Tag Archives: art

2003. The fortunes of Mavis

It was no fault of Mavis that she was born with two noses. She had four nostrils. It didn’t seem to add to her sense of smell; in fact compared to some her smell appeared sometimes below par.

Some people were appalled at the sight of her, but it’s amazing what you can get used to with familiarity. It’s only ignorance that prevents people from looking beyond appearances. Yes, I suppose Mavis having two noses and four nostrils did make her ugly to look at and difficult to relate to, but underneath she had a sparkling personality and that’s what matters.

Not even having four ears could distract from her noses. She “cheated” a bit with her ears because she let her hair grow down over them and most people didn’t notice. It was only at secondary school when her calculating calculus teacher got scissors and cut Mavis’s hair off to illustrate a point about the number 4 that people began to realize that she had extra ears. “Spare ears” the calculus teacher called them. Again, having an extra two ears didn’t seem to add to her aural perceptions. In fact, to hear her sing was a clear sign that she was tone deaf.

To be fair, her tone deafness might not have been brought about by having four ears. It might have been caused by the fact that she had two tongues. She wasn’t (dear me, no) born with two tongues. She was late in starting to learn to talk so her father split her tongue in the manner (now banned) of splitting a magpie’s tongue to facilitate human speech in the magpie. It made little difference to Mavis. She was still a late developer when it came to speech and always spoke with a lisp.

It wasn’t so much her lisp that was annoying; it was her stutter. She had the most terrible stutter, and with a split tongue we had the odious obligation to sit patiently while she said everything twice.

It’s not impossible that by now you’ve heard enough about Mavis to get a picture of her. She had lots of other things of interest with her body as well, like a fifth arm that poked out of her neck. All that need be said is that Mavis’s luck changed around her twentieth birthday. A fairly insignificant artist – Pablo someone – asked her to pose for a painting. She did so, and has never looked back.

1925. Three minutes of fame

A true story to celebrate what in New Zealand is officially the first day of Spring (although I personally don’t drink to it until the equinox on the 23rd). The story has nothing to do with Spring as such. It’s to do with the only painting I’ve ever done.

My family were never much into art. As kids we had colouring-in books, but we never painted pictures. Perhaps Mother thought that pencils were less messy than paint. I did have a collection of coloured pencils however. You would get a different shade in the mail every week, and I think I had several hundred pencils all wonderfully cataloged. I don’t recall drawing; just colouring-in.

These days I’m not averse to the occasional surreptitious colouring-in – although I have only eight colours!

Even when I was sent to boarding school (age 13) the options were between Woodwork and Art. My parents chose Woodwork – and quite frankly I was not very good at it.

Years later, when I was in the Seminary studying for the priesthood, quite a few of the students were exceptional artists. I thought I’d try my hand at water colours. I still remember painting this picture. I talked to the lady as she emerged from the canvas. I called it Lady at the market selling potatoes. Apparently I abused water colouring technique, and instead of “laying” colours I rubbed them all together in a mess. Proudly I found an old frame and hung the painting in the book-binding room where I worked – just above the guillotine!

The Seminary was a long established institution in the province. It had the largest private library and the oldest vineyard in the country. Crowds of visitors would come to the cellars to purchase wine, and there on a hill behind the cellars was a large grand building where no visitors came because it was “The Mission Seminary”. It had a mystique. It was a place seen only from a distance, with its palm trees overlooking the city. Once a year the Seminary would have “an open day”. Crowds of people would come for a peek.

“And this,” I said to a visiting lady, “is where we bind and mend the books for the library.” The lady was clearly a snob. She had a plum in her mouth; or was that a silver spoon? Grandly she stood in front of the guillotine gazing at my painting.

“I’ve seen the original of that,” she said. “In The Netherlands.”

1814. So talented!

Charlotte didn’t have a single humdrum electron whizzing around in her brain. Her brain was on fire!

“You’re so creative, Charlotte,” people would say. “How do you come up with so many creative ideas?”

“I guess it’s a natural gift one is born with,” said Charlotte, and she would return to the painting she was painting, or the music for the Irish harp she was playing, or the sundial she was installing in the garden.

