Heavy Hooves in Spain / by Lucas Novak

Yesterday I saw a man on the street sitting on the sidewalk with his back up against the building, his legs stretched out ahead of him, his pants rolled up mid-shin exposing where both feet had been amputated. His legs were dirty and red and it was sad. Later I saw him, his pants rolled down and around something like hooves that he was walking on. Poor guy had fucking hooves. 

Speaking of hooves, I went to a bullfight in Madrid. I had been viewing dozens of paintings by Spanish artists, and I figured I should experience Spanish culture to have a better understanding why Picasso often used bullfighting subjects in his art.

The event includes six bulls and three matadors who each kill two. The bulls are huge, weighing around 1,000 pounds. The matador struts around with his bright cape and skin-tight uniform with intricate sparkling decorations, he and his toreros all wearing bright pink socks. 

The infuriated bull races out of a tunnel into the dirt ring where the matador and his toreros await with capes.  But the first wound to the bull comes not from the matador, but from the picador, a guy holding a lance atop a huge blindfolded horse outfitted with sheets of heavy padding on each side.  At this moment the bull is strongest, it charges the horse’s side with all its force, and the impact is heard throughout the arena. The horse, blindfolded, cannot anticipate the collision, and it stumbles and gets lifted off its legs but somehow withstands it (although one time the bull collapsed the horse and rider, and there was a diversion of the bull’s attention as others scrambled to get the horse up). The picador drives his lance down into the bull like a spike, and he leans on it with his weight to hold his balance as the bull thrashes against the horse, blood gushing up and over the bull's shoulders. 

After The Picador, 19" x 24", acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2015.

After The Picador, 19" x 24", acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2015.

We hear the heavy hooves and can sense the immensity of the beasts. Then some more waving and dodging with the bright capes, the bull charging one torero and another, until the matador struts around with short barbed sticks in each hand, holding them up like a praying mantis. The angry bull sometimes sniffs and digs in the dirt before charging, and when the charge comes, the matador dances to the side and stabs the sticks into the shoulders. At this point the bull’s mouth froths and its tongue dangles, urine drips from its cock and its belly heaves for oxygen. Blood has caked in various places around the ring, and it continues to erupt from the bull’s wounds.  Some more caping and dodging by the toreros as the matador takes a breather, wipes his face, retrieves the red cape and a sword. He returns to do more specialized and stylized caping, arching his back and holding his posture, offering the cape, shuffling his feet ahead, teasing and yelping to summon the exhausted bull forward. The bull stumbles often or gets its horn planted in the dirt. But it always gets up to fight on. What kind of passion, its desire to fight, to live! 

Finally, the matador holds the sword up and looks down the blade, like a gunner at his target, and at the opportune time he plunges it between the shoulders and down just behind the neck, trying to bury the blade completely, succeeding sometimes, and turns to the crowd with his strut indicating time for applause. And the people cheer as the toreros wave capes from either side of the bull’s vision as it stands there confused and weak in the last seconds of its life, turning its horns one side to the other at the flashing capes, until finally, as blood drips to the dirt like mountain water over a mossy rock, the bull collapses.

The people cheer some more as the matador continues strutting. A team of horses arrives from out of a tunnel, trots up to the corpse, gets it hooked up, and drags it through the dirt in a semicircle around and out through the exit gate, leaving a large dust cloud over the snaking slide mark. The poor beast dragged off like some debris from a fallen building. 

Appear some workers to rake the dirt and shovel off the caked blood. Another worker marches to the center of the ring with a sign displaying the name of the next bull. And the next killing begins.

(From Las Ventas, Madrid, Wednesday, May 20, 2015.)