My Best Work
I believe in art. Both my parents were artists, so our house was stuffed with books on Utrillo, Van Gogh, Gaugin, and Picasso. The smell of oil paint, the steady tap-tap of carving, the whisper of chalk on paper, all this was part of the world I grew up in. In this atmosphere art was not something you studied; it was something you absorbed, especially the holiest edict of all: that Truth and Art were one. This proved to be my undoing.
One day — I must have been eleven or so — I was in my sister’s room where I knew I shouldn’t be, just sort of poking around in her stuff, whebn I noticed her collection of Barbie Dolls. There was Malibu Barbie, Beverly Hills Barbie, Waikiki Barbie, Aspen Barbie, plus Barbie’s friends — Midge and Skipper or whoever. Included in all this were matching shoes and handbags, matching bras and panties, tennis racquets, beach balls, you name it. Despite this cornucopia of Munchkin Merchandise there was one thing all these Barbies didn’t have — pubic hair.
Realizing someone had to fill in these blank spots on the map, I grabbed some magic markers and got to work, color co-ordinating as I went. Nothing Avant Garde here. Everything representational, if not outright Normal Rockwell. I figure I matched up the brunettes pretty well, although overcoming a limited palette with artful composition proved challenging. I employed whorls, curlicues, redactive curves, trompe l’oile manifestations here, pointillism there, always mindful that diversity delights the eye of the beholder.
Redheads were a different story since I’d never actually, you know, seen one. But my Uncle George was a connoisseur. “here comes one with a fire in her lap,” he snickered whenver one hove into view. I figured this wasx something he would know all about since he used to be in the Navy, so I flamed up Malibu Barbie with a bright copper wash overlaid with just a hint, mind you, of magenta before moving on to blondes. Here I was on firmer ground, since I knew blondes weren’t always what they seemed, having once surprised my Aunt Gloria coming out of the shower. I got creative and went with a mid-range burnt umber accented with goldflake highlights.
We artists experience the world differently. Not for us the humdrum and the plodding, but a journey beyond imagining, a world at the very edge of the senses which few suspect and fewer still can experience. Especially those with bourgeois minds.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” My sister snatched Rodeo Barbie from my hands. “You disgusting PREE-VERT! DAAAD!”
I was summoned before our father. Bent low over a small wax sculpture — he was in his Henry Moore phase — he grumbled without looking up.
“Listen. I don’t wanna hear any more about you playing with your sister’s dolls.”
“I wasn’t! I was fixing them. I was making ‘em more…true-to-life.”
“Oh really? Well nobody needs life lessons from you.” He bent lower and added, in a strangled tone: “From now on just stay away from her stuff. Now get outta here.” It was only years later that he confessed he’d bitten his pipe in two to keep from laughing.
Not long afterwards my truth-in-advertising Barbies disappeared, replaced by a chorus line of glitzy understudies complete with beach balls and lurex bikinis but minus one universal truth. Even so, all these years later I’m not discouraged. Vita Breve, Ars Larga; life is short: art is forever. And I still say it was some of my best work.
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