"Trial" – 1956 – Conrad Marca-Relle

“Trial” – 1956 – Conrad Marca-Relle
Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), September 2016

What follows below is auto-writing from my visit to the MIA in September. I was drawn to this piece and it did not want to let me go. I spent half the day standing and sitting in this room – this photo is me. I didn’t know my boyfriend was taking pictures, so you probably see my head cocked to the side, as if I’m trying to figure something out…  You’re right. I’m still trying to figure it out…

You’ll notice some *** in a few of the words – that doesn’t mean swear words, that means “crap I was writing way too fast and now I don’t know what that word is!!!”

The original message is white on black –
but the people 
– the cover ups – the letters
scrawled within the ***trals are 
screaming to get out
searching for a clear message I find none.
There is something here beneath the canvas
overlays – yelling to me to find and free it.

Light and shadow canvas on black on white
Justice is hidden behind filters – my truth is
not your truth but it is still truth

and now I sit on the museum floor – perplexed
by this being – this trial in front of me – 

What is it saying?
That justice and law and experiments are
clouded by our filters 
How innocence is not
objective but subjective depending on the crime or
offense or indignity thrust upon me – and
it is my job to find  meaning behind the
paint – behind the mask – behind the canvas – 

behind the makeup – the fingerprints – the
strategically placed brush strokes – 

I wonder what glue holds this together – 
this melding of the materials – 

A hand is reaching out to me and I cannot
see it but I feel it – there is no doubt – 

my purpose is to free 
the message displayed

so I sit – soaking in
the images – ignoring 
the footsteps and 
coughing security guard
and just be in the
presence of this work —

They’re faces – 
a hundred faces pleading
their case – Quiet eyes
peering through the
shards of canvas —


Do they see what I see – 
Do I want to know what
is really there? Do I …

I keep coming back to the 
message in the canvas – 
maybe if I sit closer
I will see more
or maybe not

Faces / pain / beaks / bodies 
words are painted beneath
the canvas and between 
and over and under

Fragmented canvas
Fingerprints are not a mistake

I sit to the left for a 
new perspective – 


What are we guilty of except pleasure and what kind
of trial is this?

A man in uniform ~~ clergy?
pursed lips
I am

Picasso-esque tears
dog barking lower right
death whispering to a
downed polar bear – 
bottom right – a FACE
A phallus
a bowed head
bottom center – person reclining
2 in bed

am i reading into this?
Do i care?

I am seeing faces 
everywhere – bodies
hunched in agony or

looking behind the letters 
and into the canvas – between
the visible and into the 
subjective – as guilt or
innocence and be seen — 

I was right to change my
perspective and glad I
do not force myself 
onto a sofa or chair

I still see words and
letters… trying to look
through them — 

I don’t care that they are
whispering or about whom
they are ss-ss-ss-ss-ing

Scooting closer
A sharper angle

fewer words – more 
abstract bodies contortioning
through the canvas pieces

and i don’t know why this
touches me – so many
messages in this one work — 

another new scene — 
from the right —

swords / battles / bodies
why do i see these things

eyes just appeared
blinked then

I hope this is all intentional
because otherwise my found 
meaning is laughable – 

shadows light canvas
wood oil black white
mixed brush stroke drip
dribble Forgotten

why were these choices made

what did it?

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