The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 11, No. 2

Notes on Design: Sweat

by Marilyn Minter

I've always been a sweater. Raised in Louisiana and Florida, two states renowned for their heat and humidity, I was still warmer and wetter as a child than everyone around me. I was on a volleyball team and usually soaking wet with sweat, hair plastered to my forehead, salt stinging my eyes, even in the most air-conditioned gyms. At parties, by the third dance, my hair would start wilting, my armpits forming moist circles in my dresses.
     I went to graduate school in New York to escape the Southern heat as much as the culture. The snow and frigid weather were a welcome shock--my own sort of heaven. Of course, I am cold in the dead of winter; but in fall and spring I can get around town with just a hoodie or the skimpiest of coats. People always tell me that I'm underdressed when I'm perfectly comfortable. I won't go outside if the temperature is higher than ninety degrees; I feel like I can't operate in those temperatures, so I don't. What does all this have to do with the art I make?
     Everything looks better to me when wet—preferably dripping wet: SLOWLY DRIPPING WET. That condition is awkward, uncomfortable, and uncontrollable, which I like. When I'm shooting photos, my subjects start bone dry, and immediately my hands are just itching to get a spray bottle. I love to shoot and paint running drips of sweat—the more the better. My favorite drips are those that get heavier and heavier as they descend an arm or a cheek; I capture them as they are about to splash off my subjects, unable to hold any longer. So when invited to design the Summer issue of Zoetrope: All-Story, I decided to mark that steamiest of seasons by presenting photographs and paintings of sweat, which you can view while sweating in your own part of the world, as I will in mine.

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