HAYLEY BARKER


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"Vintage Self Help"

Twelve short essays on trauma, nature, shamanism, illness, art and time. Text and drawings by Hayley Barker.

Perfect bound, with newsprint poster. Produced by Cherry & Lucic, edited by Katie Ford, designed and bound by Sammie Cetta, printed by Ryan Patrick Krueger. (c) 2017. 46 pages.  Edition of 50. 
$20 each
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An excerpt from the essay, "Cocoon"

Who is the ambassador?

Many scholarly essays say that the two men in Holbein’s pain
ting are the titular ambassadors — men of science, politics, culture — but I’ve never seen it that way.
 
I’ve always assumed that the bizarrely placed, out-sized anamorphic skull at the front of the painting is the ambassador. The warped skull, a representative from another place. The stranger who is bringing news from afar, proposals for interaction or collaborative efforts, pronouncements on behalf of the bodies not present, projecting plans onto the bodies receiving this being. Willingly or not.

When first you meet the ambassador, she is unknown. She could be the closest relative you have never met or just a stranger. She cannot be seen from the front and must be approached from the side in order to become three-dimensional. You find her by not finding her.


The ambassador is also a shape. The spaces between figures and background. The negative shapes made by forms on a ground. The holes you can find looking up into a fully-leaved tree, spaces framed by branches and foliage, frames an awkward oval in form. Portholes to the sky. The window a tangible thing. The spaces a wreath of roses or a headdress of ivy. The crowns,  gateways, entryways, vaginas. The baby is crowning.

Or she thought she was a princess, Opal Whitely, the naturalist, poet, and mystic who died in a mental hospital in 1970’s London, researching, trying to prove her regal lineage. Is her royalty made real in blood or is it birthed by a series of actions? The crown being a symbol of what is held above. Venerated. Yet venereal. Relating to sexual desire and worship.

The day before the hysterectomy, I researched till I found the right medical diagram. What does a woman’s body look like inside after her uterus and ovaries are removed? The resulting space resembles an empty cocoon.


But what is the unfilled space in a diagram? If you are visualizing your internal spaces how do you know when you have reached the empty part? Do you know when you are leaving it? How do you sense its lack of density? Does the space have nerve endings? Is it felt? Or is it like water or air? A zero that gets filled without effort due to its inherent qualities? Do other organs, muscles, bones, blood fill the space by default? It’s hard to imagine the empty space in my mid-section like an airless balloon, as I continue to grow more and more sturdy, thick.