still life with rotting fruit [notes]

Unhitched chapter notes …

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I used a specific method of describing artwork to write this chapter of Unhitched. When you discuss art, you tend to go in stages: discuss mastery of techniques used, then describe subject matter, then delve into the emotions invoked by the piece.

I started this chapter focused on Japanese woodblock prints like those of Katsushika Hokusai.

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Above is the most famous, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, mainly because I have a print of it on my wall and it conveys that overwhelming succumbing Cowboy is feeling.

Waves will crash upon you. Water will gorge you, rising to overtake the world that brought you such agony. You will soar and sing with the boom of tidal currents breaking on rock, and it will feel as glorious as if you were moving mountains with your bare hands.

I describe the cutting of troughs and the like because that’s how you make the wood blocks from which you print. Clean lines, and they are very cold, and wet, and somewhat harsh (moving mountain, crashing on rocks) and those artworks rely heavily on waves and water. And this is also where I start describing how Cowboy killed the shadow; his technique.

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Plants and Insects by Otto Marseus Van Schrieck

From there I flow into the works of Otto Marseus Van Schrieck –  damp and dark and humming with insects on the forest floor.

Through the dense, dampening fog, I smell dirt. It is the marshy smell of sod that was once alive – decaying earth, like peat. Rotting logs … fungus … the floor of a living, breathing forest carpeted in deep, red soil – that is what I smell and taste on my tongue. This living earth is drinking blood like a fine wine. It lets it pool on its tongue before swallowing it in a gluttonous gulp, allowing its rich, metallic notes to bloom and captivate its senses – a true earthly delight.  

His work is very deep and visual and his subject matter is like a living still life because much of his work includes images of snakes, insects, and plant life. They are dark and feel marshy. You can almost smell the earth and taste the dampness of the air in his paintings. They just happen to describe perfectly the backdrop of the attack, hella damp Mississippi.

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Fruits, flowers and Insects by Jan van Huysum

Then I fall into more baroque pieces like the still lifes of Jan van Huysum who painted life and death in the form of dying flowers and bursting fruit. Love the inclusion of insects. I don’t bring flies into the fic because I didn’t want to lose the “beauty” Sin was witnessing but I did mention cicadas to set the sound stage.

My humming ears finally clear, only to be overcome with the symphony of cicadas that surround me. The shrill chirps sing to me though the haze and the murky veil lifts, returning me to the earth and the dark pile of flesh on which I perch. My belly growls, and I’m suddenly overwrought. 

Frans Snyders also came to mind. He painted a lot of still lifes of food presented with dead hares and deer.

… those fiery pits are studying me like a painting. They flow down me, consuming every inch of me, and I feel nude, like he’s disrobing my red-stained body as I sit poised with a pile of overripe fruits between my knees. Those eyes slowly tip and lean in to absorb the details of my work, and the head shakes in awe at what the human hand is capable of creating.

Artemisia Gentileschi also influenced some of it with Cowboy’s poised position over the body. Gentileschi painted many figures killing other people, mainly women beheading men, so I found it fitting. There is a lot emotion in Gentileschi’s work, the faces are contorted, hands are raised, and you get this feeling of pain, fear, regret, but also joy and a little pleasure from the deaths the figures caused. Plus she plays with chiaroscuro (the sharp contrast between light and dark in many Renaissance pieces) so I tried to describe that a little.

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What I ended up with is this dark tableau of delicacies – Cowboy presented to Sin as this thing of beauty, a literal tray of opportunities and overindulgences.

I draw you back somewhat to Cowboy’s first plunge into Sin’s eye wells at the diner in Boulder (the muddy bottoms where he dropped his rationality), before ending the chapter on the classic canon Will/Hannibal exchange in the car, the whole “alone in the darkness” dialog, except Cowboy comes to the conclusion on his “own” with no prompting from Sin other than the kiss.

I am free-falling from grace, and there is no ground on which to crack my skull and end it. I am overflowing with an insatiable appetite, and my belly is begging to be fed. I am plunging into oblivion, a hot black hole of destruction, and it is terrifying; but at least he is with me in that darkness.

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In the end, it was 900ish words that took over a week to construct. Why I made it this complicated, I don’t know, but I hope you enjoyed.

If you enjoy my writing, please consider dropping me a comment here or, if applicable, on AO3 or by supporting my hot beverage habit on Ko-fi. Thank you!

—joanielspeak
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