Three Feet Under
Come into my study, dear visitor.
On my table I have a copy of Faust, an old astrolabe, and a marble foot that once belonged to an ancient Greek sculpture of Adonis. (The antique dealer, an old man with drooping glasses, swore to me that the sculpture was real. He died not long after.) The Faust is worn at the edges; the astrolabe is half-broken. Yet they still remain friends and dearest companions, after all these years. Are they not fabulous? It is so good to have you here with me tonight; that we can drink a cup of coffee by the fireplace and talk worlds away.
I shake you warmly by the hand. Can you guess my name, dear visitor? I am not the bogeyman or werewolf haunting your shady childhood. Neither am I the adult's worse fear: that fussy loan shark. I don't haunt operas or drink blood. In fact, I am usually quite open, even friendly. Here, run your fingers over my fine mahogany desk. Imagine what it is like to study by candlelight: the musty smell of books, the slumbering silence, the weight of night's contemplation. Can you picture me so humanly pensive, like a philosopher?
Other times, at night, I stroll by the beaches, and the sand crunches like mashed jewels or skulls beneath my feet.
Oh yes, I adore feet.
Can I describe the love I bear for the human foot, as well as all its most profound mysteries? Feet of all shapes and sizes, feet of all races and cultures, the feet of scientists, artists, teachers; the feet of humans, the feet of stone. How I adore their contours of grace, their vessels of pure aesthetic beauty. Imagine: a little girl's in lacey socks and Mary Jane, the leathery roadmap feet of war survivors. Or something wholesome and smacking of youth – encased in Doc Martens, or Nike's, tramping up and down the stairs of a buzzing school. The first thing I looked for in a woman: feet, and the shoes that come along with them. I am a staunch supporter of stilettos.
But most of all, I love men's feet in sneakers.
The first pair I fell in love with was at the amusement park. (Clowns are another interest of mine, but let us not go there.) It was a hot summer day: so hot, the air seemed to suck car exhaust and bleed sweaty tears. Garish banners adorned the stands, mixing with the sweltering music of marching bands and ice-cream trucks. Cotton candy was thrust into my face from all four corners; water would fly from some unknown source and plunge down my back. All around, a thousand gleaming bodies rubbed shoulders: teachers with clowns, artists with boxers, vendors with scientists, as they scurried like ants over the frivolous fair.
As I waded through the throngs, I played my thoughts over and over again in my mind, like a wandering mantra:
What am I doing here?
I remember hating the summer around me, the way my flipflops sucked on the squelching, syrupy ground, which was drenched in sweat and garbage! You understand, dear visitor, I was never much in tune with summer, that season of speeding cars and candy apples and overblown teenager love. I am much more a man of autumn or winter – days spent in solemn introspection, while the world wilts outside. But back to the carnival. I was frowning at a particularly oversized black creature jammed in my soles – a beetle? A mouse? – when I saw them. Oh, I saw the feet!
He wore a stooping baseball cap, a baggy shirt, and Bermuda shorts. He was smoking red Marlboro's. He wore sneakers, an unnatural blue that winked in the sun.
What can I say? It was the birth of inspiration that hit me like a meteor and left me stunned for good. It was the moment van Gogh picked up his brush and painted Starry Night. It was the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, her hair streaming into the wind, the ultimate beauty offered to mortals. It was art history, my thoughts trailing off and voicing into the all-too-familiar, too casual "…wow."
The man turned my way.
He's talking to me through that nonchalant façade. His feet must hold mysteries!
"Sorry, sir. Just lost right now."
Perhaps, these same feet had explored the Amazon and walked the pyramids of kings. Just perhaps!
"The washroom's to the right, if that's what you need."
I force a rusty, plastered smile onto my face.
"-I mean, not literally lost – see my line of thought. I am… existentially, dying, in my labyrinth of life. You know, one of those day. Nausea."
Perhaps he thought I was crazy. But I assure you, I am not.
"Ever read Sartre?"
"You should. I'll tell you all about it."
And that was how it began.
It was simple, quick, and relatively painless. There was no drowning in acid, no decapitation, no limbs crucified with kitchen knives – remember, I was fresh to the game. Anyhow, a true artist never betrays his tricks of trade!
