Prompted: You wake up covered in paint

All you want is some peace and quiet, you know? You’re sitting there, hanging with the terps and the other canvies, and you’re chilling. You’re all a little high, see what I’m saying? Can’t help it, those terps are always high, you catch a contact off them no matter what. Whetheryou like it or not. It’s not a bad life. Sure, some got it better than others. Canvie 98/4 over there, he’s hanging on the wall, just chilling, but every day the skins come in and boy do they worship him. They can’t get enough of him! They’re always talking about what a piece of work he is. Or maybe work of art? I don’t know, man, you can’t expect a canvie to get things straight in this kind of situation. Anyway, point is, I was just minding my own business, you see? Just hanging out, just chilling, and suddenly, I get snatched up from my comfy spot where I was getting to know this new canvie, a real beauty she was too, this really rare oval and tight man, tight like a drum. So I get snatched up just as she’s beginning to warm to me, and I just know that old bastard River Scene At Dawn will go for her because he’s been really nasty ever since he got retired and can’t even enjoy his high anymore, always just talking about the good old days.

So anyway, I get put up right in the light and next thing you know the turps are there with me and damn if I don’t get smothered with them! I mean it’s great for a while, sure, best high I ever had, but you know, it does wear off and eventually I wake up from the drowsy and find I’m covered in paint. All over me, just covered, top to bottom, end to end, and not just that but I find out next thing that they’ve changed my name too! Now I’m not 563/2, I’m bloody Nude On a Bathtub Rim! What kind of name is that, I ask you? Nothing, nothing, not even the wall and the attention, is worth this.

Thoughts on Genius

Disclaimer: Forgive me for the pompous and maybe too flowery nature of this post. I’ve been reading Michael Cunningham and Virginia Woolf and I wanted to try my hand at writing something like this, trying to articulate my thoughts with more than my usual drivel of words. Forgive me, again, if I sound obnoxious, and if I do, believe me, I won’t force any such thing upon you again.

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If there is a feeling that accompanies the witness of genius, surely it is awe. Seeing a great masterpiece of art, listening to incredible and unbelievable music, or turning the pages of a book where words, simply words written one after the other, convey the genius of the author – these experiences all come hand in hand with mixed emotions, and at their center, awe.

Somehow, genius seems to give one both the feeling of great insignificance and great community. At one and the same time, one feels tiny compared to this piece of majesty and beauty that touches one’s senses, but also part of a vast body of all the others who have appreciated and seen and felt what one has felt. The illogical nature of this emotion – for if one is small, how can one be large at the same time? – goes hand in hand with genius, which is something, I believe, that no one, not even its possessor, can fully understand. We can understand aspects of it, appreciate parts and facets of it, but never the whole. Perhaps we could gain a full picture of the nature of genius if we collected each and every person’s idea of what the piece, be it a painting, a piece of music or a novel, conveys, we might reach a whole in which we understand both what the genius meant to pass on to us and also what he or she didn’t, what we understand, we who are the vast organism that at one moment in time seem to exist only to appreciate the piece.

There is genius that is cold, calculated and smooth, the results of which would be cold and calculated too if only we didn’t have the need to insert emotion into everything. To this kind of genius we give our own thoughts and feelings, the stirrings in our bellies and the pictures that flash across our minds. We exalt something we may not understand, but why shouldn’t we do so when something has this quality that is so hard to define – genius?

Then there is genius that gushes with more emotion, more heart and soul that we can take in a single view, a single read, a single hearing. To this genius we may do a damage as we try to reign in our emotions and control them, simplify them, understand them. Maybe we shouldn’t try to do so, though, for maybe it is this genius most of all that we ought not to try and understand – maybe it is this genius that we ought to let take us for a ride, whirl us around without apparent, obvious sense and comprehension. Maybe swimming in the place where all emotions stem from, somewhere deep in the soul, is good for us, once in a while.

 

Vonna

It was opening night, and Vonna sat in the back room with the gallery owner and breathed into a paper bag.

“It’s going to be alright, honey, just breathe for me,” the kindly old man tried to soothe her.

“But-what-if-they-hate-everything-?” Vonna gasped through breaths. Her voice came out slightly muffled by the bag, but the panic in it was still clear.

“Darling, they’ll love you,” William, the gallery owner, said. His gray hair was still thick and shiny, despite his advancing age. He was past eighty, but Vonna would never have guessed it. He had the dulcet tones of a gentleman, having shed his New York accent over the years since he’d left the Big Apple.

Vonna finally put the paper bag down and looked into his eyes. He looked right back, faith shining there. “What was it you said to me the day I brought you my paintings?” she asked.

“I told you the truth. I would never let any artist show and sell their art in this gallery if I didn’t think I’d make a profit out of it. I know art and I know people. They will love you, my dear, and they’ll buy up every piece you’ve got. Maybe not tonight, maybe not tomorrow, but within a month, your pieces will be hanging on strangers’ walls. Do you remember what you said to me then?” he chuckled.

Vonna offered an embarrassed smile. “I said that I wasn’t sure if I wanted my pieces hanging on strangers’ walls. And then you said that if I didn’t, well, I’d be just like all those singers who get their mom and friends to buy up all their CDs, and that I’d be pathetic. I didn’t like you much that day.”

William began to laugh. “Dear, dear, I can’t imagine that you would have! But you know better now. You know that I simply want the best for you, and that I believe in your work, otherwise I wouldn’t let you sell it.”

