The Florentines call it an “Insieme,” yuppies call it “Feng Shui,” the Japanese call it “Wabi-Sabi,” and the Long Islanders call it “Oh My Gawd, That’s Perfect.” Each one is, in their own way, referring to the manner in which a space, comprised of various items and forms, takes on a life of its own. And if each of these disparate peoples are all identifying the same phenomenon, then it is safe to say that this phenomenon is not isolated, but rather is an actual truth, the thread of which can be traced across the vast carpet of the ages.
It is foolish to tread casually upon this wisdom of the ages, this harmony of related things. And so, it was with no small amount of reserve that I entered my studio yesterday morning. Carrying the enormous package in my arms, I managed to get the door open. My violin saw me enter, and began to wag his bow with excitement. I addressed the room “Excuse me- paints, Super Palette, brushes, linen canvases, books… listen up. Can I have your attention?” They were immersed in their usual early morning chatter, though the sable brushes seemed a bit more loquacious than usual. “Ahem, I said, quiet please.” They looked up. “I have a package in my arms today.” “Whoa, thanks for the clarification” the turpentine bottles snickered. “Right. I have a package in my arms, and I am about to open it. I just wanted to prepare you guys.” The room was silent. Usually, I am very lighthearted and convivial, but an unusual dose of gravity in my tone was cause for concern. “I’ve been with all of you for years” I began, “and count many of you as my closest companions. Sable brushes, I picked you off of the shelf, when you were just hours old. Some old Italian craftsman made you by hand, somewhere in the hills of Fiesole, and I purchased you from that little art supply store in the center of Florence.” The brushes calmly replied “Actually, we were made in a factory in Indonesia, and they” -“ENOUGH” I cut the brushes off. “I don’t care where you were made, I bought you in Florence, and you are very dear to me. And my super palette, I made you in my garage, and I’ve been wheeling you all over New York for months now, in and out of the prison, off to portrait commissions. And my linen canvases, you were woven from the precious flax from the fields of Belgium, and I myself tacked your form to the wooden frame which holds you now. Beautiful easels, I built you with my own two hands. And my glorious windows, your light has” – and suddenly the room erupted “ENOUGH ALREADY, WHAT IS IN THE PACKAGE?” “Okay, okay. I just wanted to let everyone in my studio know how important they are to me. This newcomer is not going to displace any of you.”
I undid the bubble wrap, and not a sound could be heard. Not a snicker from the brushes, not a word from my easels. I walked over to an outlet. The silence was unbearable. I plugged it in. “This is my new forty two inch, LCD, flat screen. I picked her up, today, from the local Best Buy. LCD is going to help me paint portraits.” A horrific shriek sounded from my violin, “Best Buy? Best Buy? Those pernicious purveyors of plastic? What were you doing there? Those, those wood hating, chemical coated cretins!” “LCD screen? Come on, Kev, really? What does that stand for, Lousy Crappy Detritus?” shouted the windows. “Lay off, guys, that’s the same screen that Rembrandt used in his studio,” the books mockingly yelled out. I could hear a soft sobbing coming from the sables.
“Alright guys, alright, settle down. Here’s the thing. We’re in America, now, right?” I said. “And, as we all know, Americans commission portraits of loved ones who have passed, and little children. Everyone knows that I can certainly enjoy painting these works; I must admit, though, I do wish I could have more sitters come to my studio. As you all know, I’ve tried to paint my portrait commissions from life. But, for every one ‘live’ commission I have, I have ten from photographs. The people who have the time don’t have the money. And the people who have the money don’t have the time. I am still going to paint from life, in my own independent work, as often as ever. But when photographs are my last resort for commissions, LCD is my new companion. I would ask that you would be kind and hospitable to our newcomer. LCD has already conveyed her enthusiasm for children, and her eagerness to assist me in painting them. LCD actually has 1080 dots per inch, which means that she uhh, she…” I paused. “Listen, guys. I have to keep up with the times.” My violin softly answered, in a slow, sad vibrato in the lowest register, “But, shouldn’t you continue to fight, to get the times to slow down to you?”
I reached over to the tv, sullenly, and turned on the power button.
The day passed in polite conversation, though the tension never dissipated. I kept reassuring myself, remembering the time I introduced my new jet ski to my wooden canoe. Sure, I had to break up a few fights. But, after a couple months of hanging out behind my shed together, they seemed to get along well enough. I’m sure this tension in my studio will pass, and that things will be back to normal in a week or so. I’m sure. Really, I am. Really.