How I avoid celebrity

What is your favourite painting, she asked
My nephew’s potato stencils, I said. I was, at the time,
staring at the multi-coloured [but especially red]
vegetable stamps on newsprint scotch-taped to the fridge,
which may, perhaps, have affected my choice
or I might have answered van gogh’s Potato Eaters
as I am rather fond of painting with redeeming social value…
beyond the lift to the neighbourhood
afforded by some professional house painting.

I waited for the inevitable next question
thinking to myself that beauty is a horse of another colour
[chartreuse perhaps] and on the brink of lamenting
[I confess] a very reactionary aesthetic bent –
i.e., les pas de quatres in pristine tutu
in lac des cygnes or the corps de ballet in general
but especially Nutcracker Suite. Rothko in painting
on a good day, but my ears run to lotsa Chopin and Scriabin…
and then it came, that invariable next question:
Don’t you think a work of art has to be beautiful, she asked
I mean isn’t that part of the definition?
Usta be, I answered, all kinda cryptic just for fun.
Not anymore? She parried, just to make sure.
Nope. Art, you might say, has become life…
which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if life
hadn’t already become so degenerate.

I thought she’d throw in the towel – give up, for sure – but she just rewound
back to art, leaving beauty to shiver with the dirty dishes in the sink.

What’s your favourite work of art then?
Christianity, I proffered, as it is truly one of the finest operas ever created:
terrific premise, decent storyline, not to mention all the great music
and of course there’s the painting – real genius went into that creation, for sure…
although, on close inspection, it tends to be a little short
on redeeming social value. The Inquisition. The Crusades. Billy Graham.

I made a gesture offering to refil her mug at this point …
but she sealed it off with her palm and said she had to be going…
and that she’d get back to me about the photo shoot.

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