“Possible Chamber of Experience”

Writer Jeffrey Graessley and artist Jason LaMotte with "Possible Chamber of Experience" piece and poems at dA Center for the Arts

I was invited by the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona to participate in a collaborative show, wherein artists of various sorts were paired with writers or perhaps a musician to create works loosely related to themes of diversity and tolerance (to connect with the story of one of the key participants who overcome his own racist ideologies implanted during childhood upbringing to become a civil rights activist). I was paired with writer Jeffrey Graessley. We met and spoke of intense experiences young people might go through, challenging or changing ones beliefs, and the acceptance of self and others. Jeffrey began to write some poems of a certain character and narrative, and I decided to return to a process I have not done in years—using acrylic and ink on paper for collage. I had used this process several years ago, on many of my key works through the 90’s, and was comfortable with it, but had then abandoned it to try different things and avoid being stuck. This felt the perfect opportunity to return to this way of working, and I started painting on several sheets of paper, and cutting them up, and taping them back together, and called into service an old roll of tracing paper and gel medium. I received a draft of the poems, read them, and let them influence my images and composition. I realized the piece was turning into a map of the character in the poems, a psychic or subjective interior map of the girl, Cindy.

"Possible Chamber of Experience" detail 1

Cindy Pendragon

Daddy calls me a champion,
Knight of the Cross, while we watch
the pastor on TV minister
to the camera. Daddy’s angry

everyday, save Sunday
when he sits up in bed,
shaking hands caress the sheep-skin
cover of his big bible—following
the pastor closely. Daddy likes to talk
Revelation—seals breaking—the four horses
riding out to conquer— how God
has set the unbelievers to burn

in righteous fire
like cold water
that cannot be touched. Daddy calls me
a champion, a bright star
in the eyes of God– an inferno

blazing,

but never burning.

"Possible Chamber of Experience" detail 2

In the Lion’s Den

broken over the altar,
this mattress has become a bed of fire,
burning sores, and Daddy cries,
for rapture,

and settles for a bottle of mercy.

"Possible Chamber of Experience" detail 3

Prayer of a Maimed Officer

the unbelievers writhe
in liquid fire, a lake
of it, Daddy says,
runs right through Hell—

and God breathes in that smell
of burning flesh
like turkey
on a cold Thanksgiving, glorious—

Daddy says,
they were made to burn,
those screams are church bells
resonating— everyone of them

in time—where they belong.

"Possible Chamber of Experience" detail 4

Dissonance

Cindy’s watching
two of her classmates, both wrapped
from head to toe in cloth
of rich, dark blues and reds— only an open
sliver at their eyes, exposed hands
can be touched by the sun. Daddy says,
they do it for their god,
and are hell bound for it, but she thinks

they’re sweet with soft eyes
and voices like hymn melody

and doesn’t understand the feeling
it brings to her stomach.

"Possible Chamber of Experience" with poems

The full piece, “Possible Chamber of Experience (A Religious Assault),” on the wall with the four poems. (Art by Jason LaMotte, poems by Jeffrey Graessley). The head area of the piece has lines moving through a space that is covered in drops and flames. The chest area has a mass of fingers at the place of the heart. Four belts of black flame seperate the abdominal/groin region, which blooms with dandelion heat. The leg area features line glyphs that may offer some declaration of identity as well as possible mode of transport.