A Still Life
Miss Emma moves the objects around until they are in perfect dialogue with one another. The wooden mice, one longing to dance, one turning away. The doll with its expressive porcelain face, observing. The platinum teapot possibly the home of an elf. The lonely but small and sturdy pig. She caresses each one. These tinys, as she calls them, touch her child heart, rarely accessible with the weight of life and the passing of time.
The compartments of her printers’ tray, once filled with letters for hand setting type, now offer a home for these treasures. She’s gratified to be part of a long tradition. Cabinets of Curiosities, also called Wonder Rooms, originated in the sixteenth century and housed oddities, art, and archaeological finds.
Her camera captures the arrangements. Through the camera’s eye, she immerses herself in this other world, and listens to the banter between her treasures—mice and milk bottles, silver snails and desert snails, books and sand dollars.
She records her imaginings in her Diary of Curiosities, started thirty-one years ago, all the more precious for its worn and faded red leather cover. The black and white pot, perhaps from the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, captures the long-eared rabbit with the slimmest brush. The clay jug the colour of the modest beauty of the desert.
She is dogged in her pursuit of the provenance behind each object, nuggets of information to inspire daydreaming. From The Miniature Book Society (chartered in 1983), she discovered that young Victorian ladies discreetly carried tiny books of etiquette to ensure they behaved properly.
Miss Emma is fond of objets trouvés, especially ephemeral offerings from the sea and desert. The white snail (also known as Eremarionta Immaculata), a hermaphrodite which survives in the desert by going dormant underground. Miniature sand dollars from Cayman Brac which clone themselves. Seaweed washed up on the western shores of Newfoundland; and a fragment of bone, now pure white, found on the edge of Lake Ontario.
Her small objects are mysterious and reassuring. Each tiny perfection entices her to look more closely, even whisper to them. They draw her into a secret world, a step away from the chaos and clatter and chatter of unruly everyday spaces. She’s always been solitary, inclined to invention, finding pleasure and reassurance in her own imaginings.
Today yet another clash on a busy street with the bully boys on bikes who swing around her in circles, laughing maliciously and chanting Witch! Witch! Witch!
Miss Emma brushes off the outside world and constructs walls out of stories. She lowers her hunched shoulders and breathes deeply. Not defeated. No, never. She carefully re-arranges her tinys, listens to new conversations, and embraces the comforting intimacy of her treasures.
Image from a photo series on printer’s trays by Linda Briskin titled A Still Life. Part of Luminous, a forthcoming exhibit at the Heliconian Club (Toronto) in October 2022.
Linda Briskin is a writer and fine art photographer. Her creative nonfiction bends genres, makes quirky connections and highlights social justice themes—quietly. Frozen Air, an editor’s pick, was published in CNF journal Barren in 2020, and What the Body Remembers in *82Review in 2021. Hubris is forthcoming in Canary. In her fiction, she is drawn to writing about whimsy, fleeting moments, and the small secrets of interior lives. In 2021, these flash pieces--Purple Polish and Red Silk—were published in Tipping the Scales, and Modest Sabotage in Cobalt Review. As a photographer, she is intrigued by the permeability between the remembered and the imagined, and the ambiguities in what we choose to see. She also seeks new ways to combine text and image. Recently, her photographs were published in The Hopper, Flare Journal, Alluvian, Canadian Camera, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Burningword Literary Journal and High Shelf Press. In 2021 and 2022, her photographs were chosen for the Herstory exhibit sponsored by Manhattan Arts International. https://www.lindabriskinphotography.com/
The Ekphrastic Review
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