For his next exhibit, he told me, he’s going to need four gallery rooms to make it work. “Four galleries,” he repeated as if to convince me that he is focused and determined after such a long hiatus since his last showing.
“I’m going to call it The Works and the Work Behind it.” When he said it, I almost heard the italics in his tone. “It’s a pun. Because it’s the work of the works.
“Now follow me. In the first gallery there’s going to be the works. It’s going to be displays of hoses and spoons and hypodermics. But I’m going to do it all high craft style. This ain’t no former warehouse pretending to be a gallery show, this is class, man. The spoons will be cast in gold and silver and maybe lapis lazuli. The hypos will be beaded. The hoses should be macrame and paper mache. The floor has to be a faux Persian rug made up of old needles. People best be advised not to go barefooted or in any type of designer flip-flop.
“The next gallery will be collages made from thousands of sewed-together dime bags. Geometric shapes, portraits of old buddies, flags and curtains of dime bags. Don’t worry about supplies; I got a connection can help with that.
“The third gallery will be empty, white walls and it’s going to smell in there. We’re going to pipe in the scent of seaside harbor air. And I’m going to be sitting in the corner. Not as artist, but as installation. I’ll be begging change, picking pockets, squeaking by.
“Now the last gallery, the fourth one, you won’t be able to get into. It’s gonna be bricked up shut. Someone might be bricked in there, but I don’t know that for sure yet. That’s going to depend on how good the endowment I get is. No one can enter that gallery, but don’t you know everyone will want to. They’ll be banging at the walls, clawing at the corners, slipping the curator money so they can slide in and check it out. But that’s the show; it’s about the not getting in. But mostly, it’s about the wanting.
“It’s going to be big. We’ll have five print runs of the catalog. It will tour for years. Regional museums will clamor to get it on their schedule. It will force a retrospective of my old work. So you’ll be set for life, because you got a bunch of my old paintings. You got them for a song. After this show, you’ll be sitting on pure gold. We just have to get this new show up and running. It won’t take much. Just some start-up funds.”
He spoke more about what he needed to have us all rich and artistically justified. I bought two more coffees and a sandwich for his gaunt frame. I gave him everything I had in my wallet and left as fast as propriety allowed. That night, looking at his paintings in my garage, I said to myself, “I am an art lover. An angel.”
I slept in my downy bed dreaming of rooms without doors. Unsure if I was scratching to get in, or trying desperately to get out.
Dave Macpherson writes and does stuff in Worcester, MA.