Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Museum

(Found on Flickr/Maggie's World)


  1. “It looks like a scratching-post at which someone threw a bucket of water. I’m sure the cat must’ve appreciated it. Sacrifices for art and all that.”

    Christianne shook her head and walked a short distance from Albert, facing away from him. “You don’t understand.”

    The museum gallery was empty except for the two of them. It was about a half hour until closing time. Albert continued to stare at the painting. He deliberately did not turn towards Christianne. “What do I not understand? This particular piece, modern art in general, or do I just not understand you?”

    “Me. It. All of it. All.”

    “I see.”

    “I don’t think you do. You are just acting superior and smug.”

    “I’m not acting.”

    “Right. I forgot. What an insufferable creature you really are.” Christianne turned and walked a few steps back. She sat down on the wooden bench. Albert didn’t move.

    “That would beg the question then, wouldn’t it: Why are you still here – here with me? It’s not because I’m particularly good looking. It’s not because of money – if you even really cared about such things, anyway. Which you obviously do not. It’s not even because - ”

    “Shut up.” Christianne looked at Albert. He continued to stare at the painting.

    “So, Christianne, what is it that you really want?”

    She paused for a moment. “World peace. Government officials who are honest. Appliances which do not break down when you need them most.”


    “I want to go to Rory’s for dinner. I want good food and good conversation. I want to feel excited and expectant and I want to sense a sort of anticipation for things to come. I want us to be like we used to be. What I don’t want is to feel like the black and white and grey only appearance of the water-logged scratching-post in that painting – ”


    “But that’s how it is.” Christianne said this with resignation. She glanced at Albert, still staring at the painting. He did not turn around.

    She stood up from the bench and walked into the next gallery.

  2. I had never understood modern art. That had been her forte. I understood it badly enough that I called it modern art. Phyl loved to correct me. “It’s not modern. It’s post-modern. Modern refers to the Enlightment, reason, science, the progress of rational man toward a self-created and intelligible Utopian future.” She would always leave it at that point, as if explaining the concept of modern was sufficient to clarify for me how this art was anything but that.

    Phyl wasn’t here to correct me anymore. For a brief moment I had considered calling them modern art in my mind, as if I were now free to do so. Immediately, it felt tacky to find liberation in the death of my twenty-six year-old wife, though. I called them post-modern, and knew I always would.

    I crossed my legs as I sat on a stone bench and looked across the gallery. The lighting in here was dramatic – almost too dramatic. The paintings themselves were well-lit in halos of white light. There were a dim fill along the wall, casting reflections on the glossy floor. Otherwise, the gallery was viritually unlit. Other museum patrons were mere silhouettes against the wall.

    There were two such patrons right now in the gallery. One looking interested at the post-modern paintings that had caught my own eye. The other walked past with business-like boredom. Off to the left, there was also a wandering security guard whose general pattern was to stop in each gallery for about five minutes, then walk on to the next. Phyl and I had never spoken with him, but he was a memorable character. He was an older man, pudgy to the point that the lowest of his uniform shirt buttons could not close. You could smell the cigars on him, and see the gin in his cheeks. He was balding, and seemed to take that as an excuse to not bother washing the hair he did have left. Bob bob, we called him. I’m not sure why. It was Phyl’s nickname for me. I still called him that.

    It had been three months since the cancer had taken Phyl unexpectedly. The cancer had first appeared when she had been a teenager. She had undergone major treatment, and almost died from the chemo. But the cancer had gone into remission. It had come back with almost no warning, and taken her life before treatment could really start up.

    Museums had been special to us for a lot of reasons. We had met in an art museum. We shared a common interest and a common past time. I didn’t care for modern or post-modern art, but she had taught me to value it, regardless of my personal taste. I valued it even more now that she was no longer with me. It was a way to remember her.

    I looked at the three paintings across from me. The first on the left looked like a black canvas with a lot of white static on it. It almost looked galactic. In the middle was what I could only describe as an orange with psychedelic points of color throughout it. On the far right was what I took to be a Doric column made of twisted paper, atop it perched a small terrier with goat horns.

    In truth, the first was like a black-and-white bamboo forest, the middle like a bunch of fluorescent dots in a circle, and the third was a piece of crap that didn’t look like anything at all until I unfocused my eyes. Post-modern art. At it’s very best.

    Bob Bob walked on, and soon I was the only patron left in the gallery. Left to relive my memories, to keep alive my love for Phyl. She had taught me so much about art.

    “One last time,” I said in a soft whisper to myself. “For you, Phyl.”

    She had taught me so much about art. Including how to quickly cut paintings out of their frames and how to protect them from damage as I push them down the air vents to where I would collect them in a few short moments. I had taught her how to wear disguises like the little old Greek lady I currently appeared to be, and how to enter into the shadows in disguise, creep along, and exit in another place looking quite different. Together we had been magic. We had been love.

    “I love you, Phyl,” I whispered, “and it will never be the same without you.”

  3. RJ, double-back-flip metaphor. Well done!

  4. CNN - awesome! I thought this one might be a bit dark (or at the least, somber), but I surely did not expect where your story ended up bringing me as the reader. You really had me with this one, building the story arc and then changing expectations at the very last minute.

  5. Suki walked away, disappointed.

    Mr. Andaro had shown promise with the first painting GodHead, claiming the phallus, the crucifix, fear of castration, duality, shades of gray. Resting on none, but dragging and mixing and exulting in all. He suggested enormous strength and intense vulnerability.

    His third work was an exercise in found art. Andaro spread ink on a hardwood floor and dropped his canvas. You can determine his process, how the impression is lighter in the center and the ink was spread in a whirl, darkest on the edges. He calls this one Whorl of My House.

    But I can't stomach his 'masterpiece.' A putrid spinning disk of yellow red green pink orange. He laughs every time he sees it or sees someone stop at it. It's a sick joke, calling that art, an inside joke predicated on a genetic disability. ColorBlindConspiracy.

    There is no secret pattern. No 44 written in red OR green. Just a man who wants to be a prankster.

  6. Nevets- I always did picture you as a little old Greek lady. Good story.

    Lighty- Albert is an ass.

  7. BN - how clever of you! Fascinating! I think I would have walked away with Suki, too.