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Something that the world seems to have lost in its surge towards industrial techno-modernity is its appreciation of art. Oh, some men in galleries and petty intellectuals may claim to understand, but the essence of it is lost to them just as it is to the masses. They ask us to look at brushwork, to examine the curves of stone, to analyse the symbolism in every frame. They talk of art as having a life of its own, get so close to the greatest element of art, yet fall so short.
A great work of art, as all living things, must one day die.
In the past, this was understood and embraced. Works would be experienced, they would pass on their message, and over time they would be allowed to grow old and die, crumbling out of existence, mirroring the nature of the artists who created them. Copies might be made, yes, but each was its own work, a child of the art it emulated, identical but in its own way unique. Now our so called ‘lovers’ of art will do all they can to drag life out of every poor work, sticking it in a cage of glass and covering it with chemical life support, doing all they can to stop it from being experienced as it should be, stopping it from dying by denying it life.
I, in my own small way, have resolved to change this. Liberating a work from its prison is less difficult than one would expect, often a simple case of carefully removing the glass cell door and smuggling the captive to freedom. The real challenge lies in finding a new home for the poor thing, one where it will be allowed to live without being dragged back to the torture chamber. A small pub for a painting, given under the pretence of being a clever fake; a back-alley cinema for film, a gracious donation of a classic to a struggling establishment.
I admit that it seems an odd preoccupation, the love of art. By the words I have penned, you must assume that I care for nothing in life except the stroke of the brush, but that could not be further from the truth. To live life is to create your own personal work, and I most definitely consider myself an artist.
It is regretful that the modern lifestyle has left many unable to appreciate art, but its oblivious approach to mortality and love of instant gratification gifts great favour to those who wish to appreciate the art of the human body. Many dismiss it as mundane, but can anything be of greater wonder than the art of the Almighty? Humanity itself tacitly admits this fact. Other works are forced to live, kept in a torturous state of limbo as they are preserved and corrected, but the human body is allowed to grow old and die, celebrated as it passes from this world.
Just last night I wandered through a club, the aroma of sweat and alcohol filling my nostrils, the pounding heartbeat of some dance track assaulting my ears, my eyes searching for a work to experience. As I passed through the arena of conquest, many interesting specimens caught my eye, but at last I found one that sent any thoughts of the others fleeing. Her body was flawless, the sight of it stealing the breath from my lungs. The handiwork of the Lord was evident in everything from legs to bosom to behind. The face, however, bore none of His marks. The flesh was stretched thin, frozen as it was sent reeling in terror by the knife of some monster, its lips artificially swollen, set by a cold, cynical mind to appeal to the baser instincts of man. The cuts that had desecrated that face had faded, yet still they screamed to me in agony, telling me the story of a marvel futily tearing itself apart as it attempted to resist the work of time.
It was not difficult to gain her attention. A subtle gesture here, a whispered promise there, and we left together, the artist and the abomination. Returning to my abode, I experienced the work of the Lord, allowing the beauty of his creation to wash over me as I tried to ignore the sacrilege sitting upon it. The experience was soon over and I fell into a troubled sleep, torn between the beauty and the beast that tarnished it.
It is here that I find myself now. Early morning, sleep still addling my mind, the travesty lying still upon my bed. As I sit and watch, I am filled almost with a sense of melancholy. This one had such potential; under the scars, through the stretched and poisoned flesh, that much is still obvious. The more gracious works leave me wondering why they chose to be defiled, and this one is no exception. An accident perhaps, though if that is the case no scars beyond those of surgery remain. Vanity then, the fight to keep time from taking its natural course. The reason many hold, yet so few dare confess. A tragic, small-minded reason, but one that has become all too common as humanity sacrifices the ability to understand its own beauty.
This is not the first time I’ve found myself in this situation, indeed it is becoming so common that I sometimes wonder if the mistakes are throwing themselves upon me, begging me to release them. The actions are almost routine now: the slow, steady move from the bed, quiet enough to leave the travesty fast asleep; footsteps lighter than air as I leave the room and enter the kitchen; the small ‘crash’ of the damaged rail as the drawer is opened; the whisper of metal upon metal as I take a knife from the drawer. The damage is too extensive for a simple repair; to remove the offending features would destroy the whole. The work must be destroyed, its tattered remains put towards the birth of something greater.
Yet, as I stand over her sleeping form, my resolve breaks. The quiet sound of her breathing, her hand curling the duvet towards her face, as a frightened child would their blanket. She is more than just a monster, she is alive. A living, breathing person filled with hopes and dreams, dozens of artworks waiting to spring forth from her every action. I cannot kill her any more than I could paint over the Mona Lisa. The knife drops from my hands, hitting the carpet with a muffled thump as a warm tear, weighed down by the sins I was to commit, makes its way down my cheek.
Yet the tear remains alone, and soon all that remains of the doubt is the tear’s drying footprint. It wouldn’t be fair to have freed all the others, but to let this one suffer so much indignity. If the Mona Lisa were carved up, like so much Christmas ham, I would be there in a second to save it from its tormentors.
Again, I hesitate, if only for a moment. In my quest to help a single work, am I truly willing to destroy the countless others she would create, untouched by the ruinous hands of human hubris?
Yes. Yes, I tell myself, this is larger than a single life. The works it would produce are nothing; they were forfeit the moment the first cut was made. Others will take their place, and the world will be a more beautiful place for them. This is more than simple punishment for the vandalism of His handiwork.
“The world must remember how to appreciate art.” I whisper, reaching for the knife.
“It must remember how to let art be made, how to let it live and grow old.” I say, my voice rising as I lift the knife. The work’s eyes begin to open, far too late for any difference to be made.
“The world needs to be reminded that a work of art must be allowed to die.”
Written by Engrave