We get a lot of requests for more specific submission tips: what exactly are you looking for? Do you have a particular topic in mind? Where can I even begin?
And while we’re not quite ready to give up free-form submissions altogether (so keep ’em coming, folks!), we did decide to give ourselves a bit of a chapter heading. So, starting this June, we’re going to curate submissions around a quarterly theme—which we’ll be announcing right here!
And what’s our first theme?

Here at Ampersand, we’re all about bringing people together, and nothing connects us more than the stories we all share.

The words “once upon a time” echo through you with reminders of childhood, lost dreams, and a space outside of time. Give us the unlikely, the ideal, the twisted, the light-hearted and brave. Give us that feeling that things aren’t always what they seem on the surface. Give us your true loves and your broken hearts.

Give us your fairy tales.

(And feel free to interpret that loosely.)


On Lolita and the Power of Literature

By Tiffany Klinger

e75a1e6fad254fb4b1d7afb431131a88“If there’s anywhere I can read Lolita and not feel like people are judging me,” I told my sister as I packed my bag for Paris, “it’s here.” A few months ago, when I got on the subway in Times Square, early on New Years Eve, and I pulled out my small copy of Lolita – chosen for the easiness in which in fit in my handbag – and cracked open the book for the first time. I quickly realized I wasn’t sure if I was up for the piece of literature, perhaps I was not quite so worldly and literary as I thought. Everyone tells me its “must read.” But my “must read” list is increasingly long – I wasn’t sure if I should spend precious reading time on a book that seemed more likely to corrupt my mind and cause me to lose hope in the human race more than anything else. When I arrived, finally, down at Wall St., I closed the book and didn’t open it again till I was packing for Europe, rummaging through my half-started books, trying to decide which were both small and interesting. I picked up Lolita again, determined to try it another try – a fresh start.

While I was on a train to Rome, as the Italian countryside passed me by, I found myself immersed in this world of Humbert’s– flinching all along the way, wishing myself to read the pages faster, but getting caught up in Nabokov’s vivid and strange descriptions. But halfway through the novel, I put the book down knowing I would have to pick it back up again. I knew that Humbert and I– we would continue this journey together, even if I was kicking and screaming the whole way.

When asked a few months ago what my favorite books were, I promptly replied with the usual: Gone With the Wind, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Anna Karenina. Following my response, it was quickly pointed out to me that I must enjoy the “hated protagonist.” I laughed, as I had never made the connection myself, but I started wondering why I was so attracted to these characters. They were strong and brave – but mostly strong when they should have backed down, and brave when they should have been timid. They are manipulative, admired from afar, but respected by no one.

This past summer, Gary Saul Morson, professor of Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University, wrote a lengthy article in Commentary, “Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature” and put my jumbled thoughts into precise wording. As Morson explains why the study of literature is so important, he points out how reading great literature teaches us to empathize like few other disciplines:

“When you read a great novel, you put yourself in the place of the hero or heroine, feel her difficulties from within, regret her bad choices. Momentarily, they become your bad choices. You wince, you suffer, you have to put the book down for a while…And so, page by page, you constantly verify the old maxim: There but for the grace of God go I. No set of doctrines is as important for ethical behavior as that direct sensation of being in the other person’s place.”

Perhaps we all have experienced what Morson is talking about, I have this feeling that we do – but I think we forget the lesson when we forget the importance of the lesson. Literature – great literature – has the power to transform our minds., and stretch us beyond our own personal worlds, where we worry about who understands us, rather than how we understand others – and therefore, how we choose to react to others.

Lolita was teaching me just that – empathy. Here was a truly despicable protagonist that somehow, I didn’t hate. Suddenly, I could see Humbert’s side of things, the way you see everyone’s side of the story in Anna Karenina – the misunderstandings, longings, and desires. Humbert knows society does not allow him to have what he wants, such as Anna and Vronsky know this also but they fight anyway. And as humans, as champions, we cheer for them all the way, even though, perhaps we see their foreboding demise (does society always win?). Perhaps we also know, if Humbert has been born centuries earlier and Anna lived in today’s society, both of their sins would easily be forgiven – or not considered sins at all (how easy morality is shaped!) Perhaps it is empathy that allows us to realize these truths.

