tagMind ControlPatron of the Arts

Patron of the Arts

bySvalbarding©

"Don't you think you're being disrespectful, Miss?" said another passerby on his way through the park. Like the last twenty people who'd commented, I made no response. This was art, after all, not protest. I wasn't trying to spark dialogue, but rather to spark thinking. This was a statement.

And what a statement! I did most of my performance art here in Arthur Park. It got a lot of foot traffic, which was the main appeal, and it had the fringe benefit of being a stone's throw from home. Today, that foot traffic was being treated to a display I called, "The Conquering Father."

Rev. Josiah Burns was the town founder, and according to local legend, it had been he who'd decided to found the settlement in what was then a vast forest. "I'll clear this woods with a Bible in one hand and an axe in the other," he was quoted as saying. His statue was right here in Arthur Park, a massive foot propped up on an actual stump, that quote engraved on a plaque set into the ground nearby. The conventional thinking of my unquestioning co-citizens was that he was a hero, a pioneer Man's Man who'd tamed the wilderness with the lights of the church and civilization.

I was flipping the script.

Visitors to Arthur Park today would be treated to a slightly different take on Josiah Burns. Gone was the wooden stump that supported his upraised foot. In its place was yours truly. Laying on my side with his foot planted on my upward-facing arm, his mighty bronze boot was planted on me instead. For my part, I was clad in a custom-made set of clothing I'd designed myself. (I'd triple-majored in art history, political science, and fashion design. It had been a brutal eight years and had cost my dad a fortune, but here I was, the perfect instrument of social justice.) The "outfit" had begun as a canvas featuring a blue-and-green pattern showing the continents on the planet earth. I'd taken it in some, filled the suit with some padding, and with the use of a little hair dye, fake blood, and face paint...

Today, the Rev. Josiah Burns stood atop a mutilated, dessicated, dead Mother Earth. An uncomfortable pouch of fake blood was resting inside my mouth, and I'd practiced using my tongue to manipulate the release to let some out. I'd gotten here shortly after sunup, scattering several bags of sand, hundreds of dried out old sticks, and, of course, the pièce de résistance: more than two dozen disturbingly realistic-looking imitation animal carcasses. I'd been working on them for weeks, hitting up taxidermists, hunting lodges, and even a few dog toys I thought looked close enough for the park. Add in a copious amount of fake blood and voila!

Art.

As for my most recent heckler, I didn't respond. Talk back and you're having a conversation, and then the art becomes both of us. Which is to say it becomes me and my carefully planned statement, along with the blubberings of Jocko the Village Idiot. I'd learned that from my dad, from years of lectures about how I ought to do something productive like get an MBA or find a nice husband. There was nothing that frightened him more than the thought of having his only daughter wind up another starving artist. Except to accept his money, I ignored him. He didn't hear me, so I wouldn't listen to him.

After all, there was scarcely a man alive who could see a young woman expressing herself without having to interject and try to make it all about them. I pitied them even more than I raged against them. The patriarchy had made them into these slobbering, hairy brutes, devastating their planet, their relationships, their own bodies. Still, although I make it a point not to quote men - as if they need another mouthpiece! - John Lennon once summarized eloquently what women were in this world, and I had to look out for my own kind.

The man passed. Inevitably, others followed, and I made no response to them either, staring ahead with the vacant dead eyes of the planet men like Josiah Burns had helped murder in the name of the manocracy. (A little more fake blood dribbling from the eye socket helped drive the point home.) I lie there, listening to passersby.

"That's tasteless," said an old man struggling through his daily walk.

"Oh god, are those animals real? No, I guess not. Still, that's..." said a woman with a shudder before pushing her stroller on down the sidewalk.

"Is this chick, like, actually dead or something?" said some idiot stoner after snapping his fingers in my face a few times. His moron friend laughed at the "super fucked-up" display as they went on their way.

"This looks like defacement of public property," said one jerk in a business suit. It wasn't, as I of course had obtained a permit; still, his assumption bothered him so little he almost stepped on a blood-drenched fake squirrel.

"I'll rape this earth with my false god in one hand, and my phallus in the other," read another man, making a face. (The permit hadn't included the replica plaque I'd placed over the one displaying the undoubtedly spurious Burns quote, but I doubted most would look that closely.)

