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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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The Last Artwork
He found his old friend where he expected to find her, out back on her deck, under the shade, within view of the garden, tablet computer propped up in front of her, making art.
“Hey,” she nodded at him.
He nodded back. “Hey.”
She put down her pen and picked up her sweating bourbon iced tea. “Want a drink?”
He said, “Sure.”
“One of these, or a scotch?”
They’d been friends since college, during which they had briefly been more intimate because they thought they should be, but decided it felt weird. In the decades since they’d both married other people, him twice, had kids, had lives, worked the same sort of jobs though never together, remained close. She had gotten several tattoos. He had started exercising obsessively. Revolving at the center, always bringing them together, always a point of attraction, was her art. He stepped to her tablet now as she went inside to get his drink. She was down to the last touches of a characteristic digital abstraction, building off a photographic image of a street scene and taking it in directions the camera couldn’t see, a style she called ‘abstract realism’ that she’d been exploring almost as long as they’d known each other.
They were both epistemologists. Their purposes of being was the pursuit of truth. They had each worked in a number of professions intended to facilitate truth and the human experience. Journalism, adult education, victim support, youth counseling, public service, among the jobs they’d each dabbled with. Some years ago she had begun working part time, her husband earning enough to support them, and focused most of her time on her art. The juxtaposition of abstractions seemed to clarify the world, as though reality itself were warped and her abstractions superimposed a filter which brought it into greater focus. She’d begun exhibiting in local galleries which at first only grudgingly accepted her work, but more recently were enthusiastic promoters of it.
“You’re off early?” she asked as she returned, scotch in hand.
He said, “A little. Told you I’d run by this afternoon.”
“Sit,” she said, so he did.
“I’m worried about you,” he said.
“You sounded funny on the phone.”
“Funny, how?” she slurped her bourbon/tea concoction.
“I dunno … funny.”
“No. Funny odd.”
“You sure I wasn’t making a joke about something?”
“You weren’t joking, it was a general impression.”
“You sure you’re not imagining it?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You sure you’re not subconsciously trying to get into my pants again?”
He gasped a little. He was glad her husband wasn’t home to overhear it. Although he felt like her husband trusted him he wasn’t sure he, well … trusted him. “No!”
She smiled. “Now I’m joking.”
“Why would you ask me that?!”
“It’s a joke!” she giggled.
He thought to himself that she just doesn’t do that unless she’s feeling fully unmoored. Although, it was a little funny.
She nodded towards her tablet “Whadya think?”
“This is great,” he said, admiring the vibrant colors, hard cut shapes and swirls of light that symbolized people. “You keep taking it just a little further each time. It’s cool.”
“I’m going to produce a print for Porrello’s new exhibit next month,” she mentioned one of the galleries that featured her work. “And then that’s it.”
He looked at her, hesitated for a bit. “What do you mean, ‘that’s it’?”
“I mean, that’s it. This is the last art I’m doing,” she said.
“You don’t mean you’re going to stop?”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
“Art is the core of who you are; it’s essential to your self-image! How can you just stop?”
“You’ve worked so hard for your work to be accepted by galleries; so hard that they would take your medium seriously. And now they do! And not just your work. So many artists now are exhibiting that never had the opportunity before. How can you just walk away?”
She drained her beverage, put the glass down, looked hard at him. “Do you know how long I have been beating my head against the wall – not just the art, everything. Everything I’ve ever done for decades just trying to make the world a better place. Trying to drag people along; trying to make them see! And I accomplished nothing! People are stupider than ever!
She said, “I left most of that behind years ago, and I thought, ‘okay, I’ve given all I can, now I’m just going to create art all day’. Now I’m just going to make myself happy. And, whadya know, even my art couldn’t be benign. I’ve had to drag people along just to get them to see what I do as art. I’m still trying to get them see. I’m still banging my head against the wall! I … am … exhausted! I feel beat up. I feel drained. I’m done!”
He looked at her with his mouth gapping. She swirled the ice in her glass, trying to extract that last bit of alcohol.
“You said it,” she reflected, “I’ve gotten local galleries to open their perspectives just that little bit. That’s the one thing, in all the years I’ve worked and tried to make a difference, the one place I can see I changed anything. And maybe that’s all any of us get – just to move the needle that tiny little bit. Okay, after a lifetime, that tiny little bit that I can see, that’s my reward. I’ll take it. I’ll take it and be happy.”
He took that in; let it ferment. She watched him with her big, brown eyes like a cat waiting on a reaction, and that helped him read her mind, consider her mood, ponder that she had actually tried to tell a joke. He said, “Maybe you just need someone to get into your pants.”
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.