I have written a chapbook about animal-human transformations in art. I intended to release it in the spring of ’20, but mysterious circumstances prevented me from doing so. I will release it when I’m able! For now, please enjoy this excerpt from my observation of The Boy Hidden in a Fish (the Little Sea Hare), David Hockney, etching and aquatint, 1969
The stones on the sea floor are solemn, and funny in solemnity. This stone here is etched with shadow as if shadow had the stone between thumb and forefinger and turned it quickly, maybe with irritation. There are sea plants like the shoots of yarn you are suprised to see in the braid of a birds’ nest. Across the long floodplain there is dark and sand and silt like college-ruled paper distorting just before it is consumed in flames.
There is a white fish who floats in fish-motion. It is humped as a hill but heads forward neither from its shoulders, as if suspended, nor from its base, as if pulled by a rope. It is most like a puppet zipping along the stage then half-sun out of sight.
The fish’s eye is blank as a Daruma. There is a space along its shoulder where its scales are made invisible by the light shining along the long mound of its side—and then the scales reappear across the boy, like stitching in a gauze bandage. By the fish’s mouth its scales are fine and small, and they grow to pass over the widening fish body, over the boy.
I vividly remember the hush of crying at the sound of rescue. The crying stops like a cat’s ear twitches. This boy seems exhausted to the point of calm. The line of the fish’s plump neck crosses the boy’s face, over the bridge of his nose, touching the tuck of skin beneath his eye, dividing eye land from nose land and mouth land.
The boy’s mouth is like the fish’s: white space delineated by a middle which climbs over the thumb. It has always disturbed me that the boy is so old, ten or eleven, and sucking his thumb. I suppose it’s natural when you’re scared, and moreover invisible and therefore private, to become a littler child.
The boy’s body is a little above the lowest limit of the fish at arm and hand. There is a white country of fish beneath him. I have the impression that the boy was stamped, somewhat crookedly, into the fish like an airport stamp into the square of my passport. At his knee and at the cuff of his bell-bottom the boy is almost flush with the fish’s line.
The boy is curled on his side. His eyes are distant, focussed and cross—not angry but abstracted. He looks angry because people look angry when they are focussed inward. That is how children look when they are tired and that is how adults look when they are praying in earnest. The tussel of scales at the flattening before the fish’s tail is dark because the scales are so close together, like crescent moons cast by leaves during an eclipse. The boy’s toe in the fish’s tail is like a hand in an overlong sleeve.