I stand in front of the painting, transfixed. I have no recollection of the actual image – just the hole punched in it.

I wave my aunt over. “Look, it’s thick, like…fabric!”

“Yes. It’s canvas.” This she says a little confused – confused at my wonderment.

“Yeah, but, it’s like…” I break off the conversation. I feel a little foolish. But still I am filled with wonder. The frayed edges of the fabric splay out over the large puncture, delicately obscuring the field or forest beneath.

This is canvas.

My ignorance has been revealed, but the scratchy silvery feeling of discovery makes up for this. I’ve been to art museums before, but I’ve never painted a picture. I am maybe eight years old, and I have just learned what canvas really is.

Paintings…they’re painted on fabric! Thick, thick fabric! It isn’t paper at all!

The hole punched in this painting taught me what that word never could; I have heard the word canvas, and I could have told you that artists paint on canvas, but I had no idea what canvas was. The hole in this painting leaves a mark the way the painting itself did not; this is famous negative space.

My aunt, no doubt, felt good for knowing, but I felt good for not. The world around me became rougher and denser and scarier, and nothing could have been more important.

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