I show up at the artist’s reception looking for the restroom when I’m immediately taken into a little circle of welcoming art-goers. These people, apparently, by the time I understand what is happening, have mistaken me for the artist. Where the real artist is I have no clue.
I’m about to protest when they hand me a small plastic cup of wine and ask me what I was thinking when I painted this particular nude. This particular nude is of my wife. It’s titled, “Wife Judy in Sunlight.”
I say that I wasn’t thinking anything. “I’m thinking exactly what I’m thinking now, absolutely nothing.” These people nod, nod, and lift their own plastic cups of wine to their mouths. Some are taking notes. One gentleman is wearing a bow tie.
“Shall we see the others?” I say.
Yes, they are very eager and pleased to see the others. They’re a bit, I can see, star-struck.
I show them the other paintings, all nudes, hanging on the adjacent wall. It’s grotesque stuff, really—I’ve never been into nudes. Flesh is embarrassing.
They ask me questions about method and composition and inspiration. I tell them basically that I sit down and get to work first thing every morning after a few bumps of coke and one or two good sucks of sherry from the belly button of one of my models.
They laugh. They think I’m joking. This is fine. Perhaps I am. I’ve completely forgotten that I had been looking for the restroom. I ask for another glass of wine and hand my empty cup to the man with the bow tie. He looks into it as if the wine should materialize there, and then up at the others. They all give him various nods and facial expressions as if to say, “Be a good chap, and go get the artist some wine.” He leaves.
I then come to a nude titled, “Self-Portrait in B-Flat.” In this painting, I find myself sitting at a grand piano. It isn’t me, of course, but only the artist who looks like me. I still find it disturbing, even so.
In my—or his—right hand, is an opened wine bottle. I’m gripping it by its neck. My left hand is sitting on top of the fallboard as if I’ve just set it into place over the keys, or, more than likely, haven’t yet lifted it to start to play. And then I see that I have no mouth. I’m completely mouthless. Where my mouth should be is only a round patch of pale skin.
The art people are all waiting for me to go on, to extrapolate, to make light, to be the artist with indefatigable jest. But about this last canvas, what can I possibly say?