In his afterword, Nabokov teases the reader a little, imagining that most people wouldn’t make it to Part II, citing those who were hoping Lolita to be a lewd book, would suddenly be bored. Stories of controlled obsession rarely entice readers for too long (“Anna, just sleep with Vronsky already”, we might say, or “Scarlett, do whatever you have to do”). We want there to be a breaking point, a satisfactory destruction, a moment where the passion fully overtakes the individual. But Lolita hardly allows us that satisfaction. I found myself wishing Humbert to get caught, or perhaps he’d lock Lolita in the basement, or maybe she’d shoot him in a moment of rage. Instead, we are subjected to Humbert’s witty and paranoid world. We join him as they stop at different hotels, and travels across barren America, descriptions of ugly classmates, play dates with random friends, monstrous fears of Humberts, and details of Lolita playing tennis or dancing or theater-acting. These are only details of everyday life; the maddening details of a love struck obsessed man (you became convinced it isn’t simply lust).

Only towards the end of the book do we sense some action is coming, some change, some grand destruction. But within the grand destruction – the climax of sinning against society – is a confession that I think surprises Humbert himself. Even seeing Lo married to someone else, pregnant, dirty, old (ish), and unkempt, Humbert still loves her (“my Lolita!”), and pleads her to go with him (she refuses, though doesn’t seem to mind his presence). Is Humbert a reliable narrator? Of course not. After all, he claims in the beginning that Lolita seduced him (unlikely). But even if Humbert is not reliable, to imagine he loves Lolita beyond the perfection of youth, that he is not simply “criminally attracted to young girls”, not simply a pedophile, is to imagine that society might forgive his transgressions if they are wrapped up with a pretty bow in the name of love (“I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais!”).

And perhaps we will, we do – somewhere deep inside, it makes things better. Because love means you think about something or someone beyond yourself. You put yourself aside, love means being at the mercy of someone else, being vulnerable, being open, being completely “not in control.” We understand how hard it is to allow yourself to be in that state. But this isn’t the sort of feeling we get from Humbert. In the end, Humbert realizes (to his credit) that he does not even know Lolita at all. He was in love with an illusion, an idea, a fantasy he thought he could project on Lolita. But she never quite fits the mold, she always weasels her way out of it somehow. The fantasy Lo seduces Humbert, she gives him sly glances, she acts older than her age, but looks younger than her years, and she is a vixen, a starlet, yet pure and tantalizing, enjoys the relations between her and Humbert. But the real Lo, the girl, is dirty and unkempt, creative and daring, confused and forgiving, starving for attention and a sense of normalcy, detests her so-called father’s touch.

But we, the reader, we don’t get off too easily either. We have to make a choice right around page five. Humbert knows we will judge him and find him guilty. Humbert knows he sounds crazy and deprived (can he really be crazy then?). He is not a character lacking self-awareness. He is not a character easily dismissed into the Disney graveyard for villains. Perhaps Scarlett O’hara is forgivable because she completely lacks self-awareness. Perhaps Anna is forgivable because she simply doesn’t realize her mistake till its too late. But Humbert knows. He knows from the beginning what he will try to do, he knows his own passions, his sins, everything is premeditated, thought-out, fabricated. Does that make it easier or harder for us to pass judgment?

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”

For certain, it makes us uncomfortable. But in that moment, in the interim of neither guilty nor not guilty, we find ourselves out on the limb, standing with Humbert as he awaits his verdict, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…look at this tangle of thorns.” And so we must decide, not whether Humbert is guilty or not guilty (after all, he is guilty), but whether or not we choose to learn, and be empathic – not for an end purpose, but for the purpose of being able to say, “I understand, I feel what you feel, I believe you.” We have to decide if we can, for 200+ pages, put aside our social constructions, expand our worldview, and simply listen.

