Flourish by Lisa Su (Colored pencil shavings, colored pencil lead, newspaper, coffee grounds)

Let’s face it: Artists and writers see the world a little differently. And it’s not just their keen powers of observation at work—their vision is coupled with a wild and sometimes unpredictable imagination. For artist Lisa Su, her work becomes a celebration of the ordinary that at once elevates and transforms it.

“We often overlook the value in everyday objects,” Lisa explains. By repurposing materials such as pencil shavings, eggshells and coffee filters, she says, “my work brings out the aesthetic qualities hidden within…so that they can transcend their original purpose, creating unique textures and atmospheres seemingly from another world.”

Emma Hastings admits that she feels very close the characters that emerge from her imagination, and that they feel very real to her. As she writes, in fact, they possess uncanny power:   “There was a moment in writing…these stories that one of the characters decided to change course and break from my plans, or bring up something pivotal that I hadn’t thought of before.” Sometimes, she adds, “it was a shock to see what they had in their heads.”

Here, we offer a glimpse of Lisa’s world view and the very real fictional characters that people Emma’s creative mind. To see and read more, visit www.artandwriting.org/galleries.


Dewpoint by Lisa Su (Light bulbs, fabric glue, wire, LED light)

The Sweet Scent of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (excerpt)

“As you can see, he’s taken to the first round of training very well,” Mrs. Sparklebottom beamed, patting the dog’s head. His tongue lolled out of his mouth and his nose bumped the woman’s hand. I scoffed. “He’s shown real potential, and I’m sure he’s going to be an ideal placement. You couldn’t be luckier.” Please. As if luck, and not heaps of money, had produced him. “Anyway, the next few months are going to involve the most intensive training. You’re going to be working very closely with the animal and your daughter, every day until—”

“Actually,” Mom interrupted. “My older daughter, Callista Jane, is going to be handling that.”

“It’s CJ,” I muttered, judiciously holding back the “not that anyone cares.” No need to give in to being a total teenage cliché.

“Oh.” The trainer’s candied pink smile froze and started to slip, but she managed to pull it together at the last second. “I see. Well, training one of our dogs in seizure alert and assistance is a big job, and requires a lot of time and maturity. That’s why, with young children, we usually work with one or both of the parents.”

“Well, I’m the one you’ve got,” I injected myself into the conversation. “I’m sixteen and failing precalc, but what I lack in maturity, I think I more than make up for in being the only one in this family willing to take the time to work with the dog.” While my mom did her patented foot-shuffling move, I shot them both my best, dazzling, charming smile. I swear I could almost see it fizzle and drop to the floor a foot shy of the target. Mrs. Featherblossom, oddly enough, didn’t seem to be set at ease. But she cleared her throat, straightened her paw print, and soldiered on.

“Well then. I’ve already given your mom and dad my little spiel, but I guess I should give it to you, too. Our foundation works to train and place assistance dogs with afflicted children who have medical problems, such as deafness, diabetes, and seizure disorders, like—”

“Epilepsy.” I said quietly, tugging on the end of my brown braid, separating out and toying with the split ends. “My little sister has epilepsy, and her name is Marie.”


Kaleidoscope by Lisa Su (Tea-stained egg shells, thread, glass globe, LED light)

St. Jude’s Center for Ticking Time Bombs (excerpt)

Hrep-078. Grp1. Grp2. Jt-432. Vorg5. Rort2.

These are the letters and numbers that dictate my life.

They’re the names of genes. My genes, to be exact, and the genes of the other hapless souls incarcerated in this hellhole. The government and the social workers and the doctors call it St. Jude’s Center for the Protection and Rehabilitation of At-Risk Youth, but they’re the only ones. The rest of the world has a different name for this place.

St. Jude’s Center for Ticking Time Bombs. That’s where I and a hundred kids like me go to school, eat, sleep and exist within tall barb-wire fences we are assured are for our own protection. But, of course, they’re not. Just like the locks on every door, the canisters of pepper spray tucked away in anxious teachers’ purses, and (this is my personal favorite) the thick leather straps the nurses believe they’ve cleverly hidden under the mattresses of every infirmary bed.

But why all the security in a facility meant to house and care for mere children, you ask? Simple. We’re not children…

Perhaps I should explain.

Throughout the process of uncovering and analyzing the human genome, the geneticists of our time made a shocking discovery: 99% of violent criminals possess more than four out of fifteen unique genetic markers that are virtually nonexistent in the normal population. Every kid living at St. Jude’s has at least five of these indicators. I have six, which means that I’m 100 times more likely to commit armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, assault, and murder. So you see, we’re not children. We’re liabilities, dangers to society, the absolute scum of the human race.

So, you know, lucky us.

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