Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cute Little Studio Mousey

Let me tell you something that will add absolutely nothing to your understanding of art. For some years now, my studio has had a cute little studio mousey. I can often hear him scuttling about in the walls, and sometimes he scampers across my line of sight.

I don't have anything against disease-carrying vermin if they're cute enough. But there are two downsides to my cute little studio mousey: he leaves little mouse poops everywhere, and also, mice are known to gnaw (style guide: lice chew, rodents gnaw) their way through things like, you know, canvas.

My cute little studio mousey has a distinctly cavalier attitude toward the various anti-mouse measures the building's exterminator has taken, and my landlord thinks that I am frankly being a hysterical sissy about the whole thing.

The other day, my ever-more-aggressive studio mousey hung out long enough for me to finally get a picture of him:

I don't know what his deal is. I think he's drunk with power. For his next stunt, he climbed the cloth hanging from the top edge of my studio window. That edge is maybe eight feet above the floor. As Hubris invokes Nemesis, so my cute little studio mousey soon fell from a prideful height, stunning his rodent ass long enough for me to slap a cup down on top of him.

This, he did not like.

Then I slid a piece of board under the cup edge and flipped the entire apparatus upside down. Thus I had myself a cup of mouse. Unsatisfied with the aesthetics of this arrangement, I effected a transfer of my extremely-pissed-off studio mousey to one of the many gelato jars I keep around the studio for miscellaneous holding tasks:

You don't have to go home, cute little studio mousey, but you can't stay here.

At this point, I considered drilling a couple holes in the top of this deal and trying to keep my mousey as a pet. But I thought this was overall an impractical idea. I was also by no means going to kill the little bastard. So that left taking him outside and dumping him off somewhere away from my studio building. Here, we head down the stairs:

I will confess that at this point, I began to feel that searing pity which animates Aeschylus' depiction of his own enemies, the Persians, in his dramatic account of their defeat at Salamis:

Ah me, how sudden have the storms of Fate,
Beyond all thought, all apprehension, burst
On my devoted head! O Fortune, Fortune!
With what relentless fury hath thy hand
Hurl'd desolation on the Persian race!
Woe unsupportable! The torturing thought
Of our lost youth comes rushing on my mind,
And sinks me to the ground. O Jove, that I
Had died with those brave men that died in fight!

Consider again my cute little studio mousey, captured, cut off, cast out from familiar comforts. He journeys toward a strange land whence no mouse hath returned. Is there not something tragic to his aspect here, to that terror which freezes his limbs in iron tension as alien vistas scroll past his stricken gaze?

I could scarcely bring myself to enforce so harsh an exile on him.

And yet, I did.

I took him outside, showing him off to Jared, the printmaker, who was in front of the building, enjoying a cigarette and talking on the phone. My mouse-in-Talenti-jar routine was enough to throw him off his conversational rhythm. Then I went down the block, searching for some likely spot. I couldn't very well leave him in front of a business or home. At last, I found a building under construction, with a grassy lot next door. In front of the lot, a fence, and in front of the fence, an apple. Beside the apple, a foundation with lots of holes in it. Surely this should be acceptable? I unscrewed the lid and dumped out my little friend.

He sat there a little while, blank and overwhelmed; and then, as living things do, he began to take stock of his situation and figure out the angles. Thus my cute little studio mousey embarked on his new life. I wish him well.

Be free, cute little studio mousey! Be free!

Returning to my work in the studio, I was met with a silence. At first this silence felt blessed, but soon it came to feel melancholy. There were no scuttles or thumps. There was no companionship. I began to regret my rash decision. I went on considering the right and the wrong of it for a quarter of an hour or more.

Then another motherfucking mouse streaked across my floor like he was a naked dude and this was Wimbledon.


  1. I enjoyed every word of this! An old farmers wisdom about mice- There's two for every one you see.
    I too had mice appear in my studio this past summer. As these were field mice, and I have a large field out my door, I returned them to their native land. I couldn't kill them. The wasps that buzz by my face, though--- all must die!

    1. Kevin, I love hearing from you! And I'm glad to be able to write a post that catches your fancy! Sadly, my mice are "scenester mice," the urban cousin of the field mouse, and great appreciators of painting, drawing, sculpture, mixed-media, installation, video art, conceptual art, and experimental stuff. I think there's even a breed that only likes Dan Flavin.

      Wasps are satanic. I salute your wasp slaughters.

  2. I live and paint in a rural area and mice are a constant. I have often used the low tech cup and cardboard technique to great success. I have also taught small children to same maneuver. As it is now fall and they are moving into the warm..... let the wargames begin. Terry

    1. Thanks for the stories, Terry, and I wish you the very best in your Winter Campaign against the eternal mouse enemy.

  3. I wonder if there is a company that rents out housecats to clear mice from otherwise non-cat-amenable locations, in much the same way as some companies rent out goat herds in rural areas to clear stubborn brush. If not, I bet there would be money to be made there, possibly in the tens of dollars.

    1. Brilliant! With your idea, and my entrepreneurial zeal, why, we could be *hundredaires*!

  4. Haha Dan, A few years ago my father had a run in with a squirrel and spent hours finagling him into a live trap, carting it into a car and driving him to a wild life preserve on the bay. My father has never done well with other living creatures, including humans, so this was a looooooong ordeal. I think he thought there was a Nobel prize in it for him. He finally positioned the trap and opened the gate and realized he had the trap aimed at the highway instead of the woods. Thankfully the guy made it across without being squished. Oh and also my sculpture studio in art school had a studio mouse who liked, no, LOVED - my friends paper mache sculptures. Lea W.

    1. Jeez, I'm sorry your comment got caught in the lint trap for such a long time, Lea! But I found it and dug it out! You remind me of my friends who used to domesticate squirrels in Philadelphia. They knew all the local squirrels, who would come on in for a snack at all hours. I am less enthused about your art school studio mouse. That sounds like bad news.

      I hope all is well with you these days!