It’s an art form lost, but nevertheless it’s an art form necessary. Literature affords us such a practice. It asks nothing of its reader but the opportunity to tell a story, to share an experience, to describe an emotion. It simply asks us, for a short moment in time, to be an unbiased witness.

I am not such a good listener as I would like to be. I find myself pointing out discrepancies, flaws, and lack of sound logic or reasoning, and I often think of arguments I would make against an author’s claims. And though I do believe critical thinking is likewise a necessary art form, in a world where we often judge and forget what it’s like to be judged, it doesn’t take much for the lesson to hit home.

Tiffany holds her B.A. in Media, Culture, and the Arts, and attempts to pursue all those things simultaneously. She currently resides in the D.C. area.
Follow her on Instagram: @tiff_kling

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Happy New Year from all of us at Ampersand! It’s been a special year for us–Ampersand’s first year–and we want to take a moment to thank all of you who have submitted short stories, poems, reviews, art, and photography. You are why do we what we do!

This time of year is for looking forward to new chances and new opportunities, and we eagerly await 2016 as a time for us to meet new artists, grow and develop, and publish more great work.

It’s also a time for looking back at the past year, and we are grateful that so many of you have shared your work with us. We appreciate every photograph and every stanza, every painting and every line. So before barreling ahead into 2016, we thought we’d share some of our favorite work submitted in 2015.


Refining Movement by Liz Comer

Articles and Reviews:

Christina’s World by Tiffany Klinger


Interview with Author Tessa Gratton


Street Photography by Alli Draper


For Sylvia’s Sake by Sarah O’Brien

Short Stories:

Butte by Colin Arden

We look forward to seeing what creations emerge from 2016. Happy New Year, everyone!

The Intimacy of Suffering

Review: In ‘Biutiful,’ Iñarritu Explores the Intimacy of Human Suffering

Directed by Alejandro González Iñarritu

Review by Mariah Quintanilla

Uxbal’s drunken wife stumbles into the apartment at 3 a.m., a fur coat draped over her shoulders and hair in a wild mass surrounding her slender face. She leans out of the balcony, fixing her lifeless eyes on the sky and comments on the stars, diverting all questions of where she’s been. She walks to the sink and begins scrubbing a dish with an unexpected manic zeal while talking of an upcoming trip. Uxbal’s pug-like eyes betray a quiet hopelessness as he watches her from the kitchen doorway—he has seen this all before. “My love, what you see over there are not stars. It’s your nervous system,” he says to himself, and sulks off.

Uxbal was referring to his wife’s unmanageable bipolarity—a topic that normally suffices as the meat of any decent modern-day movie conflict. In Alejandro Iñarrito’s Spanish film “Biutiful,” it is only one of many tragedies that plague our psyche for the duration of the movie. It will likely do so for years to follow. Make no mistake, “Biutiful” is not a movie easily recovered from.

Evident from his English-language films “Babel” and “Birdman,” director Alejandro Iñarritu is skilled at distilling the essence of human grief and torment. Spanish actor Javier Bardem is the primary conduit of this grief, transfixing us with the many facets of death, causing us to question our own distanced relationship to the inevitable fact of life.

Bardem plays Uxbal, a father of two, living in the bustling underground of Barcelona, Spain. To support his son and daughter, he oversees the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the streets—bartered by African immigrants—as well as the work-placement of Chinese immigrants. We are overcome with a shameful sense of unease as we encounter the damp, bunker-esque dwellings that house an indeterminate amount of African immigrants.

Outside of the story’s context, It might be easy to condemn Uxbal for his role in the exploitation of immigrants, but while immersed in the scenes, we place no blame and harbor no judgements for the wrongs he commits. In one instance, Uxbal pitifully confesses, over the pulsing music in a high-end strip club, that he is dying of cancer, and we willingly forgive the fact that just moments earlier he was snorting cocaine off of a credit card.

If impoverished immigrants and terminal cancer were not enough to comprise a story of trials and tribulations, we soon discover that Uxbal can also, rather terrifyingly, see and speak with the dead. Bardem continually tugs at our humanity with his instinctually empathetic reactions to the death that envelopes his character. As the movie progresses from one destitute situation to the next, one point becomes excruciatingly clear—to be human is to suffer.

