PERUSING PAPER in Texas Art Supply a couple of years ago, I overheard a conversation between two pre-teen girls, probably sisters. They were standing near a rack of tiny plastic animals which could only be called toys — finely rendered toys, but toys all the same. The younger sister, maybe nine, was mesmerized by the animals, picking up now a rhinoceros, now a dragon, now a pig, but the older sister wanted nothing to do with them.
“No, we’re too old for those toys,” she said. The younger sister blushed, embarrassed by her childishness. So I walked over to the rack, plucked a tiny hare from the furry mammal section and pretended to be very intrigued, turning it around in my hand like a gemstone or a jewel. Seeing how old I was, and seeing how much delight I took in examining the toy, the older girl, immediately realizing the ridiculousness of her position, was stunned into silence. Freed from the toy-numbness of adulthood, for a moment at least, she quickly got down to the business of play, picking up now a zebra, now a lemur, now a unicorn. That’s how the hare came into the picture.
Back in my Virgin Mary phase, when I was learning how to operate a film camera and photographing every Virgin Mary I could find — headless or otherwise — in the Katrina-ravaged cemeteries of New Orleans, I took an interest in an old plaster figurine my mother had inherited from her grandmother, a bedside Blessed Virgin. I wondered how to photograph it. I wondered what background to use. I wanted to capture in the photograph what I felt when I looked at the small statue — a radiance, a crystalline warmth — so I decided to lay her on her back on a mirror aimed toward the sky, with small pieces of mirror propped up on their edges around her. When I looked down at her through my camera from an aerial perspective it looked like she was floating in the sky. That’s how the mirrors came into the picture.
A nun at Kinko’s on Tchoupitoulas added the next ingredient. Fresh from the one-hour photo, my exposed roll of film now an enveloped batch of Virgin Mary four-by-sixes, I’d just printed out several enlargements — 100%, 125%, 150%, 200% — and was stacking them together on a table near the out-chute of the copier when a nun walked by and did a double take. I think we both saw it at the same time, how the stacked images seemed to radiate.
Fast forward to 2008, a clear day in Houston. I take four big bricks, a padded envelope filled with mirror pieces and a chamois for dabbing debris to the sidewalk near the vacant lot across the street where sunflowers grow in summertime, to a spot with no tree branches overhead, and I make my box of mirrors, and I place the hare inside.