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Suvan Geer


Midafternoon in my summer sun-baked kitchen. Clean dishes drying off in the sink, and no one in the house but me and a soft hissing noise I can’t locate. I stand in the center of the too bright floor, feeling the room’s stored heat through my bare feet and tilt my head from side to side listening. Is that the sound of water running somewhere? Maybe a pipe has sprung a leak under the floor. I move forward and the sound is gone. Not diminished, just gone. I move back. It’s still there, a kind of light, frothy wheeze. I walk the room, forward and back, listening, tracking what I cannot see. I step lightly, as if a loud footfall could scare it away. The sound comes and stops, is there, then not. I feel like I’m dancing, chasing an elusive presence. Suddenly the moment is art.

At grad school I thought of art differently. I recall sitting like a lump in painting crit sessions. I had entered grad school in my late 20’s to learn illustration after getting lost for a while in a convent and then laboring in business. To my mind Michelangelo and Da Vinci were master painters, Norman Rockwell was their new peer and modern art was a complete farce. As part of the curriculum I had to take a painting class.  Everything I was seeing from my fellow students made me cringe. Crits were the worst.

One day I entered the room as students were setting up for that day’s crit. On the floor was a long sprawling line of what looked like trash. Someone had cut and crumpled brown paper bags, then glued them together and dripped paint all over them. Feeling a sudden need for some really strong coffee, I turned tail and ran. I only came back because the professor took roll.

A funny thing happened when I sat and turned my attention to the wall though. Those flayed paper sacks suddenly didn’t look like trash anymore. Now they flowed and tumbled up the wall, dappled with pale colors and casting deep shadows. Dull rocks from a dry waterfall littered with fallen leaves sprang to mind. The visual transformation stunned me. As I think of it now I still reel.

Nothing in art looked the same to me after that—in riverbeds either for that matter. Sure the effect faded and but occasionally, unexpectedly, everything shifts like that for me again. Sometimes it’s in front of another piece of art, but not always. Sometimes the shift from a very solid, known world into something unexpected and enthralling just catches hold of me and suddenly I’m overwhelmed. It even happens when I’m chasing whispers and water leaks through the sunlight in my kitchen.