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Andy Warhol and the Art of the Bullet
from shopping. Isn’t there something you forgot, baby aspirin or
turpentine? Raspberries, razor blades, Hula-Hoops? Oven-fried-Corn-
Flake-chicken? Or maybe a tulip? You clutch two T-shirts and a bottle
of hand lotion, its plastic the color of wet plaster bones. Color of cor-
rection ﬂuid. Its plastic so grease-beady, so spooned. Its plastic smooth
in your paper tissue ﬁngers, like ambition, only ambition is made of rice
paper, imported from Japan on a listing freighter, rice paper dipped in oil
paint, twisted into marbled shapes, thrown to tumble, to dry sideways
in the center of the room. Your art covers the ﬂoor like piles of autumn
leaves. You sit cross-legged and wonder about the saleslady, Sarah. Did
she like you? Did she notice your A-bomb hair? You enter the bathroom,
pop open the mirror and swing the lotion into the medicine cabinet,
its yawning maw, and along its silvery jaws Colgate and cold cream and
compresses and baby aspirin, jar after jar. All unopened.
Desiring love in a curvature of blotted ink, a perfect slinky curl,
eyelash angle, lips, but until: settling for red.
Desiring to unwrap the T-shirts. Not unwrapping the T-shirts. Stack-
ing the T-shirts on the top shelf alongside T-shirts. All unopened.
Desiring biscuit dough. You see yourself as biscuit dough in the pres-
surized roll: strike it on the counter edge and you may explode, unravel,
expose. Have a gulp of air. Think of a certain type of chalk. Outweigh
the emptiness with things: lotion, T-shirts, a can of tomato soup. Or just
ﬂinch. Spaz out
. Light the fuse on your A-bomb hair. Or cough, lightly,
like fallout dust. Return the dough to the cool shelves. White shelves of
Pillsbury and pillow-shaped pasta and pills. All unopened.
The mirror whispers in the next room; it waits for you. It sees a man
of angles, edges, of thumbtack, eight-track, and spatula bone. It has a
question: Why do you lean so skinny? Why is your voice so milky thin,
so half-beaten egg? Why do you blink your lashes against the light? Is
it because you’re afraid to open things?
“I just know if I use something, it’s gone.”
that day you worked, as usual, a six-step process: You
1 found this grainy video (your old SX-70 camera; smeared a layer
of Vaseline and cigarette ash on the lens) of Marilyn Monroe
digging the cotton from an asthma inhaler and eating it with
2 froze the video and took a photo of the TV screen with a Polaroid
and then dropped the developed image into a pan of milk.
4 tweezed the photo from the saucer.
5 used three Q-tips and a burnishing tool to manipulate the
6 admired the unexpected surprise of the TV lines (monitor
phosphors caught on ﬁlm), but the ﬁnal image was less than
pleasing. Less than art, certainly. So you ate a slice of tangerine,
smoked two low-tar cigarettes, and went shopping for lotion.
The ﬁrst two
shots, the ﬁrst two shots—she misses you! This door slamming,
sparkles of humming light, ﬂashbulbs, or Benzedrine, pulsing glow-cut
lemon breeze, with two bees zipping by—yellow, yellow, yellow—and
you don’t see her and then you see her and she has this little pistol, this
shiny toy pistol, from Schwarz—this is your brain now, the ﬂux—only
it’s not a toy and Who is she?
and that’s your problem, your situation: to
know everyone and so not really know anyone; and she gets you! Lifts
you into music, up, up, into ricochet of lung, spleen, stomach, liver,
esophagus, lung—all of this one bullet. But how? By art. Magic and art
and silver bones blending with the wind.
Hey, hey come here
, you plead, a gargle in your throat; clutching
someone’s lapel and tugging them close. This, this lady, this is large. She
shot me. She shot me? This is so large, so much talent, a thing done well.
Wow. This taste in my mouth. I wonder if I’m dying.
Yes, she shot you. With bullets she spray-painted silver.
Yes. You see…she thought you were a vampire. Or a werewolf.
tasted like eggs, raw eggs lining your mouth, and you always thought
of eggs as coﬃns for tiny chickens.
They removed your wig while in surgery.
The press said you were dead for a while, but the press always says
that, particularly with the famous, so you read all the papers, watched
the TV, and felt unoriginal, a cliché.
Everyone who phoned with condolences eventually got to their
genuine concern: What’s it like to get shot? Oh I don’t know. I… Go ask
Mario. Ask my manager, Fred. She shot him too. Hey, go shoot yourself if
you really want to know. That would be terriﬁc. All I can say is the god of
The ﬁrst day your toothbrush was a stick with a foam cube. Perfect
What you found in a hospital room—the angles, the cleanliness,
the teal and white and blue, the astringent air, the awesome solidness of
the space—was a feeling of separation, a divorce, almost aﬂoat, a chasm
forming, two sides: in here, and out there
Only the very old nurse could ﬁnd your veins, and she worked nights.
