Anselm Kiefer, The Order of the Angels (Die Ordnung der Engel), 1983/1984, Oil, emulsion, shellac, straw, and lead on canvas, 130 x 218 1/2 inches

I was a high school dropout seeing modern art in a museum for the first time. Die Ordnung der Engel or The Order of Angels by Anselm Kiefer was my initiation. The punishing connotations of “order” made me clench my teeth. An afterimage of a rusted rat trap rasped my tongue as I wondered about the ghost of an inscription. I saw words scribbled on the top layer of a billion years, an incantation on a slab of upright, plastered gunk flying toward Lake Michigan. Asphalt daggers and barnacles crowned the sun: an inverted prophecy of the earth’s explosion. I was initiated into atomism.

Suppose this painting is one thing or another, the mute breach of a stringed instrument or the backdrop for a bear’s poisoned trance. It once hung in the Chicago Art Institute but now is a blurry electrical field full of crackles and pops behind my eyes. Still, the scud of flash bombs and wormhole psychosis pulls me toward it, material proof that hell exists. I see destroyed kingdoms, radiation, and bones full of lead. A phantom mass exposes itself to a speck of panting infinity. Fuck! Was it watching spirits or a consortium of angels? Who poured faint hope down my neck in the place where my head used to be?

Lara Allen, Decoy (triptych), 2009/13, Oil, Gouache, Pencil, Spray Paint, 72 x 108 inches

Lara Allen works across disciplines and often in collaboration with others. Performance and exhibition venues include San Francisco City Hall, the Museo Nacional de Belas Artes, Havana, Cuba, the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Queens Museum, New York, SFMOMA and Eastern State Penitentiary. She currently teaches at Pratt Institute and lives in Brooklyn, NY.