The Rogue Speaks:
First let me say that I do have a story about Pat Robertson and my beautiful, sweet, loving mother-in-law, but I am saving it for another day. Instead I am treating my readers to an excerpt of an exciting new novel by my Best Friend Artist, Diane Loving:
This is an excerpt from my novel Impasto Imperfect, about the ghost of Vincent Van Gogh visiting an artist living in modern day New York. In the following, Jo, the contemporary artist has brought Vincent’s ghost to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see his works. Having sold only one painting during his brief life, Vincent Van Gogh died without realizing his legacy to the artworld.
(All rights reserved, please, I am a starving artist - - Diane Loving)
As they entered the gallery lined with Impressionist works, Vincent’s eyebrows arched in recognition of a Monet. Before he could speak, Jo stopped him at the entrance to a smaller gallery lined with his paintings. He stood for a moment trying to make sense of a sight not in his purview, as if he were trying to understand the unfathomable. He looked from painting to painting, then at Jo. She had never seen an expression quite like the one on his face. She released his arm and he tentatively approached works which he knew intimately.
Vincent looked at his paintings for a long time, moving slowly from one to the next, then back again. He stepped forward to touch one. His paintings invited touch with their thick impasto pushing from the confines of the canvas. But Jo instinctively reached for his hand to stop him as she saw the security guards approaching, not knowing whether or not they saw him. In this place he could not touch that which he created.
She laughed to herself trying to imagine what the guards or docents would think if the artist pulled out his paints and added embellishments to his own canvases. She had been to receptions and fundraising functions at the museum, and she had met so many people who thought they knew his life story and who relished his works. Yet these same people probably would not invite the man beside her to the same events or choose to sit next to him at a soiree. She equated it with the Second Coming in that the physicality of the messenger is not as attractive as the message. Dear wild-eyed, disheveled-haired, one-eared, rumpled and unkempt Vincent. Wouldn’t one suspect that the genius who could create such works might in actuality look exactly like this?
They stood looking at his works while holding each other’s hand. She wondered if he was awash in memories seeing these old friends? Was he thinking about the subject, or the circumstances under which he painted them? Why this color, where this person, how this technique? But they did not speak. She let him be with his creations. And he continued to look, slowly pacing from one to the next.
And then Vincent wept. He cried silently at first, then with big gulping sobs. Jo put her arm around his heaving shoulder and then he buried his face into her arm, still weeping.
Vincent suddenly raised his head and wiped his eyes as two patrons approached.
“I painted that,” he whispered as the two onlookers passed in front of him, but they did not hear him. They busily interpreted a canvas in low voices; admiring the master’s work without seeing the master. He walked directly behind them looking over their shoulders at the next canvas that caught their attention.
“Ah! My old hat!” Vincent exclaimed.
Jo looked at the portrait of Vincent wearing a straw hat.
“I know you did many self-portraits,” Jo said.
“Yes, because I am such a handsome fellow!” Vincent laughed. “I could not afford to pay models to pose, so I bought good mirrors. I was the least expensive model I could find.” He looked curiously at the canvas, then moved closer to it, raising his arms toward the frame. “I believe this is a used canvas I brought with me to Paris. If you look on the back of it you will see a study I did of a Dutch peasant.”
Jo whispered frantically, “Vincent! Please don’t move that! The guards may not see you but they’ll think I’m defiling the art, you’ll get me thrown out of here.”
“Yes, of course, I am sorry.” His arms dropped quickly to his sides.
“I’ll just have to take your word for it. Two Van Goghs on one canvas!” Jo whispered.
“Yes, the museum should suspend it from the ceiling so that people can see it from both sides.” Vincent suggested.
“I’ll be sure to recommend that to the curator.”
Vincent looked around the room and his honored place in it. It was an elegant room. The paintings hung at a respectful distance from each other, a series not a crowd. The lighting was direct but unobtrusive. The people hushed. It was indeed a sacred place, both like and unlike the church that would not take him in.
Suddenly he cocked his head, staring at the wall next to the place where his works hung. A single syllable escaped from his lips, “Paul.” He walked to the wall and Jo followed, watching him as he looked at the paintings by his friend Paul Gauguin. “Paul is here as well,” he said, smiling. Jo nodded and smiled, too. Then he looked at Paul’s works and back to his own, his smile broadened and he leaned in to whisper, “but he doesn’t have as many here as I do. If he comes bothering you, make sure you tell him that.”
But, of course, Paul Gauguin never came to visit her, nor did any of the other ghosts of artists past whom she assumed may yet float through the galleries of the world’s museums great and small.
“When I was alive, I could not get individuals to appreciate my work let alone a fine museum. I am guessing that time as it passes brings an aesthetic with it.” Jo nodded, though she was not sure why the Vincent of his day could not speak to the eyes and hearts of viewers like he does in modern times. He asked if the general public appreciated his work or just the art historians and museum curators. She could think of only one way to answer the question. She took him to the Museum Store.
Vincent was surprised and appreciative to see that he had his own corner in the marketplace. Notecards, calendars, magnets, a Sunflowers umbrella, prints of his Irises. Though he grumbled that the reproductions did not pay respect to his use of impasto, Jo told him that it was an impasto imperfect world, and that the public wanted Van Goghs that they could afford. He nodded and browsed through the gift shop. She did not show him the coffee mug where, when filled with hot water, his ear disappeared.