Writing prompt #44

Write a story that starts with a character revealing something unusual about themselves.

Phobias That Fly  by clcronan 2020

You won’t believe me but I’m going to tell you anyway. I am a professional portrait painter, I paint my fears. That in itself may not be interesting, but my phobias make it ever so challenging. I have a Atelophobia which is the fear of imperfection and that leads to three sub categories: which are cacophobia the fear of ugliness and teratophobia a fear of disfigured people dysmorphobia a fear of body defects. That being said, I use my painting to confront my fears and that informs every portrait I’m about to show you.

I suppose I should start by first thanking you all for coming to this gallery opening, if any of you share my outlook on the world I’m sure this can’t be very easy. For those of you who do not, my greatest hope is that you leave here with a deeper understanding of what life is like for the stricken.

For most of these studies I began with print and online references. Then my agent would seek out people suffering with the conditions that I had the most intense reactions to. I visited hospitals, rehab facilities, morgues, and peoples homes. A few agreed to come pose at my studio. Over the course of the 20 years represented here, my style evolved from realistic textbook illustrations to a more abstract “O’Keeffe” style. In each painting I believe you can feel the presence of what haunts me.

The front room features the blue work. The focus in this series is on bones; bones that are misshaped, bones that are missing, bones that are exposed. Bones are used in our culture to refer to strength and sturdiness; “the house has good bones,” “she is beautiful to the bone,” “long after his death, his bones remain,” ”His nickname is Bone, because for all his life he held this family together.” “The bones of a wing are delicate, but they are what allow a bird to fly.” 

The middle room is portraits of faces, my cacophobia and teratophobia, coupled with my shame at staring, means these works needed to be done mostly from photographs. My agent and I would meet with the individual’s, interview them, photograph them and invite them to the studio toward the end of the process to make any last-minute adjustments. The colors in these works are realistic.

The back room deals with my own dysmorphias. Here a monochromatic backdrop gives way to neon colors which serve to bring my hyper-focued awareness of my imperfections to light. The intent is to share my anxieties and all the other emotions that stem from my disabilities. Hanging back in the shadows of each piece you will find references to the coping mechanisms I employ to try to deal with my limitations. 

It is customary for the artist to be available during a gallery opening. My agent is solely responsible for my being in attendance tonight. As you can well imagine, the paintings in themselves were difficult enough, but standing still to discuss them with people is excruciating. Yes, I also have Xenophobia, the fear of strangers, and to a recluse, nearly everyone is a stranger. In so much as I have to confront my fears to paint, I must also confront my fears to stand before you tonight. Please be gentle and patient, and try to understand.

I have been painting for as long as I can remember. My work was labeled “gory” very early on. My teachers would send me to the principal, the principle would send me home, my mother would send me to a psychiatrist. This happen repeatedly over the years until I finally pulled back and stopped showing people my work. 

Between visits to the psychiatrist, or the physical therapist, or the surgeon, I kept to myself. Miraculously, while attending art college, one of my professors introduced me to my agent, Audrey Eisenberg. The absolute most important factor in bringing this exhibit together is Audrey. The most important factor in my being here, or anywhere, is Audrey. Please help me welcome her to the dais.

  • * * * * 

You are all very kind for awarding me that gracious round of applause, and of course our guest of honor, the inimitable Claudia Morfran, for the generous words of introduction. I do believe she over sells me a bit because the power you will feel here today all comes from her work. She delves into subject matters that would repel most of us, phobias or not, and paints it in such a way that we are drawn in and held captive. When I first saw her paint nearly 25 years ago, it brought to mind Frida Kahlo's work, or Kathe Kollwitz. Her investigations go as deep a da Vinci, her raw emotion evokes Francis Bacon, her use of color and composition ranks among the masters, 

Claudia is one of the bravest people I know. She faces her fears and uses them to her advantage. That alone many would consider an art form but she does far more when she puts brush to canvas. By sharing her agony she creates a connection with the viewer that can only be considered beautiful. She admits to being reclusive but still she touches many in such an emotional way to make that connection permanent and cherished. I believe her viewers receive the gift of being able to look beyond disfigurement and disability to see the beauty within. 

Claudia Morfran is changing the way we see the world. Claudia Morfran is changing the way we interact with each other, but even more so, with those we meet who may have physical challenges we can’t understand, but of which we now know, we need not be afraid. Claudia Morfran has spent years getting to know herself, and through her paintings, invites us to get to know her too. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you now to view these works of Claudia Morfran.

  • * * * *

So I browsed, I studied, I lingered, I chatted, I sat and absorbed the works and the atmosphere.

I watched the two ladies who had taken up their station near the door. There was Audrey, I was always impressed with the way she moved so handsomely in spite of her imposing stature. And the way she spoke so eloquently of her clients, no matter what style or medium or genre they worked in. Even now, standing next to Claudia in her wheelchair, she made everything seems so wonderfully expansive, so preciously valuable, so passionately, intimately connected. Yet I knew her to be aloof, elitist, and ferociously protective of her turf. This was her gallery, and we were all expected to follow the unwritten script. 

Beside her, as if held to the earth by only Audrey’s gravitational force, sat Claudia. The woman of the hour who would rather be anywhere but here. You could see the force she was exerting just trying to make eye contact. I’d lost track of the string of physical challenges she was rumored to have, and was surprised to hear her share tonight all the psychological challenges that beset her. She was small, tight, scarred, bent, but dressed to the nines. I watched her for a very long time and was very unsure of what to make of my behavior. I fell into out right staring. I did eventually get up from my post, and go over to make all the appropriate noises for Audrey. 

As soon as Claudia reached out her hand to me, the enchantment was cast. 

That is how I came to spend the next 18 years orbiting around one of the best people this earth has ever known. I watched as her paintings worked their magic on rooms full of people. I watched her health decline. I watched as she breathed her last breath. I watched all the people - fancy, down trodden, able bodied and not, file past the urn that held her ashes. And I watched as those ashes were cast into the wind, and Claudia Morfan got to fly

June 04, 2020 20:25

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