On October 19th, 2008, I presented a staged reading of my short story, “And Broke His Crown”, a satire of the art world, as part of the Hoboken Artists’ Studio Tour. The cast featured Annie Bandez, aka Little Annie, Kathena Bryant, Michael Clay, Jonas Garberg, Lenny Kisko, and Steve Martinelli. The story can be viewed at http://www.corpse.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=84&Itemid=33. Following is an excerpt.
“And Broke His Crown”, a satire on the art world (excerpt)
“And Broke His Crown” revolves around an unnamed sixty-something abstract painter who has been struggling for well over thirty years without seeing so much as a glimmer of success, and is by now utterly out of touch with what’s going on in the art world. He has lived for all this time in a rundown but swiftly gentrifying neighborhood outside a large city, presumably New York, which the realtors have dubbed GiBLeT, for Giant Backwater to the Left of Town. The area is presently being settled by a whole new generation of recent art-school graduates, who are creating a new and vibrant scene and consequently attracting a great deal of attention.
He has a girlfriend named Jill, who is about twenty years his junior and also an artist, and whose defining character trait is her hair-trigger temper. She finds out from Sammy, his young protégé, that he has departed for Maine with his drinking buddies without telling her, as a result of one of her crazed outbursts. Because of this, he won’t be around to celebrate the anniversary of the day they first met, which Jill believes should be commemorated as if it were their wedding anniversary. He is, of course, completely unaware that this is expected of him. As punishment, she throws a number of his paintings from the window of his sixth floor studio.
That same weekend, because of the burgeoning art scene, there is a local art fair in GiBLeT. Dekko Sedgwick-Shrimpton, a scout from Morgan-Stern Gallery in the city, comes upon the heap and assumes that the discarded paintings are an art installation.
At this point in the story, the artist, who has just arrived back from Maine, first comes upon the pile of paintings sitting in the yard.
He stood in horror and disbelief staring at them. Face up, face down, twisted like airplane wreckage; they looked like they’d been thrown from the window. Thank God he built his own stretchers out of lumber, otherwise the damage would have been far worse. But some did have broken corners and would have to be restretched, and one had an enormous rip in it that did not seem to be a result of the fall. It had to have been Jill; he recognized her writing on the hand-lettered sign in the middle of the pile that said, "LOSER ART—FREE!” He figured she’d be pissed at him for taking off without telling her, but he never thought she would resort to this. She must have had that nervous breakdown she’d been working on for so long. What was additionally disturbing was that nothing seemed to have been taken.
Well, there would be time to deal with her later. First things first; he’d have to carry everything back upstairs. It was a miracle that it hadn't rained. He couldn’t do it alone, but he figured he could start with the drawings. When he got back to his apartment he’d phone Guillermo and the rest of them to turn back around and they’d have it done in no time. Then, Jill.
As he bent over and picked up the first drawing, he heard a voice.
An impossibly beautiful and thin young man, a human whippet who could only be described as streamlined, was headed over toward him, running as best he could in his painted-on low-slung skinny jeans and pointy shoes.
“You mustn’t touch that—it’s art!!! Do you hear me? Stop!! Stop!!!”
Once he saw that he had been heard and that the person he was addressing had indeed ceased to do what he was doing, the young man’s pace slowed to a lope that was a very close approximation of a 1920’s movie vamp.
“Nobody’s touched it in five days, and the minute I step away to get a cup of coffee, which is, I’ve discovered, what they call a latté around here, along comes some person with no eye whatsoever for art to disrupt everything. This is not a Felix Gonzales-Torres piece—you aren’t really supposed to take anything! Do you understand? Let me explain. This is what is referred to as an installation—oh, never mind, no point in even ATTEMPTING… be a kitten and give me that drawing, would you? Thanks, you’re a dear.”
He eyed the pile for a minute or two, tentatively placed the drawing on it, and then stepped back to take in what he had done. Seemingly satisfied, he continued.
“Dekko Sedgwick-Shrimpton. And you are…?”
“Oh! Why didn't you say so? Well, thank GOD you’ve finally appeared. I have been waiting for you for DAYS. Although I must say you aren’t exactly what I was expecting, but we can discuss that later. Were you toying with your masterpiece, naughty boy? Hear me, DO NOT TOUCH. No need, my little praline, it’s celestial exactly as it is. Impeccably composed, and yet entirely free and expressive, as if it had been flung from the roof. How DID you do it? Listen to mother--I do not often use the word ‘celestial’, so make note…it was obviously done by a highly skilled hand. You are a great talent. There is true passion here.”
HOBOKEN ARTISTS' STUDIO TOUR:
A de facto New Yorker raised in New Jersey, I received a degree in Theater Arts from Rutgers University, with a Fine Arts minor. Shortly after college, I pursued further art studies at the New York Academy of Art, The National Academy of Design, The New School, and L’Ecole Albert Defois in Vihiers, France. I have exhibited in galleries nationwide, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. I have fourteen years’ experience teaching and lecturing on visual art.
A secondary career in writing began with the publication of my short story “And Broke His Crown” in Exquisite Corpse, the literary magazine of Louisiana State University (edited by Andrei Codrescu of National Public Radio, guest editor Bill Lavender http://www.corpse.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=84&Itemid=33). It was subsequently picked for inclusion in issue #35 of eSCENE, Best of the Literary Journals (edited by Walter Cummins of Web del Sol http://escene.webdelsol.com/index2.htm#35), as well as voted a “Notable Story of 2008” in the storySouth Million Writers Award (http://www.storysouth.com/millionwriters/millionwritersnotable2008.html). On October 19th, 2008, I presented a staged reading of the story as part of the Hoboken Artists’ Studio Tour. The cast featured Annie Bandez, aka Little Annie, Kathena Bryant, Michael Clay, Jonas Garberg, Lenny Kisko, and Steve Martinelli.
In September 2011, my short story, “Something Taken” was chosen for inclusion in the Fiction 365 project, edited by Benjamin Wachs (http://www.fiction365.com/2011/11/something-taken/). In 2012, Satellite magazine ran another of my fiction pieces, “Three Wheels Spinning”, as a serial over four issues (Archives, May through August) (http://www.satellite-mag.com/Satellite/HOME.html).
Nonfiction work includes a blog series, Adventures in Freelancing, (http://genewisniewski.wordpress.com/category/adventures-in-freelancing/).
I am currently working on a companion book to my Six-Hour Art Major course, entitled The Three Biggest Questions About Art, Answered.