This last man, however, didn't simply keep on walking. He looked around the area, seeming to take it all in. Inwardly, I was hopeful. While the male gaze wasn't what this or any of my art was designed for, maybe I could reach this man, show him some small portion of the iniquities of his ilk.

"This is pretty clever. You laid the blood on pretty thick, granted, but you stayed on message, and the message is rich and complex but still clear." He didn't even know about the thick pool of blood my suit was concealing. That would only be visible once I stood up. The man knelt down in front of me; through practice, I maintained my gaze on the same point in the distance. "What's your name?"

I didn't respond. For a guy who'd just said how clear my art was, he sure seemed obtuse. "Right, not talking. Do you have a card or anything? My neighbor's birthday's coming up, and I wondered if you did kid's parties."

His mockery engendered no more response than his introduction. "That was a joke, of course. Well, fair enough. I'm always impressed by how well some of you artsy types can stay focused on your craft, even amidst distraction. I bet I can throw you off, though."

At that, my eyes darted to him, conveying all the menace I could put in them. If this guy so much as touched me, he'd learn the hard way about the stun gun I had concealed under a fold of my suit. He held his hands up in mock surrender. "Whoa, easy there. I'm not gonna touch you or anything. Relax."

I gave him the hard look a moment longer, then went back to my dead-eyed vigil at nothingness. "Here, let me just..." The man produced a little pendant from his pocket, and began swinging it in front of my eyes.

It was, in fact, pretty distracting. It looked cheap, probably not even glass but mere plastic, yet it still caught the light enchantingly. It took all my concentration to look through it. I could hear the sound of his voice talking, but I didn't catch words. I was focused 100% on my craft, and I wasn't going to let some jerk distract me by dangling shinies in front of my eyes.

Instead of listening to this stranger droning on, I thought about my art. Here I was, bloody and surrounded by visceral carnage. Was it reaching people? Maybe. Still, mostly the effect seemed to be to turn people away. What I really needed was some way to draw people in. But how? People only seemed to respond to shock value, but how could I shock them without simultaneously losing them? I had to find something both shocking and grabby. Something that got people's attention, but also didn't then repel it right back away. What was something people liked to look at?

Well, there was that... But no. I couldn't use that.

In fact, I made it a point in my art to de-emphasize my body. My breasts were a powerful, beautiful expression of my womanly power to nurture life, not billboards advertising my vagina's existence. This lumpy, shapeless outfit was tailored to prevent others, especially men, from noticing me as a sexual object, underscoring my role as an artistic one.

Only... how was I going to win the war to change hearts and minds if I didn't use every tool at my disposal? Let's face it, most men are sex-obsessed pigs. Maybe they hadn't been a focus of my art, but... perhaps they ought to be? Not anything lewd or overtly suggestive, but if I at least allowed them to see I was a woman, maybe I could get them to take notice.

As for this guy who was still blah-blahing about whatever... I might be able to use him. Not that his little distraction game was helpful, but the more he went on, the more I was finding that simply having to concentrate through him was feeding my creative inner child. He was about my age, from the looks of him, and it'd be a simple thing to bat my eyelashes, flirt a little, coopt his aid. He wouldn't even know I was using him!

What a chump.

"Wow, I guess it's true. Some people really can't be hypnotized," he conceded at last.

I finally made eye contact with him. "Is that what you were trying to do?"

"Yeah, I never do seem to make it stick, though."

I made myself smile. "Do you, um, wanna try again sometime? I'd hate to give a fan of my art only one pass at their own."

"Yeah, that'd be nice. Maybe we could meet up - say, at that coffee shop down the block. Tonight, once you're done with... this?"

"That sounds nice. I'm Abigail, by the way."

"Todd."

So we met up that evening. I went home first, cleaned myself up and all, and came back in as feminine attire as I was willing to wear. If he didn't like black turtlenecks and matching slacks, his loss. At least it was tight enough to highlight my figure. If that wasn't good enough for him, he'd be the first such man I'd ever met.

