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Contemporary Fiction Funny

I am a very organized, some would say OCD, kind of person. Planning things out on paper would seem very OG to those much younger than myself, but it is how I think best. I need to visually see things, so in writing my memoirs I have waited a full ninety five years so that I might see the end of the story more clearly and have a more finished ending. I am nothing, if not a stickler for detail. This is a first draft and hopefully time and health will allow for future revisions and if not, hey, that’s what editors are for. 

I’m not sure how to begin but everything I’ve read about the process of writing has always said “just write and clean it up later.” It’s the old “writing is a muscle” thing, exercise it. So I thought I would just try bullet pointing my life’s trajectory,

a journal if you will, and fill in the gooey details at a later date, again relying on my shortening telemetry to give me the time to do so.  

I don’t get interesting till my later years, so I will skip the absurdities and foibles of youth and cut to the chase, as they say. I have given myself this new month in this new year to set down in ink, or whatever they call the medium of this computer, what I consider to be the highlights of my life. I need the time constraint of one month to focus on the job and resist the distractions of a keen and interested mind.  

When I was a young man of, oh I don’t remember exactly let’s say twenty seven, I was hired as a guard for a contemporary museum of art. I had no training in either art or guarding, but I muscled through the interview with bravado and lies and secured the position quite effortlessly. I had no background in anything, actually, having flunked out of a community college years before, but the world did not need to know that, now did they? My true strength, if it can be called that, lay in my ability to consume large quantities of alcohol and still be able to function. I was never sure, and still am not, whether it was a built up tolerance or a genetic predisposition, but in any case, it allowed me to win many a drinking contest and reap some paltry financial rewards.  Drinking never achieved the heights its sister “sport” of competitive eating has. I, however, was the Joey Chestnut of my niche league. That is how I lived before starting work at the Swan Museum of Contemporary Art, which changed my life.  

Fast forward about five years, bypassing the mundane daily existence of just watching lines of people queue up to stare at paintings, and I italicize the word “paintings” because though they are, in fact, made with paint I came to view many of them as merely scams, in that the “artist” was nothing more than that, a scam artist, anointing himself in the mystique of the obtuse and the profound. And so I began to realize that I too could pull off the deception of grandeur and produce “art” that would be received with the awe of the unenlightened. If you couch it in ambiguity, they will come. And so I did, as did they.  

Now, as I have previously stated, I have no background in art and while talent may very well emerge from some hidden depth, mine did not, but what did emerge was an understanding of humanity’s gullibility, that was my art, my genius.  

And so I went about the project of setting up a studio for myself, basking in the glow of perceived superiority that the word “studio” gave me. I was to be an artist. Even before I touched a paint tube, I went about the task of inventing myself, going around to thrift shops and vintage clothiers to assemble a unique persona that would scream eccentric, edgy, and avant-garde. It’s all in the presentation.

I needed a brand, a self presenting logo that would convey the cache of both depth and quirk, a facade of cool that would lend credence and worth to my yet unpainted paintings. I would sign my work with a simple red “Q,” and let the masses imagine its meaning. Quirky or Queer or of middle eastern decent, let the conjecture fuel the conversation and the story.  

Next, I actually needed some product and yes product is how I viewed my intended artistic output. After years of viewing exhibitions at The Swan, I was certain I could create the illusion of art using the limited skills and tools at my disposal. I procured some canvases and paints and began. It would be playtime at first, just throwing things on the wall and seeing what sticks, literally. I began to see some shapes and colors that intrigued me, so I concentrated on those. I liked the thickness in some areas so I began using a scalpel instead of a brush, layering on paint to give a three dimensionality to my work. The thing with abstraction is how to tell when it’s done? Well, I can tell you that when I ran out of paint, it was done. It was a matter of economics not inspiration. What I had was a vibrant mass of color and texture, paint protruding from the canvas like small hills and mountains. Oranges, blues, greens and yellows, mixing into browns and purples in splotchy mounds, not unlike a four year old ADHD finger painting. Now I would need to give my creation some gravitas, so I wrote the following: 

“sculpting the canvas with paint, layering on hematomas of color that belch out, lava like, from two dimensionality, this work erupts, birth like, from a flat realm of non existence.”

You see, a word painting used to explain the mundane. To give an audience pause and an aha moment of clarity where they believe they see the artist’s

intent. A fabrication none the less.  

I created a series of these things, which were indeed well received and purchased. I even gave a name to this process of creation, calling it The Antintaglio School of Painting. Again, it’s all in the presentation.  

My next endeavor was to completely upend my initial offerings by suspending color all together and so I entered my “white period.” Just white canvases. Some had my signature protrusions of paint and some did not, some were large and some were very small. A price point for everyone and more economical to produce. And of course a pedantic description to go along with them:

“a microcosm of human potential awaiting the first infected touch of Man. The un-void of white that holds all colors and possibilities.”

I have done very well financially all these years and have come to even believe my own hype and artistic acceptance. Who’s to say what art really is? Is it plumbed from some deep well of talent and intellect or from a broken leaky faucet of opportunism, luck, and chutzpah? I only know that I have been the recipient of its rewards and I leave it to perpetuity to decide.  

January 16, 2024 02:06

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2 comments

Mary Bendickson
23:17 Jan 16, 2024

I can see it now.

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Andrew Fruchtman
00:44 Jan 17, 2024

👍 and thank you for reading me.

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