I spent the better part of the past sixth months carving this salt block.
At first, I just needed something to do with my hands. I was having this encounter with someone in my life—a spark in the darkness—and I felt like it was consuming me, the only thing I could do was make this very physical, very laborious work.
So I started at the top, carving it down flat with a box cutter because I don’t have any real tools in my studio, only cameras and books. Pretty quickly I decided to carve it into a cup. And I decided to carve it upside down, which meant I had to make a flat plateau first.
I made mind maps about salt, and about want, and about cups. They’re all connected, I swear. I just wanted something real, some proof of what had happened to me, what was twisting me up.
Sculpture is destructive and creative at the same time. There is debris and residue and what’s the point of it all? I just collect it in other cups. But also, there is something new being made, being unearthed. I feel like I’m dusting it off, like it’s a bone, a fossil I’m uncovering. Like it was always there. (Like we were always there.) Like it was inevitable. (Like we were inevitable.)
The more my want consumed me, the more my body chained me up, the more I couldn’t have him, even when I had him and I just wanted more, the more salt covered my hands, the more I wanted to rip every last bit of my skin off of my body, the more I wanted all the salt to fall onto my table, the more I needed to carve and carve and carve. Like a teenaged version of myself cutting lines into my hipbones. Like a wild animal. Like a woman, unhinged.
I used a hammer my grandfather had in his garage to pound a small flat blade into the salt. The sponges soaked with salty water dried up and crystalized. Little rock sponges. Papery sheets of salt flaked off the trays that held the water. Everything was disappearing. The water, the salt, myself.
And the salt kept collecting on the table, and then the work changed, and the cup became a real thing you could see, people could see, I could run my hands along it. To gauge my progress I found a similar sized cup and used it as a sheathe. It showed me my mistakes, where my lines were bowed and I need to shave more down. How I needed it to be smaller, still needed to subtract more.
Then I was onto a kind of precise shaving. The salt coming off wasn’t crystalized and sparkly anymore. Salt powder rained down on my hands. It fell onto my pants, clung to my sweater when I pressed the salt against my body to get a better grip.
A callous formed on my left hand pinky. A hard little bump where the wood handle of the chiseled blade sat and rubbed.