Uxbal may be dry and cracked on the surface, but he is guided by a moral and spiritual compass as fixed as his red-eyed glares. He reveals his character in an early scene, as he enters a private funeral for the death of three children; brothers. He is left alone with three grey boys in coffins, and sits in the corner chair. A small voice begins mumbling in the room, and the camera scans to reveal one of the boys sitting in the chair behind the row of coffins, his eyes dark with death.

Uxbal chants, “Still are your lashes, so is your heart,” fending away the terror that threatens to deter him from the task at hand; helping the boy pass peacefully into the next world. This “next world” draws nearer to Uxbal as the cancer takes over—a progression made uncannily clear through the visual aids of unsynchronized reflections and black moths that gather around mold spots on his decrepit apartment ceiling.

A movie of this intensity may not appeal to those who’d prefer to keep their gushing heart inside their chest cavity. Iñarritu taunts us with injustice, liberally exhibiting shots of Chinese workers, stiff and sprawled across sleeping bags on a cement floor, asphyxiated in the night by a continuous flow of propane from industrial heaters the size of small children. “Biutiful” leaves us as wounded and destitute as the characters in this narrative, forcing us to take reluctant solace in the suggested notion that death is cold and still.

headshot TMMariah is an Entomology graduate with a passion for journalism, travel, and language. As a Mexican-Philipino-German-French Spaniard with a not-so-secret love of K-pop, bubble tea, and silly putty, she finds it difficult convincing people that she is normal. Her goal is simple: to write about the world, and all that inhabits it, as accurately and truthfully as possible, one story at a time.













Analysis of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

By Skylar Woods

Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard makes readers ponder about what truly happens after they die. Will they be remembered by loved ones with smiles and tears of joy? Or detested by all of mankind? Gray’s poem uses a simple four line stanza mixed with an ABAB rhyming pattern, placing stress on a template of certain syllables to allude to the dark capacity of human nature mixed with the potential to do good deeds. Alongside this rhyming pattern, Gray uses heavy symbolism from the literal environment to emphasize a complex idea of death and mortality, while also using comparisons to real life objects that are simple to understand. Finally, the simple word choice, capitalization, and personification of Death — and other emotions — are used to both simplify and simultaneously add depth to the meaning of each word.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard uses a simple, yet effective, ABAB rhyming pattern in four line stanzas. The simplicity of this pattern is ironic when contrasted with the deep meaning of the poem. As with most poems, there is a more complex substructure with stresses on certain syllables on every line. This stressing pattern can be seen very prominently: “The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide, / To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,” (Gray lines 69-70). There are light tongued words at the start of every line such as ‘to’, ‘the’, and ‘if’. Yet the start of the second word is always a heavy mouthed sound using letters that use a heavier tongue and the back of the throat to pronounce. The stresses on the words are in an alternating pattern between softly mouthed sounds. Gray uses this mixture of light and heavy syllables to emphasize the light and darkness every human being possesses.

The lighter syllables make the tongue come forward, closer to the exit of the mouth. This action shows that on the outside every person is trying to be praiseworthy and put on a fabricated, lighthearted smile — a smile that is made when the word ‘the’ is mouthed. The heavier words can only be made using the lungs like a ‘guh’ sound, a noise that can only be made using an internal body part. With this steady and relentless pattern found throughout the entire poem, Thomas Gray ironically adds structure while continuing to address the darkness found inside all human beings.

Gray uses the environment within the poem to conjure up a serene landscape that is starting to change into a darker, ghostly terrain. He does this to show how the very base of humanity can quickly morph into darkness. This begins almost at the very beginning of the poem: “Now fade the glimmering landscape on the sight, / And all the air a solemn stillness holds” (Lines 5-6). The very earth that the speaker is standing on is quickly blackened as the sun sets, symbolizing the very core pillars of mankind growing dark. In addition, within the poem, comparisons are made to simple images that represent deep complex emotions:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
 And waste its sweetness on the desert air. (Lines 53-56).

