From a distance she could only tell that she needed to slow down to figure out what it was. She pulled over on the side of the dusty two-lane road and stared out her driver’s side window. After looking up and down in both directions, she got out of the car and sat on the hood, staring.
The rest of the place was as normal as it gets in this part of the small Oklahoma town she was driving through – barn, aluminum building that stored farm equipment and a small brick home where rusty tricycles and broken plant containers crowded the small porch.
But what her eyes were glued to, this wasn’t normal, wasn’t anything she could even imagine. It was Frankenstein at work, she decided.
She looked at the bottom of the structure, and while she didn’t know exactly what the corroded steel contraption was, she was sure it had a purpose other than this at some point. Her eyes followed the sculpture upward in wonder at the panels that had been molded around a wire support frame and somehow fashioned into this monster-sized hand. She could barely force her gaze beyond that, but she had to – the delicate butterfly wings that used the index finger as its body called on her to give it its due consideration.
She pulled her camera from her bag and took enough pictures to ensure that she’d get at least a couple of shots that would capture this moment in all its glory. She wished she had the courage to go knock on the door to meet the artist, or talk to someone who had the story to tell, but she didn’t. The day was getting away from her already, and she needed to get down the road, on to her hideous task of meeting with the administrators at the VA hospital to see if they’d take her dad as a resident.
She watched the monument get smaller and smaller in her rear-view mirror, and in her mind she grew the story to epic romantic proportions. A cowboy/artist who was farming the family land out of obligation – when he really wanted to be in New York or Chicago working his art. His small-town girlfriend who didn’t understand his passion, and his friends who took care to only make fun of him out of earshot.
Maybe his mother had artistic inclinations when she was young, but being stuck in the small town and married with two small children before her twentieth birthday didn’t leave room for her dreams to take flight.
At home days later, she loaded all her photos onto her computer. When she came to the shots of the sculpture on the farm road, she felt a pang of regret. Why didn’t she seek out the real answers instead of conjuring a story of her own? She wondered how many other people had stopped to take the same photo, and if any of them been brave enough to knock on the door.
Then she stopped living in the regret, because she knew her passion was to observe and create from that observation. The story that lay beyond that farm house’s front door wasn’t the most important thing; the art itself was, and she had no doubt that the stories would multiply with every person who stopped and took a photo and then shared it with their friends or family or the world at large. And she was happy, because that is what art should do.
“There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand. I am practically industrious — painstaking, a workman to execute with perseverance and labour — but besides this there is a love for the marvelous, a belief in the marvelous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore.” ~ Robert Walton, Letter 2: Frankenstein