How some artists immortalize themselves through their paintings.
The Artists' Secrets In Their Paintings
In my younger days, I once dated a gifted portrait painter named Michael. I met him through a national juried art exhibition in the Midwest, which he had won with his mural size Nude Polynesian Woman Bathing oil on canvas. The exotic woman was luxuriating in a pool of water with the illusion of waterfalls, rocks and trees in the background. She wore only a red flower on the left side of her head, her breasts partly covered by her long, wet and wavy black hair. The portrait was eerily true to life that curious viewers were often caught trying to feel her olive skin. My entry, a traditional and unexciting autumn scene of rural Indiana, captured the coveted consolation prize otherwise known as Honorable Mention. I think I still have the ribbon in some box somewhere in storage.
Michael was not only a great painter. He was also extremely handsome. He was six foot tall, had a full head of curly, dark hair, with aquiline nose, full lips and mesmerizing eyes underneath the bushy eyebrows. A quick glance at his well-defined features, you’d think it was sculpted by one of the renaissance masters. Needless to say, I was very proud to be seen with him, even though sometimes I felt overshadowed by his beauty when even some men stared at him more than at me.
One day, Michael and I attended a seminar on art conservation and techniques at the Cincinnati Art Museum. A group of scientists spoke about x-ray and reflectography examination of ancient artworks using infrared light. During a thirty-minute refreshment break, he decided to confide in me about his own technique to immortality.
"If these scientists would only do an x-ray study on my paintings," he whispered in my ear, "they would find a sample of my DNA in each one."
"Like what?" I asked nonchalantly. It was no secret to me that many artists often left a part of themselves in their paintings: a strand of hair, a piece of fabric, saliva, or blood that they might mix with the paint.
"My semen," he said with a wide grin and a twinkle in his eye.
At that juncture, the illusion of an Adonis face was suddenly shattered into a million pieces. I saw something diabolical instead. "That is absolutely perverse and revolting," I exclaimed. I could only imagine how ugly my face also looked with the contorted expression I gave him.
Before he could form a response, I swung on my heel and sprinted to the ladies room and relieved myself of the nausea. I never saw him again after that. And to think I almost agreed to pose for him.
Today, that episode in my life comes back every time I read about him in art magazines. His DNA secret is no more since he has proudly revealed it in a special documentary about artists who include a souvenir of themselves in their paintings. Michael's revelation created such a huge controversy not only in the art world but also in the general public. But the controversy only helped him, which captivated a growing list of art patrons and collectors.
I have not reached the status that Michael enjoys in our profession, but I am very satisfied with what I have accomplished as an artist. I have won a few first place awards in various juried art shows, and have garnered a loyal group of patrons to keep me busy. Sometimes I even splurge at Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue after completing a huge commissioned artwork. But there’s no security of income in art; therefore, I keep my daytime job. I have been fortunate in the US as a successful professional with a huge Fortune 50 corporation. Still, it’s the arts that always gave me any consistent degree of satisfaction, challenge and pleasure, not to mention a profound sense of creative accomplishment.
Even today, except for my signature, none of the paintings I’ve done contains anything other than the artwork on the canvas – until now -- with the secret painting on the backside of my mother's portrait.
(End of Chapter Nineteen)
(To be continued)