By making these simple comparisons, Gray is sayinging that internal darkness is on the ground floor of the physiological hierarchy. The meaning of the comparison above is that many people have the potential inside themselves to benefit humanity in the best of ways, yet never get a chance due to the “unfathomed caves of ocean bear” (54).

Finally, Gray personifies the emotions by capitalizing them. This simple technique is used to bring that idea of darkness to life within the reader’s mind. With line 36, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave,” this gives an overarching structure and warning within the poem. Every emotion that is personified and capitalized can be traced to a need for glory, such as Honour, Knowledge, and Pride, for this simplicity allows for a clearer warning to be given. The diction allows readers to comprehend the fear of darkness that is found within everyone:

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death? (Lines 41-44)

No matter what social class a person is, no amount of honor, pride, or flattery can convince Death to spare a life. This stanza completely disintegrates all social, monetary, and rank boundaries.

This poem’s message is a warning that darkness is within every single person regardless of status, yet this darkness has only as much power as a person allows it. Each person has the power to change humanity for the best or worse depending on their desires.

Skylar Woods is a student at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he studies Creative Writing. He enjoys writing of all kinds but particularly finds pleasure in writing analysis essays and fiction stories and hopes to strengthen and expand his writing career in the future.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Skylarwoods13
Instagram: skymaster2013


By Fernando Acuna

adventure_timeFrom its impassioned subliminal messages, to its hints of humane righteousness, Adventure Time resonates with its core fans in a deeply empathetic manner as a result of its pleasant blend of high fantasy fiction and sensibly realistic themes. Undeniably, Adventure Time is one of the most controversial and particularly criticized children’s shows on television; the cartoon’s condemnation is typically on the grounds that its subject matter is occasionally perceived to be, in some measure, adult oriented–whether the show is truly inappropriate for young audiences or it is simply interpreted as such is certainly up for debate.

However, the indisputable matter at hand is that Adventure Time is one of the first of its kind; the show has managed to accomplish a task which has seldom been achieved by other cartoon programs–up until recent years, that is. Within the last decade or so, it has become increasingly common for children’s animations (not only Adventure Time, but also programs such as Regular Show, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, et cetera) to break the misconception of being compelled to appeal strictly towards their target audiences. Ranging from adolescents to young adults, viewers outside of Adventure Time’s primary audience appreciate the cartoon for its brilliant use of humanistic values. Although being set significantly remote from reality, the highly influential keynotes portrayed throughout the Adventure Time television series (such as the significance of values, kindness, self worth, and various more) can all undoubtedly be applied to real life circumstances.

Adventure-Time_CharactersQuite commonly, relatively old school cartoons (such as The FlintstonesTom and JerryDexter’s Laboratory, et cetera) all shared generally simple–and somewhat cheap–gists (including abundant humor, inconsistent storylines, and mild to extreme violence) in order to entertain their audiences. However, while most classic cartoons may have been dynamic and vibrant–not to mention wildly popular–none of them ever seemed to develop into anything more than what could be analyzed plainly at face value. In a nutshell, the progression of whichever random episode within any typical classic cartoon’s series would go as follows: the main characters would encounter some rather outrageous complication; amusing yet ludicrous shenanigans would ensue; and ultimately, the problem would predictably be solved–an identical plotline setup would surely be used in every other self-contained episode within its series.

Then came along anime, a style of Japanese animation, and with it came the addition of actual relatability to cartoon characters. In the vein of precedented animations, animes (such as PokémonDragon Ball ZSailor Moon, et cetera) remained comedic and zany; nonetheless, they showcased distressed characters willing to emote on screen, impulsive decisions which resulted in permanent consequences, and dramatic scenarios to which a viewer could easily sympathize. In spite of being extremely over-the-top at times, animes paved the way for thought provoking cartoon programs such as Adventure Time.

