A World in an Egg
By Audrey Park
January 17, 2024
At age fourteen, every morning was awful in its own exceptional way.
I remember waking up to the slow murmur of sunrising-Paris, feeling sticky and out of time – like summer was flipping pages without reading the words. I would start the day by looking out the window and onto the street, just like I did at home. There was always a sliver of a reflection: a distorted face with braces for teeth. There were always people sauntering down the street with their hair caught in whorls of sunlight. The outside was too bright; I was a reptile in an aquarium. Being in a body was like wearing itchy wool stockings in the heat.
At fourteen, I had my first love at The Louvre.
It was humid that day and the air was thick with the stench of sweat. Masterpieces gilded in gold filled up rooms from the floor to tops of marble pillars. In those swirling rooms of pristine, polished jewels – portraits of nobles and beggars, pearly silks, beastly dolphins, orange blossoms and picnics, the Pieta in oil and wood and granite – I only traveled around the peripheries.
I had seen art before, vacantly, in the way a goldfish boggles at an elaborate castle decoration taking up space in its tank. But on that day, everything felt different. My brain had finally outgrown my body. My ears had bloomed, my eyes had been penetrated.
Trembling and strange, I stilled in front of a Renaissance angel’s tender disposition. His halo of gold-leaf shimmered under white museum lights; his fingers wrapped gingerly around long-stemmed lilies. Without a sound escaping either of our lips, the angel’s song brought me to tears. I was reborn into a pure love without the pollution of thought.
I realized it then: this is what truly, intrinsically beautiful art is. The colors are immediately pleasing to the eye; every shade a bell that rings clearly and piercingly in my heart. The artist is captured in the center of it all. It explodes with passion and grief and sensations too complicated to explain in conversation. A whole world on display, held together by frames and staples.
It’s more than the paint or the technique or even the painting itself. Art awakens a rush of erotic pleasure, and in the afterglow, an egg is born – a raw artistic potential encased in a fragile sense of self-worth. The shell shudders at the throbbing heartbeat of the yolk, dreading the day it will hatch. The yolk dreams in the night time of fantastical creatures and primordial imagination, quivering under the eyes of the shell. An egg is conceived in the mind, in the heart – it’s the ache of a fledgling artist to create art that reveals, in brilliant clarity, who they are as an existence. But looking from the outside, an egg can be anything. It could hatch something beautiful, something awful, or nothing at all.
The seasons turned, and it was spring and autumn. Beauty was the deepest infatuation of my life. I drew a little and I wrote a little – insignificantly, on margins of notebook paper and backs of receipts. There were angels everywhere. I saw them in my curtains, in the weeping purple sky and in everything the sunlight touched. They would strike the crown of my head and I was compelled to bring them to life.
The egg shook in small tremors. The shell was pale, flawless, unblemished. A crack on its surface would be a footstep in fresh snow.
Inside me, there was a deep sadness I had no right to, identities that led to no one, animals that were fighting each other to the death. Only when I was moved to create, there was a moment of stillness. Nothing mattered – nothing but the formation of shapes and colors, led by a thoughtless hand. It was cathartic. It was necessary. At the end of the process, I was always overcome by shame and fear.
Art reflects the artist, even in the simplest of subjects. The connection seemed evident, yet to see the blotchy, awkward reflection of my adolescence on the papers I tried to make beautiful felt too awful. The art I created unreservedly, the art I created painstakingly – they all betrayed an ugly intensity and disorderedness. My heart thrummed for masterpieces and merely quivered at the things I created: the worst thing an artist can be is unexceptional. I had to destroy everything I created before it could breathe, before anyone could perceive it and make it all real. Dozens of papers, spotted with spring foliage and amateur attempts, were folded and crumpled into my pockets.
This is why eggs are afraid to crack: the risk of becoming an unmemorable artist overwhelms the experience of creation . Dread – both childish and toeing adulthood – that there was no great artist in me, that I could never create art that was worth being hung up in golden frames for the outside world to applaud. Then, there’s more than just vanity. A quieter, more sensitive fear that follows the first as a shadow. Art was the key for my deepest, unexplainable intimacies to be unveiled. It was my entire world on display like an exposed nerve. I needed the rest of the universe to see me at my core that I was lost in, and to tell me that even the strange, unfathomable parts were real and important.
The seasons were turning, the sun was setting, and the pages continued to flutter by, dirtied and then torn. The world dimmed into nighttime. In my bedroom, nurtured by the darkness, I let my thoughts conform to the natural forces: bending to the will of the wind, wild and stubborn under the moon. Every part of me that was frustratingly nonsensical in daylight fell right into place in the nighttime. When no one could see me, I reached inside myself and pulled out everything.
My insecurities, my secrets, my fantasies, my dreams: they all came out like guts splattering on the pavement. They formed the yolk of the egg, spinning slowly in the shadows of my bedroom as if it was suspended in a music box. They smelled like a distant summer. They tasted like shame and confusion. They were my everything, my world – warm and runny and alive. The yolk was dripping, melting onto the bedroom floor.
I took pieces of paper that had shriveled in hidden crevices, unfolding and laying them out like laundry. Old notebooks, sketchbooks, origami, poems, and letters scattered under a moonlit window, smeared with the dripping excess of the yolk. It was messy. There was no frame. But it was breathing, desperate, and real.
The egg shook and shook. It was afraid of being found, it was terrified of being insignificant. It was going to live or die. The seasons were turning again, the sun was rising again. I needed to create: for my world to make a mark in the air and exist. Art with no viewers could never be beautiful. I wanted to be beautiful, but more than that, I needed to take the chance of being a real artist.
I let everything go. I held the crumpled wad of papers that glistened under the daylight up to the air, breathing in its colors, and pinned it to a blank wall.
The shell cracked open, falling to the ground in relief. In the end, every egg has to hatch. ■
Layout: Colin Cantwell
Photographer: Adalae Simpao
Stylists: Gabriella Fuentes & Alexandra Howard-Tijerna
Set Stylist: Lauren Muñoz
HMUA: Frida Espinosa & Srikha Chaganti
Model: Tyler Tran