2022 Shell of a Story
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of observations people make when talking and writing about what they see in the Oyster Art. Visitors to my gallery are always pointing out different things they see in my artwork. The Shell of a Story writing competition provided people with an opportunity to be creative with their writing when presented with a visual prompt.
Congratulations and thanks to Lisa Germany from Sisimiut, Greenland for her winning story entitled TRUTHSAYER the name now given to this piece of Oyster Art available for purchase here. The story-starter caption, sourced from Lisa’s story reads as follows: “The golden pen was the weapon used by the Truthsayer to pierce the hardened shell of everyday life.”
This year’s visual prompt inspired her story which took me on a journey I had not considered, and one I hope you will enjoy reading.
“It is the only way I know.
The only way to pierce the hardened shell of everyday life.
To penetrate the chaos of thoughts that lie just underneath.
The swirling clouds that obscure the vision I so desperately seek.
The tight embrace of water that drowns my real desires.
The infinite, inner cosmos of petty distractions in which I am lost.
It is a golden pen.
The only weapon I’ve found that works for me.
That reveals myself to myself.
An injection of clarity that clears the fog of unimportant details.
A submarine diving into my deepest thoughts.
A spaceship journeying to my inner world.
My greatest ally in discovering the hidden pearl of my true self.”
The wild oyster shell used for the visual prompt was provided by Brackley Bay Oyster Company, who farm one of the oldest and most storied oyster leases on Prince Edward Island.
Almost 100 years ago, Lorne and Edith MacMillan pioneered the oyster industry on Prince Edward Island by inventing equipment that made oyster fishing more productive and efficient. They farmed and shipped oysters around the world from the same lease that Brackley Bay Oyster Company fishes today. Robbie Moore and partner Kendra Mills represent a new generation of oyster farmers who are committed to producing a sustainable product. Wild caught oysters are less perfectly shaped and need back-breaking hours of tonging to harvest—but this couple think the results are worth it.
I also want to share three of the other story submissions, each one taking me on a completely different journey of appreciation for the artwork.
“DEAREST” by Angel Beran
Philippines, Tuguegarao Cagayan
Once belonging down the rough neighborhoods of Deighbury, a young man’s talent— painting so-intricate that his play of pigments can turn the piece even more alive than the actual view—made his way to be the King’s personal painter. He had only one work: to paint every scenery the king wanted.
An artist privilege, they said, for he got his own house and supplies by merely painting. But he had one weakness unbeknownst by many. He cannot paint faces. Though tried a couple times, his hands just won’t cooperate. But it didn’t matter to him.
Not until his eyes met Maire, the youngest princess.
While he was sketching the sea from the rooftop, she spoke, “I am very fond of the waves… I always watch them from here.” He paused from drawing and turned around. Maire smiled. That was the moment he felt the certain rush to paint someone’s divine eyes and succulent lips; someone’s curved lashes and gleaming skin. Yet as much as how desperate he tried to, he still can’t.
During the intentional long days working on the seascape, he became close with Maire, his dearest, he began call her. Because he cannot offer anything, not even a formal portrait, he instead crafted her beauty as diaphanous and vibrant as the Hibiscus touched by the sun.
He brought the painting with him the day he was almost finished with the seascape, planning to give it to Maire as he confess his sincere love. However, it was the oldest sister who arrived. “Maire loved the waves so much… she yearned for their company last night,” she uttered and immediately left. Dazed, his shaking hands held the Hibiscus painting and gently let it fall into the sea, hoping it would find its way to his dearest Maire.
“DUST” by Sylvie Soul
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I spilled some dust on the cosmos. Sorry about that.
Here – let me wipe that up.
Uh-oh. I’ve smeared the dust across the cosmos. Now it’s getting everywhere.
Now my perfect nothing is ruined. Contaminated by something.
Light, gas, solids.
All are here and all have ruined my lovely nothing.
My blacks are now blues, now there are hues. How absurd!
What a mess I’ve made, and now it’s only getting worse.
The dust is clumping together. Dotting my nothing to make even more something.
More things that I can’t even see that are blotching my creation.
Carbon. Bone. Blood. Brain. Thoughts. Emotions. Souls.
These stains will never come out.
Although…they’re not so unsightly.
Actually, they’re quite lovely.
Oh, what a horrible, beautiful mistake.
And all because I spilled some dust on the cosmos.
Sorry about that.
“IMAGINE” by Lisa Germany
A beat of adrenaline courses through her veins as she reaches the entrance to the gallery.
“What the …?”
An abstract of blues and yellows has replaced the famous, but in her eyes, impossibly trite Rococo painting that occupied this exact spot only 2 minutes earlier.
She quickly looks around but finds herself alone. Surely, she would have heard someone walking across the polished hardwood floors, let alone working to remove and replace a priceless artwork? And who would place an abstract in a room filled with 18th century canvases anyway?
She approaches the piece slowly, brow furrowed. It isn’t a painting, it is … something else. Something solid yet unknown. Something with just enough structure to unlock the imagination of even the most practical viewer, blur the lines of reality, and …
She is a space pilot. Strapped into the cockpit of her sleek 25th century caravel. It has taken her 3 days to travel to Anngiaq-7 by light propulsion from her base on Ittuku. Now, with her sails furled, she is hurtling through the planet’s sulfurous clouds collecting samples to be analysed for life forms. The first test performed on a planet with potential for terraforming.
She is an oceanographer. Her streamlined submersible descending through murky waters stained yellow with pollution. What is the source of this unknown contamination? This discoloured foulness that smells of corruption. She claims she has seen it before. It’s how she convinced them to include her in the team. And while she’s not exactly lying, she neglected to mention that she’d only seen it in a dream.
She is a …
She reads the small, rectangular plaque that occupies its usual position at the bottom-right of an artwork.
Photomacrographic of a wild, Brackley Bay Oyster shell
Read Shell of a Story Outline for a complete overview of the competition.