The artist adjusted the position of his easel, blocking the covered works leaning in the dark shadows against the wall behind it just a bit more, the room illuminated by a single candle, obstensively to guide his hand as he painted. His brush strokes came hurried, careless, nearly chaotic, giving the Madonna an almost devilish appearance. He caught himself, breathed deeply, slowed, went back and corrected mistakes, smoothed the Virgin’s face towards the angelic. All a lie. The painting, a lie. It’s production, a lie, albeit a lie he might later sell. There was a fair market for lies.
A shuffled footstep behind him announced his shrouded visitor. “You are indeed difficult to find, as you said,” the voice came from within the dark hood. The visitor pulled it back to reveal its scared face, eyes focused tightly by years of practiced subterfuge.
“It is a quiet place to work,” the artist replied, his own face creased by the weight of conscious.
“And to hide,” the visitor noted. He looked back to the alley behind him, listening intently for even the slightest hint of human intervention and hearing none.
“I keep a stall near the market,” The artist said, “To sell my works, like this one.”
The visitor stepped forward and examined the painting on the easel, noting its muted tones, its adherence to proper form, subject, perspective, message; suited to any merchant, politician, priest who wanted the world to see his acquiescence. Perfect for any office or hall or chapel frequented by subservience. “And this place for those who have their eyes open.” The visitor noted. The artist looked away shyly, nervously. “Show me,” the visitor commanded.
The artist shifted the easel away from the wall, stepped towards the half dozen works covered there and removed the one second from the back. On lifting its cover the little room seemed to explode in color. The paint itself seemed on fire with vibrancy and saturation, unnatural and at the same time compelling as if it revealed a window to another world. And within its frame startling characters revealed by sharp lines and contrasting shapes whirling together, seeming to writher and writhe in each other’s presence.
None of it, in subservience, at all proper. “This is it,” the visitor said. ‘This is real. This is an idea.”
The visitor reached into his cloak and brought out a small coin purse, which he passed to the artist. The work was covered again and placed into a larger cloth cover which the visitor tied tightly.
“Where will it be seen,” the artist wanted to know.
“Everywhere, and nowhere, my friend,” the visitor told him. “A few minutes here, a half hour there; anyplace an idea can take hold.” Then he stepped closer to the artist and gently kissed him before gathering the bundle under his arm and stepping towards the door. He paused just a moment and said, “I will see you again,” then was gone into the darkness.
The artist moved his easel to again hide the works against the wall. He removed the Madonna painting, so dull and inane in comparison, and placed another canvas, just begun, showing a few strokes of the same luminesce colors already applied to it. “I will remain in the shadows,” he said to himself, “And create light.”
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.