When putting together a show for gallery display, the challenge for the artist is to build a consistent theme or style that carries a viewer through the mind of the creator. Each subsequent piece adds to the artist’s expression of their vision.
For the Ruby series, Mark Sullivan not only curated a disparate group of 12 of the images of Markus Giolas, but supplied for them a compelling narrative which adds deeper meaning to the images both singularly and as a group.
Each Markus Giolas Ruby image associates with text written by Mark Sullivan. His prose gives us something to grab on to, adding a broader dimension to each photograph. As we proceed linearly from one photograph and its caption to the next, the collaborative narrative of Ruby unfolds.
CLICK on the lower right of the images to view the prose.
Ruby sighed, closed the door and looked at it, trying to decide if
locking it was even necessary. Looking up she saw the letters over
the doorway and thought about how the meaning had changed
for her so significantly since that first day. She laughed thinking
about how she had to force herself to walk through the front
door and say something to the first person that made eye contact.
What she said she couldn’t remember, but what they said she
would never forget.
The red church was where Momma met Bill. All these years later the smell of the inside, that mix of burned wood and something she never could figure out, still haunted her. Ruby knew that things had happened there. She kept pushing them down, not ready to think about them. Besides with Bill gone and Momma dead, there didn’t seem to be any point in dwelling on the past.
When she was eight, Ruby used to hide in the trees by the abandoned
supermarket parking lot. She would wait there until it
got dark and quietly sneak back into the house when she knew
no one was awake. This became her routine for the years that
Bill lived with Momma—the two of them never seemed to mind
that she wasn’t around. She started to treat the giant statue like a
friend of hers, always there waiting for her, always listening to her
stories and her singing without a word against her. Eventually Bill
left Momma just the way that the others had before him and Ruby
stopped hiding in the trees. And when they tore down the statue
to make room for a used car lot, she didn’t know what to think.
The big lady statue scared Ruby. The kids in her class would make
comments about things that she didn’t like to hear about, secret
things, mystery things. And they’d use words that she didn’t quite
understand. The boys were the worst, always chasing the girls and
wanting to touch them. Some of the girls would let them and they
got talked about. Ruby got talked about, too, but she pretended
that she didn’t hear what they were saying. She’d just go inside
herself and think about her hiding places until they stopped.
By the time Thursday rolled around, Momma was itching to
get out and have some fun. Ruby hated watching her get ready
because she knew what the end of the evening would look like.
If Momma was alone when she came back, she’d be in one of her
moods and things would get broken. And if she wasn’t alone, well,
that’s when Ruby would disappear. She’d hear the wheels on the
gravel driveway and a voice she didn’t recognize and knew it was
time to make herself scarce.
The next day it was usually quiet in the house. Momma would
spend the day on the couch, holding her head, watching the
soaps. Her favorite was The Young and the Restless and she would
talk about how she wanted to live in Genoa City and find a man
to settle down with like Jack Abbott. The living room smelled like
cigarette smoke and that fancy conditioner she used. People knew
her by her wild, red hair and she took care of it the best she knew
how. Sometimes she’d let Ruby brush it for her while telling her
stories about the grandmother that Ruby was named after.
Sundays they would go to church. Funny how Ruby could remember
so much about that old car that Momma drove, the one
she called Miss Betsy. Momma traded for it or so she said. One
time they were ready to leave and Momma couldn’t quite remember
where she left the car when she came home on Saturday
night. Eventually they found it in the side yard, pressed up against
the flowers that Ruby liked to pick. Momma would say, “you
know those are nothing but weeds” but Ruby didn’t mind. She
knew they were beautiful.
High school was hard and things got harder after Momma died.
Ruby didn’t want to see what Momma looked like in the open
casket so she stood by a window staring outside. Some folks who
showed up told her she needed to get some closure by looking at
her mother one last time. Momma didn’t look like herself in that
white cotton dress and pancake makeup, but at least her hair was
as it always was, flaming red and spilling over her shoulders.
Hard to imagine that she used to live in this place, but that’s
where she landed after Momma died and their house got taken
away by the bank. Ruby knew there was something not quite right
with the other people living there and that church that they made
her go to, but she figured it was either here or the park and that
was a lot scarier. It was OK for a while and she even had a little
vegetable garden out back. But then things got weird and she
knew she had to leave before things got worse. Those boys were
not what they claimed to be.
Of all the places Ruby spent the night, this was her favorite. That
light at the end of the bridge always felt like home and almost nobody
bothered her when she would curl up to sleep. There was a
small section that she could slip her backpack into during the day,
filled with the few things she needed to look presentable. When
she was working at the diner, people would sometimes ask her
where she lived and she would just laugh and say, oh, you know,
here and there. She hated seeing that look in their eyes that said
they knew but didn’t really want to know.
She wasn’t sure about Jesus but angels were a different story. Even
as a kid, Ruby thought there was something that didn’t add up
about the story of how he died and then he wasn’t dead. But she
loved the idea of an angel watching over her, especially at night.
She had one that she called Isobel and she used to talk to her right
before she would fall asleep. Momma didn’t mind but eventually
Ruby got tired of Bill laughing and making fun of her.
Ruby never learned to swim. Everything about the water used to scare her and so she avoided swimming pools as much as possible. But the lake was a different story. She always felt calm when she sat near the edge looking out over the waves, knowing that there was a lot more out there than what she knew so far.