Years ago, my father had heart surgery. My mother and I sat in the waiting room together for hours, silent. It was nothing like you see on TV. There was no praying, no crying, no holding hands. No nervous pacing with coffee from a machine in the corner. We simply sat there, numb, suspended in a space where emotion isn’t really possible. When the surgeon finally came in, he spoke two words that in a different kind of atmosphere would carry a very different weight: Everything’s fine. In everyday conversation, those words are so light, so airy, so devoid of real consequence, that they barely register. But in that room, on that day, every syllable carried unimaginable heft. “Relief is not a weight lifted from your shoulders,” I wrote in the notebook that had been sitting untouched in my lap. “It is a force that pins you firmly back to earth.”
Words tether us to existence, ground us in certainty. They can just as easily set us adrift. Had the surgeon spoken a different sentence, reflective of a different reality, I would’ve been spun off into the unknown; left, in the wake of his words, to navigate an unfamiliar world. I was reminded of this tenuous strand of connection while being led by artist David Sprecher through his show “Anchors,” on exhibit at Peanut Gallery in Humboldt Park.
Sprecher’s work speaks to the ways in which we are constantly attempting to orient ourselves, both physically and emotionally, to our surroundings. On the gallery’s far end, he has constructed a false wall, tilted to just one degree off center. Works on graph paper flank either side of an arched doorway, the graph aligned parallel to the floor. Before Sprecher explains what he’s done, the area gives the impression of something being ever-so-slightly amiss. In my case, I figured it was just the hangover kicking in. But once he tells you, once words are used to describe the reality, one degree suddenly feels like ten. You become fully aware of having been knocked from your axis, and for the remainder of your time in the room, you are fully conscious of your efforts to right yourself, to make sense of your newly altered world.
I could describe the rest of my time with Sprecher but it would be doing a disservice both to him and to you. He is one of those rare artists whose work stands brilliantly on its own and adopts infinite new dimensions when described by its maker. Fortunately Sprecher will be on hand for the closing party of “Anchors” at Peanut Gallery tomorrow (Fri 11/15, 6-10 PM). Take the opportunity to experience the reality Sprecher has created beneath the weight of his words.