“Everything you touch turns to gold, Charlotte,” people would say. “You definitely have the Midas touch.”

“I don’t do anything to encourage it,” said Charlotte. “Things just come naturally to me,” and she went back to baking her Baked Alaska for she was have important friends over for dinner, or back to the rug she was weaving, or back to the dress for a niece’s doll she was sewing, or back to making homemade candles for a friend’s 30th birthday, or back to the lines she was learning for a dramatic production.

The extolling of Charlotte’s talents among her peers was like a mantra; it repeated itself over and over. “It’s sad you can’t find a job in this small town,” someone said. “Why don’t you move to the big city where your talents would be put to good use?”

So Charlotte moved to the big city in search of a job. What a relief! Quite frankly, Charlotte had driven everyone in the small town nuts.

1303. Jolly heck

Verna was very artistic. She dabbled in painting with water colours, although she wasn’t terribly good at it. She modelled pots and characters (mainly little piglets) out of clay, although she wasn’t terribly good at it. She composed little songs about life and its hassles, although she wasn’t terribly good at it.

What she was good at was the envy of all who knew her. She could take ordinary everyday things like rocks and pinecones and driftwood and seashells, and glue them together to make the most wonderful three-dimensional works of art. Verna was a natural. Her creations sold for hundreds – and hundreds. Verna made lots of them for sale, although not enough to glut the market. Too many would cheapen their value. She also taught night classes on how to creatively glue together stuff you had found, and although her students were enthusiastic, no one matched the artistic prowess of Verna.

Verna would also occasionally give her creations away as gifts. In fact, one week she gave two away to be sold; one to the Sisters of Divine Mercy who ran a hospice, and one to the Heart Disease Research Foundation.

Sister Mary of the Southern Cross thought it was awful. What are we meant to do with bits of junk glued together? she asked. She chucked Verna’s creation onto a passing trash collector’s truck, and wrote a lovely letter to Verna. So sweet of you. So sweet.

The Heart Disease Research Foundation sold their gift and got just over one hundred and fifty thousand. It was a record. It could be said that Sister Mary of the Southern Cross was rendered speechless, but that was not exactly true. She kept saying Jolly heck. Something like that.

1286. Nice portraits of mice

When Mitchell stood up straight from weeding the garden, he accidentally hit his head on a plank that the house painters had placed between two ladders. It was quite a severe knock and Mitchell had concussion. He spent three days in hospital before returning home.

What amazed people, including specialists, was that the accident seemed to have activated a section of his brain hitherto dormant. Suddenly Mitchell discovered he could paint pictures of cute field mice; field mice in a corn field; field mice eating cheese; field mice taunting cats. He even painted a delightfully intricate picture of a mouse flying a de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft! These paintings sold for hefty prices; so hefty in fact that Mitchell and his wife were able to purchase a house free from debt.

“They’re not simply pictures of mice,” said the curator of the city museum, “it’s the thought processes behind it. Mitchell is able to convey feelings of beauty, insignificance, aloneness, grandeur. Even the sky above the mice conveys varying deep emotions. With one knock on the head he is able to portray scenes of incomparable exquisiteness.”

Unfortunately, Mitchell drove his wife to drink. He was totally nuts.

1221. Rung up

Roberta couldn’t but help feel pleased. She had been promoted. In fact, in the average-sized town art gallery she could not have been promoted higher. To put it bluntly: Roberta was at the top; at the pinnacle. She was in charge.

She was only thirty-two. If headway was to be made in her professional career, she would have to move to a larger town with a larger art gallery. She did just that, selling the house and upping and moving. Of course, she had to take a cut in pay because she had to start down at the bottom again. But rung by rung she could move so much higher. There were so many promotions ahead!

These days Roberta is one year off retirement and is still near the bottom. Whenever a job vacancy came up, an ambitious teeny-bopper city-slicker with a university degree would apply. After retirement, Roberta has no idea how she’ll pay off the rest of her mortgage.

Oh well.

921. Retirement

921retirement

Cade had had a successful career as an historian. After he graduated he landed a wonderful job as a lecturer at a prestigious university. Over the years he had worked his way up to become a professor and head of the History Department.

