The faces that wreathe her within walls of stone


Ardith Goodwin

A painting that I feel encapsulates the feeling and overall emotion of this column.

She steeps in sauntering heat waves, unafflicted by the cool swishes of air encircling her bubble of comfort. Encased in a tiled box just beyond gypsum walls, caricatures of estranged hearts, creatures, and figures of people outside of her worldly dimensions peer in on her glass exterior. 

She doesn’t know these things, these faces, and would’ve thought to loathe their absence of familiarity. But instead, their foreign markings and blurred lines make for a scavenger hunt of acquaintance—a hunt in which she can find enticing profiles, expressions, and symbolic anecdotes.

Though she acquiesces in their ambiguous storylines, each face presented to her puts forth a different narrative. One, a three-quarter profile peering back over their shoulder, alludes to a hazy secret—a secret of morose spells that entrance her line of sight. The secret is not quite clear or told, yet it gives her so much to think on, so much space to grow into. 

Another pair of faces press into each other’s disguised features. It’s either a transient moment of hazard, intimacy, or ridicule shared between them, but their faces remain conjoined through whatever shared sentiment it might be. She recently ascertained that this specific pair was also observing her through a lens of interest, and looped them into her portal of nameless onlookers.

Succumbing to the unnatural field of illusive portraitures and graphics, she lays among the entities and their gaze.

A gaze of broken glass is bestowed upon her arena of prevalence through eyes caught in a harsh terrain of wrinkles and cross-hatched features. This face resembles that of a grim soul, yet it does not set off her alarms. It’s just another anonymous face staring back at her.

While each face provides visual interest and a sense of comforting admiration, decorations of symbols hang on the marble etchings intermixed with the figures. One emblem has plunged into her memory and emblazoned her for years; a heart of sorts caught within a mess of scribbles, representative of vines. Because its borders and edges are defined in such certainty, it has embroidered a design of familiarity into the fibrous layer of her undisclosed company. 

There’s just something endearing about this heart—why, among all of the cryptic faces and depictions, does this cardiovascular vignette encompass such an emboldened presence? What had highlighted it within her opalescent glare? As the heart nestles into the grid of illustrations, the questions asked remain unresolved—yet, its definitive proof of realism continues to mingle with her consciousness.

Succumbing to the unnatural field of illusive portraitures and graphics, she lays among the entities and their gaze. Though she questions the tangled heart and the motives of her overseers, she knows that she will never have to face more than their stare. After all, they are all cemented into a wall of solitude, only left with what their apparent expressions allow.

As she floats in the aqua tresses of fallen water, she knows that her marble gallery of isolated portraits will always be defined in the wall beside her, as she is defined in an equally emotive statue before them.