the art of decay

Today on my drive home, an image kept plaguing me. Not this one. This rotting gauge serves as a tawdry little stand-in because I neglected to seize a moment and photograph the shit out of a beautiful living corpse of a building in DC. The image was this: peeling paint. Paint coming off in crispy corkscrews. Paint licking up like a dog’s engorged tongue.

This… made-up skin was nearly gone. Time had washed away the rouge. The wood, grey by now, rasped in the late Spring air. It’s texture was something between bone and leather.

The image reminded me of life. Not in a grand-sweeping-epic sense, but in a tearing-away-the-layers sense. Let me explain. In this image, I kept tying in paint as a metaphor for social conventions and expectations. It represented all the things people tell us we should be, how we should or should not behave, how we should talk, what titles mean and the kind of license they give people to be unintentional (or squarely intentional) assholes. The shadows of past traumas (small and large), the layers of education, both in school and through the simple interactions we have with people EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I feel like paint, i.e. conventions and shoulds, are masks. They veil a truth, and maybe hide that truth from both the external and internal observer. And this event of the paint coming away is an opportunity to discover a “who” beneath what we’ve learned to be. What is our true nature? Who is our most authentic identity?

This is not a gentle art, nor is it pain-free. But it can be filled with beauty, and a freedom in the pursuit of it.


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