Not to brag on myself. I don't think someone's physical appearance is even brag-worthy to begin with. "Oh look at me, I happened to wind up with socially preferable DNA sequences, aren't I special!" UGH. But yeah, it so happens I did. 5'10", olive complexion, symmetrical features, lips that infuriatingly always kind of look like they're slightly puckered. (Why I never ever wear lipstick.) Wavy brown hair halfway down my back; I let it grow out like that despite being a feminizing display because some of my performances called for it, and I didn't like to reduce myself to grooming. As if what was growing out of my head mattered anywhere near as much as what had grown inside it, ya know?

(And yeah, the usual big boobs/wide hips/round ass deal, not that it should matter. So many less cultured woman have oohed and aahed over my chest, but I always want to yell at them - see how YOU like having to custom order bras! Seriously. It's a nightmare, even aside from the way men try to objectify me on their account.)

Anyway, I had a good feeling Todd wasn't that kind of guy. I couldn't say why, exactly. Maybe that he'd approached me with the world's lamest come-on - hypnosis? seriously? - while I was looking bloody and blue and shapeless and rather grotesque. Even if Todd didn't seem the sort to see women as instruments for sexual gratification, I figured it couldn't hurt to look like a woman.

"So do you try that pickup strategy often? Approach girls, wave your little knick-knack in front of them, wait for them to cluck like a chicken?" I teased, once preliminary introductions were out of the way.

"Heck yeah. I got a whole collection of women who've surrendered to my mastery of the craft. You'd be surprised how well it works most of the time," he joked.

I rolled my eyes, but with a smile. Poor dork. "I sure would. But hey, keep practicing, and maybe one of these days you'll mesmerize somebody." I raised my soy chai latte to wish him well.

"Is that an invitation?" he asked, quickly producing the pendant with faux urgency.

"Hey, knock your socks off. And while you're at it, I'll be over here planning my next show."

Wouldn't you know it? He thought I was serious. I guess that was OK; once again, the way his voice acted as white noise helped me blank out everything but my own inner monologue. I have no idea what he was saying, but I started to have some amazing - and edgy! - ideas for my next show.

When I glanced up at the clock, half an hour had passed in his pitiful attempts to "entrance" me (or whatever you call it). He really was a sweet guy - hardly a guy at all, more of a kindred artistic mind. So when he asked me what I had planned, against all precedent, I told him when and where I'd be hosting it. Even on the rare occasion I'd mistakenly thought I'd found a compatible male, I'd never actually invited them to a show. This was for the women of the world, and the surest way to ruin it was having some mansplainer show up to critique what he couldn't possibly understand.

But Todd... he'd get it. Somehow, I knew he would.

Five days later, I was ready. It was an overcast day but the forecast had promised it would stay dry. I'd wanted to do this the day before, but - and this is embarrassing - I had to wait for the nicks in my legs to heal. For what I'd planned today, I needed freshly shaven legs. I hadn't done so in almost eight years; I'd been a bit of a yeti, to say nothing of inexperienced at the process. In the future, I'd have to make an appointment to have them waxed.

Not that I was going to keep them this way, of course. Unless I felt like it. Todd had said he thought it was a bold expression of feminism, so maybe I would.

Once more, I was under the watchful gaze of the Rev. Josiah Burns. His stump had already been replaced beneath his boot, the fake blood washed away by some underpaid parks employee who'd yet to realize they were a mere pawn of the corrupt patriarchal state. I'd backed off a little ways today, setting up my display on a nearby basketball court. Recently repaved and incredibly smooth, they were perfect for today's performance art.

Bright and early, I'd come to the park to lay out nearly three dozen rolls of tin foil on the asphalt. In the center of it went a 5'x6' wall mirror, reflective side up. A wooden frame wrapped in still more foil surrounded it, and atop that a sheet of clear plexiglass.

And atop that? Yours truly, in a miniskirt. (I'd gone shopping.)

The mirror blended in quite well with the tin foil. Reflecting mostly the gray sky above, it lent an effect that the the mirror was well and truly enormous. The frame and plexiglass allowed me to stand directly over the mirror without breaking it, capturing the entirety of the upskirt reflection I was providing.

"Beyond the Looking Glass Ceiling," I called it. It was a demonstration that men only allowed women to join them in the upper echelon in order to sexualize us. Their secretaries, their consultants, their token female managers... We were there not to be granted equal footing, but to exploit our femininity for male gratification.

It was genius.

