Art Pain

Some art is dangerous.

I don’t mean that in the usual sense that art is considered dangerous. Were I to do some elaborately offensive piece of artwork–draping the Vietnam Memorial in used tampons, say, with some irate artist’s statement about the blood shed by women through the ages, blah blah tasteless feminist cliche blah–plenty of people might claim to be wounded by it, but it’s unlikely anyone would wind up in the hospital, other than me, what with the beatings and so forth. Art may cause people mental pain and anguish, but it’s rarely anything tangible, excluding certain bits of performance art, like that guy who eats bits of volunteers.

No, I speak now of genuinely dangerous art, such as the object that I am now beset with.

It’s a crown of thorns.

Not any wimpy little rope of sticky bits, but three reinforced bands of heavy gauge steel, set with horseshoe nails. In theory, you can wear it, although there’s only one safe position, and deviation by more than a few centimeters results in a home lobotomy. Pick it up carelessly and suffer Insto-Stigmata. My stepfather made it some years back, and when I was moving out of the house said, casually, “Hey, you want a crown of thorns?”

I was young and foolish and thought I was dark. I said “Sure!” I mean, c’mon! A crown of thorns! The uses are endless! I did not notice the evil gleam in his eyes, or the unseemly haste with which he was rid of it, but now I know why.

The damn thing’s impossible. It’s a lovely piece of art, it is wonderfully constructed, and it would be a great conversation piece if you dared have it anywhere near conversation. But you don’t. You can’t put it anywhere where it might be dropped, jostled, or accidentally fallen on, because it is essentially a giant, all-directional caltrops. And it is sharp. Put it low and you risk stepping on it, put it at mid-level and you run into it, put it high up and it waits to leap down on your head. It’s worse than having a gun in the house, because a gun at least requires a certain number of steps to be dangerous, what with the loading and safety and trigger pulling, and then is only dangerous in one direction. And yet, because it’s so inherently cool I can’t get rid of it. I mean, it’s a crown of thorns! What’s not to love?

For the past few years, it’s been sitting on top of my kitchen cabinets, too high to jostle, with a lip to keep it from falling on innocent passers-by. This seemed like an excellent home for it until today, when we discovered that five years of grease has settled on it, giving it a patina not unlike that found on the back molars of a Komodo dragon with a chewing tobacco habit. Now if you accidentally impale yourself, not only do you get the joy of a half-dozen two inch puncture wounds, but the infection! The gift that keeps on giving! We have soaked it in goo-gone and rinsed, and now I’m fairly confident that you wouldn’t lose any limbs, but a healthy range of antibiotics would certainly be indicated.

When I get down to Arizona, I’ll figure out a new place to put the thing. Preferably where I can keep an eye on it. Art is dangerous, people, remember that. Like those yellow umbrellas.

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