And now he had retired. Oh! the accolades! There’s so much in life I have always wanted to do, said Professor Cade in his departing speech. So much that’s undone. How busy and fruitful retirement is destined to be.

Cade made a list of things he was going to do in his first year of retirement. There were so many masterpieces, for example, that he hadn’t read. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was a case in point! There were dozens of literary classics that he’d never had time for. And now he would. He would read, read, read.

And then there was the music of Johann Sebastian Bach’s four composing sons. I want to become a Bach expert, he declared, with the music of Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, Johann Christoph Friedrich, and Johann Christian.

And Art. He would study famous paintings and one day, hopefully, travel to see the originals.

These days, of course, all this could be done on the computer. He wanted to start almost immediately. But first he’d just finish downloading a couple of computer games.

461. Florence was an artist

461florence

Florence was an artist. She didn’t only paint; she wrote. Painting however was her passion. She rather fancied herself.

Everyone thought her paintings were horrible. In fact, she couldn’t paint for shit. All, however, commented positively. It’s better to be encouraging than honest. Isn’t it?

“You’re so creative, Florence. I wish I could paint.”

“It’s a God-given talent,” said Florence.

Father Luke, of the local parish, was equally full of praise. “GOOD is not the word,” he said. It was an ambiguity that went way over Florence’s head.

“Nature has endowed me with a priceless gift,” said Florence.

She was so enamoured with Father Luke’s comments, that she donated a portrait of Mother Teresa to the church. You should have seen it! Oh my God! What a wrinkled out-of-proportion horrible visage it portrayed. Not that Mother Teresa was a model, but it was the painting that was awful.

“It’s disgusting! It’s disgusting! It’s fucking disgusting!” said Father Luke to his secretary, although he didn’t use those precise words.

The painting hangs in the foyer of the church. Florence stands next to it every time she goes to church, so that people can photograph her and the painting with their phones. And indeed they do! It gives them something amusing to look at during the sermon.

361. Masterpiece

361masterpiece

Isabelle won the prestigious art award. Her submission was entitled Oh kinaesthetic and forever tomorrow. It was a fabulously longish title for such an original piece.

The judges were astounded. Their decision was unanimous. See how the art work changes from one viewing to another! See how there can be no single-only original version; each “copy” is the original version! See how the work reflects aspects of each person who contemplates it!

The masterpiece was simply each person’s blank computer screen. Every screen displayed a different arrangement of similar things: different arrangements of fly dirt, and sneeze globules, and fingerprints, and smears! It was a living work of art. People began doing all sorts of things in front of their blank computer screens in order to add to the value and “inner statement” of their “original”. One enterprising interpreter actually turned the screen on! Electric! An electrifying interpretation! Another took a selfie with the inbuilt cam. Was that interpretation not bordering on being slightly too Robert Mapplethorpe? Another entrepreneur (one could not use the word artist as it was simply a variation of Isabelle’s masterpiece) managed to stuff their entire computer screen inside a greatly stretched condom. Oh the waste! The squandering of a perfectly good piece of rubber! There was no way in hell it could be recycled – which was the point they were trying to make: “Recycle your raincoat”.

Isabelle planned to go to the Caribbean on the prize-money, to gather inspiration for further works. She accepted the prize with humility: “Thank you,” she said, with that noble simplicity born of greatness. “Thank you to every person in the world. You know who you are.”

338. Fridge art

338fridge

Craig was always painting pictures for his mother.

“I know what it is,” said his mother, “but I want you to describe it to me.”

“That’s a boat in the sea, and that’s a fish, and there’s Daddy in the boat and the sun there.”

“That’s beautiful!” said Craig’s mother, and put it on the fridge door with a magnet.

“Here’s a giraffe,” said Craig, “with a lion and a tiger, helping a beaver to build a dam.”

“That’s beautiful!” said Craig’s mother, and put it on the fridge door with a magnet.

“And this is you, Mummy, cooking dinner in the kitchen and that’s the chicken. Isn’t it funny? It looks like a duck!”

“That’s very funny!” said Craig’s mother. “Thank you!” And put it on the fridge door with a magnet.

“Mummy,” said Craig one day, “why do you hang all my pictures upside down?”