top of page



The pursuit of perfection is both a blessing and a curse. The strong will is a vital force behind self-improvement, the straight-A transcript. Yet within my sleep deprived state, I look into a bathroom mirror, picking, digging with bloodied fingers into the soft flesh of my cheeks until the yellow puss surfaces from underneath. On the cusp of sunrise, the same urge reveals in a full-length dressing mirror a degree of disgust in the wide swellings of my body; the depression of the unreached potential of beauty. There is a flaw in my understanding. By comparing myself to others I lose the essence of myself. I feel stupid in a microcosm of brilliants, fat and socially underdeveloped in a sea of affluent high school beauties while reaching one of the primes of life. I have not changed much over the years. Personality can be fixed in some individuals. But it is not change in growth that makes something great, rather the degree of experience. As Andre Trocme once described himself, “I am a decapitated pine. Pine trees do not regenerate their tops. They stay twisted, crippled…They grow in thickness, perhaps, and that is what I am doing” (Gladwell 275). When judging greatness, I look for fellow pines who have, or have begun to rise over the quick growth spurts of bamboo. Greatness comes from nurturing a seedling of potential and putting forth the conscientious effort to do, to be.  

The photograph located adjacent to this paragraph was taken in 1987 by the American artist and photographer, Andres Serrano. Visually, the image is pleasing. The solid background provides complete focus on the subject, a plastic crucifix. The image is compositionally strengthened by the angle of prospective while the tiny specks provide an intricate texture in an otherwise flat and smooth atmosphere. The lighting and resonating amber glow provide a deep and warm value around the son of God, Jesus.

Parallel to the shenanigans of Miley Cyrus, attention is, whether positive or negative, inherently good. The full title of the work mentioned is Immersion (Piss Christ). Not essentially seen otherwise, the title reveals how the artist achieved the rosy glow, the clusters of small bubbles within the photograph. Because of the controversy of an idea, the title of an image brought fame to the taker. He bashes a symbol through uncomfortable ambiguity and questions the perception of the viewer. Yet is my own religious bias that stems me from calling this photograph ‘great.’ I can admire Serrano’s boldness, but not glorify it. He is a sprout of bamboo. Serrano grew from spurts of awards and gallery exhibitions, outcries and physical destruction of his printed work by religious upsets. His culms emerged from later works of feces and corpses. The idea of a process defines Serrano’s final products. Otherwise, the visual itself is too weak to stand on its own.  

In a much older forest, the passing rings formulate an image carved deep into the trunk of western society, the Mona Lisa. Historically, the oil painting was a novel in technique and composition of the sixteenth century portrait. The visual was the first to take on relaxed posture, elusive imaginary background, and smoky application style of oil paint. For over five hundred years, the Mona Lisa continues to be the base stem of a portrait in art. A dominant creature in modern media, the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa has captured many, and granted immortality not to a king or great warrior, but to an anonymous woman. Across an aging and contrasting landscape, she could be imagined as potentially anyone from any neck of the woods. Her eyes reflect puddles of souls from the past, the unborn still in the mist, and the present viewers reflecting back with their own fate, their own trail. 

The greatness of the painting may be explained with mathematical calculations and ratios, but in true essence there is something in the painting that transcends the ordinary human consciousness—there is beauty and simplicity; the unknowing gaze forever transfixed into the eyes of the beholder. Yet behind the numerous layers of oil and turpentine, there branches the kindling of a man, Leonardo da Vinci. The true Renaissance man, da Vinci was one of the most diversely talented to have ever lived. Leonardo spent an estimated fourteen years on Mona Lisa; adding paint to his canvas like snowflakes silently collecting on forest treetops in small cakes of delicate crystalline. Each stroke is a unique fingerprint, a gentle kiss transferred from the master to his beloved. Stolen glances from the viewer leave the sight open to their own interpretation. Leonardo is my dearest Sequoia. The Mona Lisa is his seed cone.

Good works are plentiful. They block the wind, challenge, and save the rest of the saplings from the devastating heat. In a single growing season, bamboo emerges from the ground to reach its fullest potential suddenly. Individual bamboo culms do not become taller or larger in diameter in subsequent years, and never replace growth lost from pruning or natural damage. Good can happen immediately; great will take many moons to rise, sometimes without recognition until seasons onward. Great works allow me to grab a shovel, to dig deeper without despair. I am not looking for another Mona Lisa within the gnarled roots; I’m searching for a comfort in myself. And comfort, I have discovered, is in recognizing the brilliance of humanity, or within an accepting smile, not the harsh criticisms of an expected image. I know that blood, sweat, and tears build up my bark, foster my limbs. Stress and worry make me grateful, strong. But the sunshine is equally important—important to glow and reflect, shine, be happy. A magnum opus can still blossom.



- Karaghen Hudson, November 2013


bottom of page