Welcome to the thirteenth issue of Gandy Dancer, the only issue of this academic year that will follow our traditional scheme of submission, selection, and editing. We’re excited to be in a position of authority where, finally, we can pass judgement about the value of art, and we are pleased to announce that there has been only minimal abuse of power.
The idea of a themed issues of Gandy Dancer has been floated before but never carried out, and was again shelved as an idea at the beginning of this semester. Selections, as always, would be made in accordance with our mission: to forge connections between the people and places of SUNY and to bring each other the news of the world. In assessing our final selections for Volume 7, however, we find that these pieces seem over and over to grapple with the human body: in itself, in transformation, in decay. In four poems, Mitchell Angelo labels the body “A hideous carnation. A marriage of carnivores.” and invites us to “imagine I am / a raven: a created winged and worth / writing about.” Colin Sharp O’Connor’s “Searching for Eurydice” details a search in the gorges of Taughannock Park for the body of a missing friend, trading suspense for a slow, grinding inevitability. The piece’s horror lies not in the discovery of a body, but in the search for it. Misty Yarnall’s flash piece “100 Miles Per Hour” situates readers within the closeness and discomfort of the narrator’s body, creating a sense of suffocation. In our Postscript, Caroline Beltz-Hosek writes of the pain and wonder of a body in transition, of “daughters, delicate split moon, / who do not yet know their bodies are ritual gardens / who do not yet know its clockwork catch and release.” Even the title of Julia Merante’s “I Grow Taller in the Summer Months” serves to remind us of the inseparable connection between our growth as people and the changing of the bodies we inhabit, a connection that can be uncomfortable and fantastic in turn.
We select visual art separately from writing, but the body manifested itself again in the pieces we chose. We received an overwhelming amount of submissions in one specific form: portraiture. Whereas the pieces we are often sent for consideration are a variety of landscapes, still lifes, and abstract and iconographic photography or constructed works, this round of submissions brought us an overwhelming amount of portraits and pictures of people, realistic and otherwise. We see that in Erika Snyder’s work, in Heather Loase’s, and in Robert Piascik’s.
What does this all imply? What does it mean that in the autumn of 2018, the best writers and artists of SUNY were thinking about and depicting the human body, or that the staff of Gandy Dancer was unconsciously compiling art about it? The political and ecological developments we see every day mean that whether the path we go down as a society and species is positive or negative, the world we exist in will not be the world of our parents and grandparents. The work in this volume deals with these feelings of uncertainty in and alienation from one’s body, and as a pair we see that alienation can be used as a weapon against bodies labelled illegal, or legally forbidden from existing outside of a male/female binary.
In this context, there might be something comforting about the permanence of each of our bodies as the grounding point of our lives, something comforting in the knowledge that the bodies we own are capable of change. Next semester, we’ll be looking backwards to previous issues of Gandy Dancer to compile an issue of the best work of the journal’s first six years. For now, we’d like to think that this issue’s cover image, Erika Synder’s “Marita,” won out among all candidates for the way that its subject’s upward gaze speaks to prospect of a hopeful future: for all of us, and for Gandy Dancer.
Jen Galvão & Noah Mazer