Hands shaking, I stuffed his heavy, hairy body in a duffel bag and wedged it to the back of my Volkswagen, banging my trunk door over it. I forced my car across the land rover parking lot and into the highway, nearly crashing head-on into one lane-cutting imbecile in a Sienna.
"I'll have your foot!" I screamed out of my window.
I was welcomed by the sight of his middle finger.
Scoffing, I turned into my handy, ever-trustworthy Home Depot. I seek solace there, among the logic and reason of a perfectly arranged store. However, the entrance this time was ironically littered with Canadian Tire money. I thought to myself: an explosion of anger? A newlywed argument? Against my holistic, Platonian sense of self, I bent down and shoved some in my pockets. I thought I heard a woman snicker.
I'd have her feet too.
However, the chainsaws soon beckoned me with open arms and teeth, as they smiled, poised like museum articles on their carefully arrayed shelves. Never had I been so relieved, so amazed by their splendid wonder! Each of them perfect, pristine, just waiting to sink their teeth in a good block of wood. As I walked the down the aisle, the blades became a kaleidoscope of mirrors, echoing the store and its customers along their shiny faces. Perhaps I could peer in and see my soul. Was it frowning? For a moment, I thought it was. I made several different faces.
Ah, well. Fair is foul and foul is fair.
I settled for 20-inch Craftsman and, quicker than you can say "schitznickel" I was home, and my first victim's foot was fresh-cut and sitting at the bottom of my tiny freezer. I hunkered down and stared at it with the joy of a boy watching his Crescendo rise-crust pizza bake into crispy perfection. I waited.
There's going to be a miracle. I became Michaelangelo staring at his David, admiring, perusing, waiting for David to sprout wings and take flight.
Waiting, I asked: Are you there?
I began to wonder if I should read a story to the foot. Something nice and dark: Interview with the Vampire, or Silence of the Lambs?
I asked: Would you like to hear of a man that sold his soul?
Or a man who could fly?
I'll tell you a secret. Sometimes I see things.
Sometimes I make things too, out of ideas or fragments of air. They call that imagination, and it's a very useful skill.
The saw, which I had thrown quite casually on the dinner table, grinned. The dim light glanced off its serrated teeth.
I began to finger my Faust.
Artist redefines space through Three Feet Under
Yesterday, on Canada Day, Torontonian artist David Bower presented his fourth installation art exhibition titled Three Feet Under. Measuring 10 feet high, this cube-shaped exhibition is meant to convey an eccentric yet intellectual experience of the human foot.
"I wanted people to be shocked as soon as they entered the room," David says while adjusting his horn-rimmed glasses. "Amazed or horrified, they just can't take their eyes off."
The piece mainly consists of four white walls and three modeled human feet covered in shoes. These feet have been hung from the ceiling with fish-hooks and fishing lines. The artist has crafted each foot from scratch, using a detailed, painterly touch to realistically render them from bone to tissue to skin. Each foot was then encased in a shoe: a toddler's Mary Jane, an army boot, a blue Adidas sneaker. Combined with the calculated breadth of the square room, they evoke a chilling atmosphere similar to De Chirico's metaphysical art.
To ensure that this piece can be fully appreciated, pamphlets are given to each visitor. They contain pictures of the bare feet, MRI scans of their tissues, and X-rays of their bones.
"We don't give enough credit to the human feet," David continues. "If you think about it, feet are foundation. They keep us planted to the ground, they keep statues from falling apart. They literally walk every path we choose. So I thought: why don't I see them from a new perspective?"
While several viewers enjoyed the thought-provoking realism of the three feet, others were less pleased by the artist's redefinition of conceptual space.
"Three Feet Under has a modern but rather tasteless composition," Matt Brighton, primary critic of The Fletching Minors Art Magazine, noted. "It's definitely not showing up in any art textbooks."
According to Peter Pyers, chairman of the Association of Modern and Conceptual Arts (AMCA), "This piece causes controversy because it's so realistically impossible. There's a smirking irony to the fact that these feet, which are supposed to be planted on the ground, are floating above our heads instead. This is not reality for the casual visitor. It's Magritte and his chilling, impossible realities with oversized apples and disappearing trains. And Mr. Bower claims to be a realist."
Controversy or not, Three Feet Under is expected to run until Tuesday, July 14th. All funds will be supplied by AMCA.
"It's simple, really," David concludes. "You look at the feet from a different angle, like you're seeing for the first time. It's the same with all art."