Episode continuity on Adventure Time is upheld by various topics, the most prominent of which being the moral excellence of its main character, Finn the Human, and his escapades alongside his magical companion, Jake the Dog, throughout the Land of Ooo, a continent on a post apocalyptic/supernatural version of Earth. Finn, like most other fictional heroes, is bold and dauntless; nonetheless, he is merely a teenager–thus, his relatability towards adolescent viewers comes into play. Known as the champion of the Candy Kingdom, Finn occasionally struggles with his own disposition as the responsibilities that come along with being titled a hero weigh on him; comparably, ordinary teenagers often succumb to the pressure brought on by their everyday responsibilities as well.

Notwithstanding the fact that Finn’s obligations–though fictitious–are much greater than those of the average teenager,  anyone could effortlessly identify with Finn’s feelings of agitation as, at times, everyone experiences “one of those weaks.” Finn’s moral values can be described as idealistic and unwavering as he strives to make as much of a positive impact on the world as he possibly can. Children, as well as adolescents and young adults, not only admire Finn’s courage, but also his willingness to always help someone in need–not because a third party or a religion compel him to do so, but because he is a truly good person.

Adventure Time’s characters are known to regularly break clichés, and in fact, discriminatory stereotypes can seldom be found in the development of any of the cartoon’s animated personas. Males and females, for example, are always thought of as equals. The use of feminist concepts (such as the idea that it is unnecessary for a woman to be rescued by a man if she is fully capable of saving herself–even if she plays the role of the “damsel in distress”) are repeatedly depicted in Adventure Time. Contentious subjects (such as gender dysphoria and sexual orientation)  are also touched upon from time to time. Both androgynous as well as transgender characters appear on the show; moreover, the suicidal mentality of the latter type of characters (due to a lack of acceptance and a quantity of ridicule from their peers) is additionally apparent in the episode “Princess Cookie,” the thirteenth episode of the show’s fourth season. With the inclusion of such material in its series, Adventure Time has undertaken the responsibility of carrying out an notable public service; the importance of tolerance for one’s fellow human being is now gaining mass apprehension by the entirety of the beloved cartoon’s widespread audience.

adventure_time_by_jm08191998-d594c3qPhilosophical material is frequently dealt with on Adventure Time; in “Astral Plane,” the twentyfifth episode of the show’s sixth season, metaphysical ideology is especially contemplated. The episode’s juxtaposed focal points revolve around the miracle of birth/creation and, contrastingly, the dissatisfaction induced by existence/life. At one point in the episode, Finn asks, “…if just being born is the greatest act of creation, then what are you supposed to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we devolve into a pile of mush?” By the end of the episode, Finn concludes that a beautiful moment in time is genuinely perfect only if you take it upon yourself to not allow everything that consequently follows said instance to go to waste. I believe that the purpose of this specific episode is that it is meant to inspire its audience to not give up on themselves nor their advancing lives. Adventure Time is known for encouraging its fans to be nothing less than their true selves; correspondingly, “Astral Plane” teaches its viewers that birth is the universe’s ultimate form of art/beauty, and therefore, they themselves are magnificent simply for existing.

In truth, much of Adventure Time’s subject matter is indeed challenging for the likes of a children’s show; however, its ample use of liberal humor and lighthearted playfulness allows the show to be welcoming towards viewers of all ages. With this being said, one must bear in mind that the show is a pioneer for its accession of such influential aforementioned topics, and must certainly not be deemed as an indictment. Since its premiere, Adventure Time has routinely broken boundaries and exceeded expectation–especially in its characters’ personal developments. Good role models are essential in a person’s life–particularly in that of a child’s; although it may be fictional, Adventure Time provides such exemplars. Through its diverse teachings, the impact which the distinguished cartoon has had on our society has not only been worthwhile, but equally productive. Once believed to be a rarity in children’s programming, the embodiment of genuine pathos in cartoons is now thought of as a normality greatly in part of the likes of Adventure Time.

Profile 1Fernando was born in 1998 in Sonora, Mexico, but his family moved to Arizona less than a year after he was born. Although his mother tongue is Spanish and he struggled to comprehend the English language when he first began to attend school, he is now enrolled in advanced language and literature classes as a senior in high school. Currently, he reside in the Central Coast in California.

