A Secret Grave 14: Current Crisis

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I have a big crisis in my life right now. Because it is so connected to Victor I’m going to briefly hit the pause button on his story and tell you what it is. Every October I give a party to introduce clients and show the work I’ve produced before the paintings go out into the world. This year’s party is scheduled for a few weeks from now, October 6th, and there’s no way, short of serious illness or death, I can change that date. The problem is I’m not ready. Out of eleven paintings, only six are complete. As for the others…  they are in various stages and it will be a real struggle to finish them. I comfort myself with the thought that the Metropolitan Museum at the Breuer (which used to be the Whitney) has just had an excellent exhibit of unfinished paintings.

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PS Alice Neel Painting

James Hunter Black Draftee, AliceNeel, 1965

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But that is no excuse. I mean a show of your work but only half of it’s done? Here’s what happened: When I heard the rumor that a body might be buried beneath an artist’s studio in Austin, I became convinced that the studio was mine and the body belonged to Victor. Why? Well, I’ve already told you about the creepiness of my studio and the odd circumstances under which it was built. As for Victor, he was a talented man and everyone wanted a piece of him. He had many enemies and he had a very dark side – areas I intend to explore as I get deeper into the story. What I want you to know right now is that at the time of Victor’s sudden and mysterious disappearance in 2006, I developed a private theory that he was murdered. That theory was relegated to a back area of my brain until a few months ago when I heard the rumor about a hidden grave. At which point, I became obsessed. I had a number of portrait commissions, but stopped them all to paint Victor whose face I could see very clearly in my mind. (He was phobic about being photographed, so there are no existing images.)

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NJ-7216cropped

Dr. Victor Goodlove

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It took me a good six weeks to paint Victor, which put me seriously behind. I had four commissions, was stalled on one, had not yet even begun the others. Whoops. Ironically, two of the commissions were – are – of people who were at Victor’s tea ceremony all those years ago: Alicia Rossi, the grumpy woman who accused me of cheating on tests, and her husband, closet pianist Emil Shusterman, who wrote a successful book on understanding your adolescent and is now on a zillion talk shows. I want to focus for a moment on these two.

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Alicia & Emil side by side

Alicia Rossi & Dr. Emil Shusterman

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Alicia and Emil had been together for about a year when I first saw them at Victor’s. They’d met on a plane and fallen madly in love – so in love that Emil left his marriage of sixteen years, and Alicia, a successful New York businesswoman, dismantled her life and moved to Austin. They had just begun to work with Victor. Emil, a psychotherapist, was interested in Victor’s healing methods for his own clients. And Alicia had a serious problem with insomnia that Victor was able to cure, but not – as she told me recently – in a way she expected or really welcomed.

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To be continued…

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Cover Photo ~ Stress, Bernard Goldbach, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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