So when they needed your blood they would miss the target, collapse
it, prod and probe. You heard one nurse say you had the capillaries of
a child. One nurse opined you had no blood. One nurse hit an artery
and blood sprayed the wall, a vibrant arch of lip gloss. You said, You’re
a regular Jackson Pollock
, and she did not respond.
For some reason, the toilet water was a deep, iridescent blue.
Gasoline, turpentine, razor blades, and epoxy were not allowed. An
open ﬂame would ignite your oxygen. After much pleading, they did
release a copy of the video tape of your surgery, but what could you do
with it, how could you create—in there? Sometimes you sat all night
counting in your head the canvases you weren’t painting, their subjects,
their prices, the empty spaces on someone’s wall.
Gee, I don’t
do that—lawyers and judges and that whole world. There’s so much,
so much heavy polished wood in that world, and loud voices. I think loud
voices are really unnecessary. I saw it all on television. Television is amaz-
ing. This one erupted from the ceiling on a shiny black neck. It was in my
room and I never let them turn it oﬀ. They say she shot all these people, you
know. Shot all these people and only got three years; and I, I say, So? I think
the word justice is a cloud in someone’s dream. I don’t believe in justice. I
think people would prefer a large slice of pizza to justice. Do you believe? I
once believed. I once believed and that’s how I worked with my art: mak-
ing sense of it all, framing. But I don’t do that anymore. Nothing makes
sense anymore. I know this artist who was walking through Central Park
on a windy day and a tree branch fell on her head. She’s in a wheelchair
now. She’s in this, this institution. When she wants to talk she has to point
a little light at a computer and a metal voice talks for her, only mostly it
doesn’t work so then she can’t talk at all. Wow. She has a television in her
room, though I’ve only visited once. I like to watch the television, to see the
shoes, to see what type of shoes people are wearing. I’ve always drawn shoes.
Sometimes I’ll spend all day listening to sirens up and down the street and
I’ll draw shoes. Styles haven’t changed much. But then here comes the news
channel. Look there. Look. At what? RFK, MLK, all gone, and then they
say a human being, for the ﬁrst time, has seen the dark side of the moon.
I had to let it all go. These people, they don’t believe in art. They believe in
virgin births. In Silly Putty, soup in a can, McDonald’s. The most beauti-
ful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm
is McDonald’s. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet, but
they will—for everyone. Psychic phone lines they believe. Napalm, which
I think you can make at home if you have a laundry room, and…well, a
car. There’s this TV show, it’s terriﬁc.
Gilligan’s Island. And I saw on the
news how this show really annoyed the Coast Guard oﬀ California. These
people, these people who watch this show would phone, all hours. They
wanted to know why the Coast Guard didn’t go and rescue the castaways.
It was only a three-hour cruise. They don’t believe in art, these people. I saw
a bird plucked out of the sky yesterday. I did. I think you add to this world,
or you subtract from this world. That’s my theory. So, so… I didn’t testify.
you lay in bed on all these drugs—Valium, Darvon, Doxepin, all
these futuristic Vs and Xs, spaceship names so you know you’re ﬂy-
ing—and then it came to you like inspiration: her face. She was a young
girl, hyper. Her hair was this bruised blue. At The Factory one morning
she had this play. It was called Up Your Ass
. You never ﬁlmed it—the
writing wasn’t much, except for that title. You gave her some work as
an extra. You watch the ﬁlm now; she’s always smiling.
ﬁnal thoughts? I think I wear this corset to keep my guts in. It rubs my
skin on the left side so I pinch my right side to make it even. The pain, I
mean. I like it to be balanced like that. Symmetrical. I think the important
things are never pretty, no matter what I try. I think silver bullets. I think
the delicate powder that coats bubble gum is the same as a moth’s wing. Or
fallout. I think of making 4,000 paintings in one day. It’s a goal of mine. I
think this corset, everyday. Every single day now. I think Brillo Box, Flowers,
Cow Wallpaper, and Silver Clouds. I think I love my Trinitron color TV. I
think I love beauty, which I mean as sin. I think about when I ﬁnally woke
and the ﬁrst thing they tell me is why the gun jammed: those spray-painted
silver bullets. My mind just ﬂipped on that, just ﬂashed like a strobe. Yes. I
said I thought that was beautiful. I said, Well, there’s art for you.
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