ArtWords 2020: "How My Husband Makes a Jackson Pollock" by Catherine Retica
Jackson Pollock painting

How My Husband Makes a Jackson Pollock

As for paint, any kind of object filled with non-solid matter will suffice. They need to fit comfortably in his hand, which means bigger than a gum ball but smaller than a cantaloupe. But also neither if it’s late enough or early enough or both. Perfume, hot sauce, candles (lit), beer can, shampoo bottle, cup of coffee. These are the guidelines that do neither guiding nor line setting, but they seem to be instinctively followed by him and implicitly by me.

Once you have your paint, it’s time to choose a canvas. For him, a naked wall is usually best. Even a non-naked wall will work since decor can act as targets. Shower curtain, counter tops, television, fridge door, bathroom mirror. These work too. In an exceptional fit of his artistic inspiration, you yourself can also function as a canvas.

Then comes motivation. An artist feels a driving force to create a piece—a great desire to express innate emotions. These will typically be sparked by menial things you do. Stopping somewhere on the way home from work without telling him, meeting a family member, being too late, being too early, eating meals without him, leaving the ice cream pint out for too long. These are a few, but you’ll always discover more ways only after they’ve started the creative process.

That’s how my husband makes a Jackson Pollock. It’s quite easy. How to get rid of these masterpieces, on the other hand, is hard. You’ll need a pen, a new manila envelope (the other has nail polish remover on it). Somewhere else to stay—maybe a friend’s house. A new daycare. A gun for protection. But first, a notary. And a good art dealer.


Garnering second place in this year's competition, Ms. Retica's submission is inspired by the artwork pictured above: Sam Gilliam, Marathon, 2003. Relief monoprint on paper, 29 5/8 × 39 5/8 in. Collection of the Weisman Art Museum, Gift of Steven M. Andersen.

Read the other 2020 ArtWords winners >>

Read the full 2020 edition of The Tower, in which this year's winners are published >>

Listen to the 2020 podcast and hear this year's contributors to The Tower read their submissions >>

ArtWords is an annual writing competition in which students select a piece of art on display from the Weisman Art Museum's permanent collection, and create an original piece of prose or poetry in response to it.

This competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Selected authors are awarded prizes, published online, and given the opportunity to present their work in the galleries of the museum. Undergraduate winning writers of ArtWords are published in The Tower.

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ArtWords is held in collaboration with the English Department's Creative Writing Program. A panel including Creative Writing faculty, Weisman Art Museum staff, and editors of The Tower select winning entries. Prizes include a gift certificate to the WAM Gift Shop, as well as two $75, two $50, and two $25 prizes.

Our guest judges: Sam Van Cook, the president, founder, and owner of Button Poetry; award-winning poet and essayist Douglas Kearney, professor in the University of Minnesota's Creative Writing Program; and Michael Curran, the Marketing and Communications Associate at Weisman Art Museum.

Our student judges: Claire Breitenbach, Designer, Fiction Editor, and Copyeditor of The Tower; Afton Kelly, Managing Editor and Chief Poetry Editor of The Tower; Miki Schumacher, Marketing Director and Art Editor of The Tower; and Kimberly Xayaroun, Publicist and Fiction Editor of The Tower.