, it occurred to me that seeing a wooden vagina hitting a rock made me think about almost the exact opposite thing that the wooden penis did. 

A wooden vagina hitting a rock seems to say to me “if only it was just as simple as this”, where the wooden penis says, “fuck, I act like it’s as simple as this”. Vaginas (see Jamie McCartney’s piece if you really want to marvel at all the different vaginas out there), and how I hear women talk about their vaginas, are tied to so much more than a penis is. Or, more precisely, they are tied to a larger array of things outside of sex. I guess I can’t always choose what the thing I make is about. The concept jumps out of the box. See that? A pun.

And there is a last piece to this. Before settling on a vagina, I was going to carve a woman’s torso, with legs spread. I realized a bit of time into this process that this representation of a vagina, attached to a body, really started to change the meaning of the piece (because it was attaching the vagina to a unidentifiable, yet present, woman), and that it started to take on a meaning that was pretty fucking awful. So I thankfully scrapped that before it got too far along. But there was a silver lining in that I’d never carved/sculpted a woman’s torso before. And man-oh-man is the area where the butt, hip and quad come together on a woman a fucking Ferrari of lines. 

Friends that are in art school talk about studying anatomy and I’ve always thought it was sort of silly: diving into a very scientific set of ideas when all they were doing was drawing something that they can physically see. But as I was sitting trying to get the curve of a hip, to match into the plane of the butt, while still taking into account the quad, I was perplexed. I was looking at the image of the woman on my computer screen, and fixating on a line that ran along her ab and down onto the inside of her quad, which is visibly there, but as I took it to be my point of reference, everything else got all wonky. And then it dawned on me how the muscle of the quad slides up and over to the outside of the hip (medical people, don’t go crazy here. I know this is sorta maybe not exactly how it works, but just think about how you would drive along from muscle to muscle, if you were a racecar, and then you will be pleasantly on the same page as me). It’s like I was trying to draw a cursive “s” and then “a” by drawing half of the “s”, and then all of the “a", before jumping back to finish the “s”. A total mess. But once I could see in my head the muscle and how it attached into the butt and how the abs came down, it was so easy to picture all the planes coming together. And sculpting the body got to be bliss.

And it made me think that a woman’s hip is sort of like a hypothesis for a theory of how part of the world works. I could come up with lines that I thought were important to describe how all the planes of skin came together, but they were difficult to use, and didn’t seem to bring the being, the hip, into some sort of simplicity. But with the lines that the muscle groups revealed, the being, the hip, became so simple. So next time I’m trying to figure out some structure in the world and I find myself at a loss, I’m going to think of the little spot where a woman’s hip, butt, and quad come together. It is an illuminating spot.

Oh. And the hers version is titled, “sorry, I thought you were going to cum too”.

preying mantis looking for samba partner

Anyone who has known me in or before college is surprised by the fact that I now love dancing. It’s not that I was bad at dancing (which I was… I had NO rhythm or sense of movements which in anyway complimented a song’s structure), but more that I honestly hated the sense of participating in a group of people who were all watching each other do the same thing. I remember being 12 or so at my aunt's wedding and when she told me “Come on! Dance!”, my response was “How?” I remember looking at a sea of people, all who were sort of doing a similar thing, and wondering where they all got their notes from. How did they all know what they were supposed to be doing? I didn’t. (It is not necessary to note, but worthwhile to mention, that there was a large animatronic rhino in the corner of the room.)

Who knows how my movements work out these days, if they’re good or bad, but I’m like a bird flying blindly into a window over and over again; I feel strongly a sense of direction and I head that way. Regardless of glass.

In Budapest, there seems to be a shortage of men who just like to dance. The vibe on a dance floor is of a bunch of vampires scanning a room for prey; bulky men or men wearing too much axe body spray or something that smells like someone shoplifting from a Sephora only to trip during his escape and face plant in the parking lot among 1000 small cologne samples. 

I get asked if I’m a “homo” a lot, but not in an inquisitive anthropological way, but a way which seems to imply that my masculinity was checked with the many umbrellas by the door. And I always wonder in those moments, what the game plan is of the man asking me. Is he a closeted man, hoping that me — in large woman’s sunglasses and bright tank top — would possibly blow him in the bathroom? Or (and, this is, I believe, is the true reason) is he bolstering his masculinity by questioning MY masculinity? Luckily I’m tall and sometimes laugh like I’m completely insane, so it’s easy for me to disarm these situations. I just make a flying bird motion with both of my hands, yell “DOVE!” (it’s a bird of peace), start laughing manically, and begin to chase my imaginary bird. No one usually makes many follow ups after that.

But there are moments in places like this where I have danced with a woman and created a moment that is pure bliss. The moment before a kiss. The moment before walking to their apartment. This moment involves movements that look like a preying mantis cartoon walking through space or trying to catch a frisbee with his feeble arms. Or the woman and me trading overly large smiles, while the other one picks at their teeth like a dentist. Two people in a glorious forgotten moment. A moment, that when it stops, finds us surrounded by a room of perplexed people; perplexed people who wish they were dentists, too, for a moment.

I guess my point is, that dancing is sometimes better than fucking. Way better.

when silly flirting actually reveals something better.

A while back I was in a bar and a woman started talking to me. She was pretty and had an easy laugh and she asked me about my family. I told her a bit about my parents and then said about my sister, “she’s a more beautiful, better version of me”. At the time I think I thought it was disarming and charming, which let’s be honest, it was, but I’ve caught myself over the past year or so, always describing my sister like that to people that don’t know her. My little line that I thought was so clever, is actually just the truth. My sister and I were both blessed in our lives in many ways. I think the goodness that I could be, though, is ruined by the fact that I can get so caught up thinking about myself. My sister on the other hand, takes all these talents, wisdom, empathy, and love and shares them without really thinking about it. Her generosity is an extremely moving thing to watch in any of the relationships she has. 

Where I get stuck obsessing, she readily moves forward.

And it makes me want to hide letters to her about how much I love her. Because the idea that she should open any door, window, or drawer, and find a letter that marvels and rejoices in who she is, is almost better than her actually getting a letter from me.

Some people get described as forces; forces of nature. It implies a dominance of a room or an almost unavoidable relationship with someone. My sister is a principle. As in something foundational that makes the world. Like an electron. She is a principle of someone present. 

When I was a kid, my sister started leaving letters for me around the house. She would sign them “Kerry The Letter Fairy”. Fuck… I actually don’t remember how she spelled Kerry. Maybe it was with a “c”. But she did this for years (or a year?… my memory is a bit foggy), telling me all about her home in the clouds and the things she did with her day. My mom and dad helped in the charade so that I could leave letters anywhere, and they would magically disappear, with a response arriving within a few days. I truly believed in Kerry.

On planes I’d look at the clouds and wonder which one Kerry lived in. My world was full of letters. Waiting on every window sill. Waiting behind every door. Each filling me with a sense of belonging and being watched over and cared about. 

And so I stumbled on this phrase about my sister, and it makes me think how much I hope she feels that around her is a world full of hidden letters all written from someone who cares deeply about her. 

She is a more beautiful, better version of me.