Artistic License

This tale is by Terry Morrison, author of “Mattress-ide and Other Grammatical Atrocities”.

The exhibition was in its fourth day and already more than five thousand people had passed through the turnstiles to view the works of Jorge Salvatore. Salvatore was Mexico’s ”native son”, and his black velvet paintings were revered around the world. He credited Andy Warhol with his success, since the subject matter of the late artist’s work was always a source of inspiration to him.

Like Warhol, he took everyday things and turned them into art, though, there were many who thought his work stank. They maintained he was simply a copy painter with little talent. What he did possess was wasted on his boring renditions of boring subjects. There’s just no pleasing some people. Take for example his famous “Wheat Is This I See Before Me.” To his critics, and there were many, the painting was nothing more than a bowl of soggy cereal. It had about as much life as a roll of wet toilet paper.

However, his admirers thought differently. This was a masterpiece in which Salvatore succeeded in capturing, on a few square inches of canvas, the very essence of the morning meal. The subtle blending of colors draining into the bowl as it stood alone on an otherwise empty table excited memories of breakfasts long forgotten.

Then there was ”No Name Bran,” a rendition in pen and ink of a knocked over box of bran flakes, the contents of which spilled over the counter and onto the floor. It too sparked the same mix of adoration and vilification.

So did ”Oat, Oat Damned Spot”, and ”Rolls Rice”, and “The Sound of Muselix.” As with all art, your reaction depended on your point of view.

There was no question that Salvatore was hung up on breakfast. Even his most ardent admirers sometimes questioned his wisdom and wondered if he wasn’t overdoing it just a tad. Maybe it was time he moved on to new meals.

Salvatore was a flamboyant type, always in the papers, or in the art magazines, or on television. He liked being in the public eye. Sometimes he would even drop in unannounced at his own shows to reap the accolades and adoration of his followers.

On one occasion, he showed up in disguise and strolled around, seemingly involved in deep study of the work. But he was really listening to the reactions of the patrons. He even engaged in several discussions of what he thought the artist was trying to convey.

One particular painting, ”Cereal Killer,” seemed to be generating tremendous controversy. Salvatore, in wig and glasses, was taking his time, seemingly intent on digesting every scrap of paint with his eyes. A crowd had gathered and two dapper looking gentlemen in identical blue pin stripe suits were hotly discussing its merits, or lack, thereof.

Salvatore took it all in and had no intention of responding, that was until one of them called him, ”A no good, no account bum who couldn’t paint his way out of a paper bag.”

This was too much. Salvatore angrily brushed off his wig and slammed the fake glasses to the floor. A hush filled the gallery. He walked up to the ignoramus and pointed his finger at him. ”You should be ashamed, Señor. I am the artist you so callously dismiss.”

A collective gasp rose from the crowd. ”My God, it’s him…. it’s Salvatore.”

”You hurt me, Señor,” Salvatore continued, shaking his finger in the man’s face. ”I put my life into my work but, yet, you tell me I waste my time. What do you know, eh? Have you ever produced a work of pure genius?”

The gentleman, caught unaware, tried to respond but Salvatore was having none of it.

He pointed to the painting. It showed a knife suspended over a bowl of sugar pops. A drop of milk glistened on its tip as if preparing itself for entry into the bowl.

“I excite you, no,” Salvatore ranted. “It is evident by your reaction. And because I excite you, you respond. Admit it, Señor. You are struck by my images. It is a strong painting, no?” This last bit wasn’t really a question, but a statement of fact.

The crowd remained silent, not quite sure what to do.

”You know, I could never quite understand why anyone would choose to criticize my work.” Salvatore addressed his remarks to no one in particular. ”No one paints the images I do, no one. I have the field to myself. Yet, you do not seem to understand one basic fact. . . . I am a Cerealist. Cerealism is my life, and that is that!”

Then he picked up his glasses and his wig and stormed out of the gallery.

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *