We people of this age are inundated with spectacle—from Congressional meltdowns to that 40-foot rubber duck that recently arked around the globe like the stoic bath toy of some absurd god. In Pittsburgh many of us shook off our autumn chills and set forth to see the giant pondling make dock in the Allegheny River. Our pilgrimages were no small feat, for even modest journeys in the Paris of Appalachia inevitably become a topographical game of chutes and ladders: our streets and paths are a veritable slalom of stairs, bridges and road rage.
Inured to the thrills, though, we tend to take our surroundings for granted. It’s gray. It’s cold. Someone just tried to run us over. We’re in a hurry. There’s a giant rubber duck or some gladiatorial sporting event that will lift us out of our doldrums in an ecstasy of collective blood lust or geek gawking. So we trudge down those stairs, sidestep those road ragers, and careen through that Escherworld of bridges all in a manner of habit, so accustomed to experiencing these features of our environment as mere conduits, the means to our ends. Bridges are not just connectors, though—they’re spectacles in their own right. Though Pittsburghers are surrounded by bridges, most of us see neither their splendor nor their grit. We are focused on putting one foot ahead of the other so that we don’t shatter our wrists on unsalted ice.
Thus we, the unrepentant duckhounds here at Hot Metal Bridge, have decided to dig into our love of looking, and to do it right here in our own arena. For this issue, we are excited to share visual as well as literary art—including work that engages both dimensions, from Afton Wilky’s material language constructions to the eerily persistent photographs that appear in David Patterson’s story “Postmortem Photography.” Frank Huerta’s interview with writer and painter Benjamin Alire Sáenz takes this exploration one step further with a peek into possibilities of wearing multiple hats. We are also delighted to share with you a riveting collection of paintings sent to us by Ernest Williamson. Each of Dr. Williamson’s pieces moves vividly enough on its own terms, but when viewed in relation to its companion pieces, becomes part of a rather extraordinary visual conversation. To retain that sense of interaction we have presented those paintings together in a special showcase. You can peruse the other images included in this issue in our new “Artist Gallery” or simply enjoy them in proximity to the text.
As much as we were astounded by the quality of images we received in response to our first ever call for visual submissions, we were also excited by the mettle and range of the poems and stories sent our way. Words are still our nearest and dearest, even if they are rarely 40 feet tall. We could go on and on, but enough of our prattle. Just enjoy the view.
— April Flynn and Lauren Russell
December 22, 2013