:: Article

Naked in Front of Strangers #1

By Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Back home after a nomad summer to the tune of Hells Angels on Main Street as the spotlights of helicopters probe alleys outside,

The teapot screams at nine p.m. with two hours of drawing left ahead as I sit wide-eyed amidst an illustration ink coma,

At 39, my impending old age is rendering me more French romantic then punk rock,

It’s in the very way that German lace, the arts and craft movement’s ebony and abalone inlays, Victorian curls and maroon silk have replaced heavy lace up boots, black, white and red striped tee shirts and deep purple lips in my overall aesthetic repertoire,

Or the way I’ve become prone to making homemade fig jam on toast to go along with Bukowski in the morning,

Or the way I put on fancy dresses to ride bikes and busses to the parties of millionaire art collectors,

Or the way the bloody messes on canvas happen now while I remain perfectly sober,

Gracefully navigating my way through extremes to reach my destinations seems to be my fate,

Becoming less planned and more present as random things start to captivate me,

Like items of clothing I find betrayed, waylaid and abandoned throughout the funky crevices of my beachside city,

Crumpled pink panties on Sunday, Indian sari on speedway, Hollister shorts covered with dog turds, black hoodie in the trees under quartz rock, vanished poet’s book and eyeglasses under hanging flower vine, tropical shorts on gray cement staircase, skater tee buried in pine bristles on sidewalk, striped button down shirt reeking of high voltage blues, tennis shoes under palm frond, and reggae knit cap hung-over near dumpster,

If I weren’t afraid of germs I would collect up all this clothing and build a skeletal tower made of old cactus bones Charles Ray Walker style: a ramshackle collage along the Los Angeles River where those who have no place to go could roam and air their dirty laundry,

The artists I know are all going back to the old fashioned and primal in this technologically advanced, faux material age: mother nature hewn boulders, stone or wood carvings, sewing kit buttons and string, or subjects culled from the ephemera of shamanic dreams,

Tiring of exhibitions full of angst and the focus on hypocrisy that once ramped my juices and lit up my brain,

Tonight, I duck into my front gate at home mere moments before a man in heavy jeans and jangling pocket keys comes running past my house, fleeing something, and shortly thereafter I hear another set of feet running after him,

“It’s a bitch!” the second man yells after his friend who runs before him, “Every moment is an ankle breaker,” he demands under his breath as his footfalls pound on.

Finally learning to release myself from the vampire-suckers and aggressive people in my life, another thing stemming from the maturation of years,

And to be comfortable alone at night in a room with nothing but the clarifying light of the moon,

I am intentionally avoiding social situations and desperately seeking blank, empty space,

Cultivating silence with an undefended gait, fangs honed and chomping for a meatier bite of life,

Right at the thick of it with two hands grasped around its ample girth…


Kimberly Cooper Nichols is an artist, writer and social anthropologist living in Venice Beach, California. She has been exhibiting for over a decade as a conceptual artist in the United States and is the author of the book of literary short fiction Mad Anatomy. She also serves as editor for the socially progressive journal Newtopia. She is a contributing editor to 3:AM where her serial poetry column Naked in Front of Strangers appears monthly. She is currently at work on her second book Neptune’s Journey as well as a 22-piece conceptual art project titled FOOL.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, October 8th, 2012.