Was I nervous? Uncomfortable? Ashamed? Hardly. This was art, after all. This wasn't about some flimsy pretext to show off my brand new pair of lacy pink panties. If anything, it felt empowering to take my sexuality into my own hands and use it as a megaphone into which to shout the rallying cries of social justice. Besides, as the day went on, it became clear that the project was an arousing - err, a rousing - success!

Admittedly, the audience was mostly men. Disappointing, to be sure, but the mere fact that the enemy had to come face to face with their own complicity in the bright pink reflection of my cute new underwear was a victory in itself. Clearly I'd given these misogynists a great deal to think about, because some of them literally stood there for quite some time to stare at my crotch and contemplate.

Todd stopped by that afternoon, as he'd said he would. Not a moment too soon, either! Even overcast, the day was plenty warm and standing over tin foil and mirrors meant my privates were getting a lot more sun than they typically did. But I owed it to my muse to wait for him, so even when I could feel that my freshly shaven thighs were getting sunburnt, I waited.

"This is incredible, Abbie. You look great!" he said. Complimenting my artistic display, of course; Todd wasn't the sort of guy who'd make crude comments about a woman's body.

"It's Abigail, actually," I corrected gently, "but thanks. It's been a long day, but I feel like we really struck a blow against the patriarchy! Those stuffy, red-faced, fascists got an eyeful today!"

"Nothing like the sight of a pink pussy to make a man's face go red," he said, studying the mirror beneath me again. I shifted my feet shoulder-width apart, to underscore my message, and we shared a smile of victory for women as he admired my art.

"Damn straight. You wouldn't believe the level of engagement 'Beyond the Looking Glass' got today. A lot of them were immature men who obviously didn't get it coming up to ask me out, but every time I ignored one of their advances, every time I let them ogle me without responding, it only showed the salvageable men what deviants infest their ranks. Heck, at one point I even undid a couple more buttons on my top just to provoke more reactions!"

Todd used a finger to tug at both side of my half-open blouse. The cups of my bra were just visible from a distance, though from where he stood, he had a great opportunity to confirm that my bra matched my panties. The whole outfit was brand new, spotless and primed to be appreciated.

"This was pretty bold move. I can't wait to see what you plan next, Abbie."

"Gail. Abigail." I really hated that nickname. "I'll need to give my thighs a few days to recover from the sunburns, but we can get started with the planning. I'm totally available any time you want." Luckily my cheeks were a bit rosy too, once I heard the way someone could misinterpret my meaning. I didn't want Todd to think I was interested in him as anything more serious than an admirer of my art.

Hopefully he didn't glance at the reflection again, see the damp spot blooming, and get the wrong impression.

We went out for coffee again after cleaning up the display. I was thoroughly dehydrated after standing in the heat on a reflective surface all day, so more than anything I wanted to get some fluids in me and turn my brain off and relax.

Todd, ever a sucker for a struggling artist, offered to help in his geeky way. I didn't stop him. Why not let him try? It seemed to make him happy, and it gave me a chance to zone out and let my mind wander.

He really was sweet to be helping me like this. I'd been doing my best to make myself inaccessible, repel his whole gender, but he'd seen through it and still wanted to help me. He was a real keeper. Should I ask him out? No, no, that wasn't right. He wasn't really in my league, for one, and moreover he was too valuable as the brains behind my art.

I surprised myself with that realization. I'd always prided myself on my intellect. Maybe I didn't always get straight A's, sure, but only because I was smart enough to know how to sniff out the patriarchal bullshit in the curriculum and refuse to play along. It had been a good way to show my dad I wasn't going to be his female facsimile. Still, I had to admit, Todd was a huge help in my art. I'd have to listen carefully to his suggestions and follow them. Unquestioningly.

Wait.

No, not unquestioningly. If I had questions, I should ask him. He could answer any doubts or uncertainties I might have about our artistic vision.

After all, look what he'd done today. Through me, he'd taken one of our misogynist world's most valuable commodities - the body of a conventionally sexy woman - and turned it into a shaken fist at the patriarchy. My flesh was our medium. If that had necessitated showing off my huge tits, any misgivings on my part were because I'd lacked vision. If it meant going home with sore thighs and an aching pussy, such were the wages of working women the world over. Every time my tender snatch ached, that pain was a badge of honor to have given of myself in service to the womynist cause.

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