Instagram: @HelloBuddhaHead
Tumblr: @ScoobsWhatItDo
Twitter: @HelloIAmBello

Christina’s World

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

By Tiffany Klinger

Past the Pollock’s and Kandinsky’s, swirls and smears, and strokes of color like all the people passing by me, lies a girl in a field. She could be any girl. She is grasping for something beyond her and in front of her, but yet, always beyond her – just like any girl.

But Christina is real, individualized, singled out. Her struggles are all on display in front of us. I’ve seen her before, in reproductions and art textbooks highlighting Andrew Wyeth for his 20th century realist art. People pass Christina by, lingering for a few minutes, but most find her boring compared to the easy thrills of Picasso. “Ah, here’s the Picasso;” they gather and grab their iPhones. Alone, in her corner of the MoMa across from the elevators, in a spot you would miss if you didn’t need to ride up or down, she lies.

The grass grows up around Christina like untouched territory, like she is somewhere beyond the material world. Somehow this strikes me more than any of the other out-of-body, abstract exhibitions. The sky is strangely dim. It’s funny how a light color like beige can look transcendent in a Monet, but here it looks dark like Goya.

It feels surreal, this realist painting, yet I can find no surreal elements. Wherever she is—Kansas, Idaho, purgatory—the sun doesn’t shine. I bet the bleak monotony of purgatory would look just like this. I search for signs of life, but find none. I search for signs of death, but find none. Perhaps purgatory is not the lack of life, but rather, the lack of death—sterile. Ah, there it is: sterile. And that word brings up all kinds of images of Huxleyan descriptions, terrifying science fiction, and chemicals and heat. But here we are, in Christina’s World, and sterile is evoked. Perhaps little voices and running feet are missing from Christina’s world. Perhaps water and flowers—signifiers of life—are missing from Christina’s world. Because wherever she is—Kansas, Idaho, purgatory—she is alone. And whatever Christina’s struggle is, I image it to be painful.

“Pretty,” I hear people say, “She’s so pretty.” Her tied back hair, her lean and delicate arm, the trim tightness of her waist and backside. She is wearing pink – the color for little girls, a color for babies and new life. Though she hides her face, I can imagine it’s pretty. The backdrop is like paper doll scenery, with a distant house and barn right out of Little House on the Prairie. The painting seems dusty, as if it was stored too long in some boxes in the attic; someone found it and forgot to dust it off, yet thought how pretty it was, and put it in a wooden frame.

Why does Wyeth choose Christina? Maybe Wyeth found her and was struck like me. I feel he didn’t create Christina, only immortalized her in 1948. Did she seem so compelling and relatable to him as she does to me? Christina never even sees me, her eyes don’t follow me, but I want to come along with her. I want to be the best friend lamenting with whatever it is that ails Christina. Perhaps I’d bring her to NYC and save her from her destiny of suffocation under a children’s book sky and a paint-by-number house. I’d teach her all about how liberating it is in the 21st century. Am I even seeing Christina’s world or simply seeing my own?

But what of Christina? Beyond the walls of the MoMa, I find the information I crave. If I had known she was suffering from polio, if I had known her grasping was real and physical, if I had known Christina Olson wasn’t in Kansas, Idaho, or purgatory, but Maine, maybe I could have seen Christina instead of myself. The image of her struggle to crawl across a field resonates with people all over the world; I wonder if it would have made Christina’s days in the fields of Maine more bearable if she had known. I wonder if Christina would be surprised how popular Wyeth had made her, at the price she would be bought and sold. Would Christina have permitted us to say we feel her pain—we all at some point are grasping for something in front of us, yet beyond us? We all feel it: the realization that the longing has brought us no closer to the intended object. We can crawl, but where will it take us? The Upper East Side? Park Avenue? Heaven? Maybe someday, we’ll all get out of purgatory and we’ll stop having to grasp. Maybe someday, the pain will cease.

Tiffany hold her BA in Media, Culture, and the Arts and attempts to pursue all those things simultaneously.
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