:: Article

Some Notes on the Habits of Wild Garment-Sculpture

By Matthew Jakubowski.

The thrown sculpture of their clothing, flat against the carpet in her apartment, watched as the two made love and noticed how in the course of their coupling his right knee gently nudged her left buttock, which allowed her to reach over with one hand and playfully grip his thigh.

With that, they and their garments added once again to a neglected corner of folk-art history.

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These multifarious species of sculpture have appeared in spontaneous forms across time, the combined works of art made by couples rushing toward one another, their garments taking flight, sometimes intertwining in mid-air like dueling birds of prey, meshing and twisting, still warm with body heat and aromas as they cascade toward earth together and land to create a unique object of assembled affections, installed a short time only, for a private audience of two good people—most often—though that number of participants is by no means the rule. Larger sculptures do pop up.

Their history is as vast as our race and as varied as fashions across the centuries. From dirt floors to marbled expanses, comprised of animal skins or rarest silks, by candlelight or disco ball, in air-conditioned private jets or meadows less than a mile from the battlefield, these primarily ground-dwelling creatures experience short happy lives of mysteriously resilient grace. Governments and architecture have changed, new vaccines kept lovers alive who wouldn’t have survived the plagues of old, our scientific explorations yielded new perfumes and fabrics, and the art has advanced in tandem with the species that it has clothed.

They witness our lovemaking with shy pride. Silent and still, draped over one another, they observe from the floor or the furniture. All the gestures we have performed within them that day surge pleasantly through their fabric, recorded in the sense memory of their seams, each thread humming as it cools, remembering the steps of the day’s dance that led to this place in time. In the wisp of religion they have, their spirits remain earth-bound and invisible. Their color and texture beam as testament to the work they have accomplished. Zippers twist up at us in cheerful metallic grins. Rolled nylons gape, mute in mock surprise.

They revel in knowing that they clothed us when we met so-and-so. That older woman in torn $300 jeans. That younger man in a tailored suit. Afterwards, the bend-and-scoop to retrieve them, lifting the sculpture apart in clumps to retreat back into what may now be considered a lucky blouse, a new favorite jacket, adding layers that take us away from our nakedness. Dressed again, we wear them home, or wrap ourselves briefly to lead a guest to the door, everyone more rumpled and, perhaps, content.

Later, we put these special pieces on top of the laundry pile in the closet or the hamper. There they are no longer anonymous. When we return they often receive better treatment. More trips to the dry cleaner. More trips to the sink for a gentle wash by hand. The echoed song the threads sung that day lingers briefly, becoming part of the well-worn lyric between garments and humans, as lovers and their wardrobes gain experience, participating in greater works of greater imagination, gaining mastery over their flights through the air, their ability to land just so, gleaning something permanent from what appears purely improvised. In lighter moments ahead, if we like, we can pass along a true hand-me-down, offering the next generation a casual smirk and the endless mystery of luck blended within that mere piece of clothing.

Our colliding uniforms and ritual costumes, our artworks-to-be. They search our global garb, from sari to lederhosen, in every climate, at latitudes nearer the sea or sky, tumbled in time. Without them we lack material in motion over our bodies, appearing to carry us as we are carried, sharing the comfort of seeing and being seen, communicating our mood and history, feigning mere utility – as if we were only trying to keep warm during our search for food and shelter. They are with us in our cradle-to-grave photography as we have increased across the earth, collaborative benefactors in an evolving art.

On this day and the next, women and men will not simply put on their clothes for work or a night out with friends. During these hours, love and gravity will debut more thrown sculpture, as spontaneous as rainfall, ending a thirst. Too-fastidious lovers will remain proud strangers to this art, which allows no counterfeit. It insists on some brief abandon, the literal fling of self and its disguises, with fevered scuffle and breathless pitch, carrying actor and costume into brave new positions and after-conversations.

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A minute ago, a masterpiece was disassembled piece-by-piece from the floor of her apartment.

He reached down to start getting dressed. The cotton fabric of his chinos brushed over a light scratch mark. He looked, noticing how the fingernail mark resembled a brushstroke, a watercolor pink on his skin, and took care as he closed the gleaming teeth of his zippered fly.

Matthew Jakubowski’s short stories have appeared in Necessary FictionBarrelhouse, Apiary, and elsewhere. He’s a panelist for the Best Translated Book Award and writes frequently for publications such as Bookforum, The National, and The Quarterly Conversation. He is at work on a novel about art and envy.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012.