Re-read: Cathleen Calbert’s “Appropriation” (Fall 2013 Compose)

Cathleen Calbert’s Appropriation, a fiction short story, originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of Compose struck me as a piece that makes the reader to question the origin of art, artistic thought, and human nature.  Set in an artist’s colony, we meet Sarah, a writer, who is invited to the studio of May, a graphic artist.  Through Sarah’s eyes we wonder about the validity of taking something for our own and re-purposing it for our needs.  Sarah doesn’t understand May’s concept of appropriation, until she sees May’s husband with another woman.

The characters question the concepts of ownership and originality, which is particularly interesting in a world of people gathered to create their own art.  While Sarah admits she can no longer write a story, and we see that she’s not fond of May, or her art, we’re left to wonder what she is searching for, why she sticks around to view the pieces, and why she has chosen this life at all.  The reader is privy to the reactions of an astonished crowd, and yet, we’re led to view the concept of destroying art as a new way to create.  It brings up thoughts of what creation really means and how an individual views the validity of something based on their own experiences.