A Secret Grave 27: Puttin’ on a Show

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In truth, I’ll never be ready for the event on October 6. Of course this is psychological – a nervousness about opening my house and studio to strangers, something I have to deal with every year since the party has become an annual event. But to see my work – all the portraits there, on the walls, framed and ready to go – is a little sickening, like sending one’s very young children to school the first time, awkward in their new clothes, their little necks scrawny and vulnerable. As the guests circulate, I almost cannot bear watching them move from painting to painting. It takes months to complete a canvas, five minutes or less to look at it. But I project my fears; better to tell you about some of the more interesting people who’ll be at this party.

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Wall of paintings

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I’m very excited that my friend, well-known jeweler Peter Martino, will be flying in from New York to attend the party. Peter met Victor years ago, back in the late 90s, when Victor approached him with some questions about the healing powers of crystals. “We became extremely good friends,” Peter told me when I saw him in New York this past August. “He was the most amazing doctor – I’d fly to Dallas, where he had a practice at the time, whenever I had physical ailments no one else seemed able to fix. And I’ll tell you –“ he lowered his voice slightly, “—a lot of high-powered individuals went to see him, Hillary Clinton for instance, and Laura Bush. That’s why I worry about what happened to him.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Peter shook his head and laughed mirthlessly. “I don’t know,” he said. “You hear rumors about all those alternative doctors being murdered by the big pharma guys. I’m not into conspiracy theories, but you gotta wonder.”

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Peter

Peter

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Another person I haven’t mentioned yet is my friend, teacher and mentor, Graydon Parrish, indisputably one of the best portrait painters on the planet right now.

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Graydon Detail of Head Study

Detail of Head Study by Graydon Parrish

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I had been thinking of temporarily moving to New York to work with him when I discovered he was here in Austin, and willing to take me on as a student. What incredible good luck! I’d had art school and years of off-and-on training, but I wanted this man’s expertise, the tricks and shortcuts he could teach me. I wasn’t disappointed. Over the four years I’ve known him, I’ve certainly grown as a painter, but that’s not what interests me so much as the fact, perhaps because of the nature of the work we both do, that when we’re in the studio we seem to share a brain. Being a painter means you’re up on top of the world one minute and ready to slit your wrists the next. The work is never quite good enough; you always see flaws, missed opportunities. Plus it’s lonely. When I’m with Graydon things fall into place and I calm down like one of those snow globes after it’s been shaken and all of the swirly bits settle so you can see what’s really there.

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Graydon

Graydon

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Of course I’m a little nervous because of his relationship with art dealer, Alicia Rossi, who’ll also be at the event. He’s told me confidentially that he has a few question marks about the work she represents.

“You mean you don’t like it, or she may be dealing in fakes?”

“A little bit of both.”

Alicia Rossi has the power to make you or break you as an artist – another reason for me to be sweating this event big time. She represents artists of all stripes – abstract, conceptual, figurative – but Graydon is convinced the painter she pushes the most, a guy named Wu Lu who does fussy ancestor portraits, is a big fraud who probably doesn’t even exist.

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Wu Lu Painting

Wu Lu Painting

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“I mean you never see the guy. Photos of him maybe. I think his work is totally manufactured.”

Manufactured or not, Alicia has made a fortune off Mr. Lu. She’d like to make a fortune off Graydon, too, but he eschews the gallery system, saying why would he give 50% to a dealer when he can promote himself? Good question, but I suspect there’s something else going on, something shady and slightly nefarious that I’m too – well, let’s just say naïve – to understand or consider.

The person I’m most interested in speaking with at the party is Alicia’s husband, Emil Shusterman, whose portrait I’ve just, thank god, completed (half of it looks better as raw white canvas, so I was able to get away with a lot).

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Emil Portrait

Dr. Emil Shusterman, Oil on Canvas, 2016

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This is supposed to be a secret, but Emil was Victor’s therapist and probably knows more about the good doctor than anyone else on earth.  I’m aware of client confidentiality, but figure with a little wining, dining and seduction, there’s always something to be gleaned.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-circus-people-169406/

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