“True. You’re a greedy old goat, just like Sanjay told me you’d be.”

“You’d better tell the same thing to anyone you refer me to – I have a reputation to hold up, darling. Now let me go check that everything is ready. You sit here – sit!” he pushed Vonna back into the chair she was about to rise up from. “I’ll call you a few minutes after we open the doors and then you’ll circulate like the social-butterfly that you can be.” He left the room, winking before he shut the door.

Vonna got up the moment he was gone. She began pacing up and down the little office, three steps in each direction before turning and going the other way. Within moments she was dizzy and sat down again. She had forty-two paintings hanging on the walls out in the beautiful space of Marigold Gallery, one of the better known small galleries that seemed to be the life and soul of the art scene in the city. Gallery openings, she knew, were social events for anyone who wanted to scope out competition, invest wisely, or else mingle with the artisy and the rich. She’d been to enough openings as a guest to know the drill. The doors would open, the crowd would come in looking disdainful, excited or haughtily curious. Half would rush to the table where the champagne glasses were set, and the other half would begin to walk around lazily.

She pictured herself at the last gallery opening she’d been to. It had been at Wings of Freedom Gallery, a bigger place that had openings for multiple artists at a time. She’d walked in at the tail end of the crowd and had begun to walk around, feeling that curious leap in her stomach when she saw something she loved, and that strange plummet that made her look away from something that bothered her, revolted her or bored her.

But tonight it was her turn and – heaven forbid! – people would be looking at her own pieces like that! Forty-two paintings she’d done in four years. Soon, all would be gone. Except for those three that weren’t for sale (“It makes people more interested to see that the artist is keeping his or her own personal masterpieces for themselves,” William had patiently explained.)

Vonna felt like hyperventilating again. Maybe if she fainted, she needn’t go out there at all. But no, there was William, coming back in.

“They’re all in there, dear. Are you ready to mingle? A couple people have already asked where you are. They already have things to say to you, you see? Nothing to worry about. Come,” he held out his hand, wrinkled and soft. Vonna took a deep breath, took his hand, tossed her own graying red hair back, put on her social-smile, and stepped into the gallery.

The Bringer of Dreams

The Bringer of Dreams is an artist. She’s old, as old as humanity itself, but she doesn’t look it. Not always, at least. She changes bodies as the whim takes her. Sometimes she’s a little girl with red curls and freckles. Sometimes she’s a teenager dressed all in black, hair a mass of spikes and metal rings through every bit of skin that can hold them. Sometimes she’s a soft-faced woman, dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans, hands rough but kind. Sometimes she’s an old, old woman, wrapped in shawls, knobbly cane at her side and eyes tired with the hurt she’s seen and the wisdom she’s acquired.

The Bringer of Dreams lives outside of time. Her home varies as her bodies do, changing from mansion to cottage to trendy apartment to wooden cabin to an abandoned squat full of dust. She feels comfortable whatever her home looks like – comfortable in her skin, in her surroundings, in her art.

Her media vary just as much, because all humans dream a little differently. There are times when she’ll paint pictures in oil, making the details perfect and the shades magical. At others, she’ll work in crayon, roughly sketching in shapes and rubbing the colors to look blurry and unclear. Sometimes she’ll snap photos, or film something, making the most life-like dreams imaginable and sending them off.

She does this over and over again. For each human, a few dreams a night. Every night. For all eternity. But she lives outside time, and her impetuous, playful nature means she never gets bored – or if she does, she’ll just change everything around her, and start anew with something else.

The Bringer of Dreams is an artist, and she’ll always be there, sending us dreams, night after night, year after year, age upon age.

A Painting of Marie

The painting was by an artist whose name I don’t remember. I never looked at the name of the painting. I don’t remember what gallery it was in, nor what country the gallery was in. I don’t even remember how old I was when I saw it, only that it had to have been in the last few years. Still, despite all this, the painting is clear in my mind’s eye as if it were hanging in my room.

In the painting sits a girl. She looks like she’s in her early teens, just blossoming into womanhood. She is sitting on a nondescript and unimpressive wooden chair, and the backdrop behind her is just a gloomy sort of brown. It’s unclear where she is, nor why she is sitting down. I named her Marie.

Marie has skin the color of milk chocolate- dark, but not very. Her hair, black as coal but looking a little matted, is tumbling around her shoulders, though I get the impression that it’s normally pinned in a quick bun and has only just tumbled down. Her lips are red and full, and she’s not really smiling, nor is she frowning. She’s simply gazing into space, not focused on the viewer of the painting but rather seems to be looking right over your shoulder, at someone behind you. Her eyes are a wonderful dark brown and seem intelligent but tired.

She’s wearing a blue dress with a white apron over it. She looks like she could be a maid, or perhaps a shop-girl sometime in the 1700s in the United States. For some reason, I feel like she’s a dweller of New Orleans, and I can picture her running barefoot through the dusty streets, maneuvering herself between pirates, privateers, salesmen and prostitutes.

Her hands are folded on her lap, and it looks like they’re not used to being idle in this manner. They look rough and work-weary, just like her.

When I saw Marie, I sat before her for maybe an hour, maybe more, just looking at her. I wanted to speak to her, hear her thoughts and dreams, laugh with her, walk down the streets of her life with her. But she stayed in her painting, caught forever by an artist in this one moment of repose.