TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT February 1987

A CANVAS OF EPISODES

the wings of love, Rex finds out what give-and-take is all about.

THE SUN SHONE BRILLIANTLY through the windows of Rex’s newly sublet Manhattan loft, just as it would had he owned it.

The bright openness of this new space gave Rex the cocky sense that he was someone who had arrived, so much a figure that he could make a phone call—the phone call, the one he had been dreaming of making ever since he had inveigled her number from his dealer, Mario Marcus, the day she had extended an invitation to them to visit her studio. In his nervousness, he first dialed 475-40001. Then he dialed her seven magic numbers; and without a thought of Mario Marcus joining him, Rex arrived toward teatime at the palace surveyed by she of the Etruscan eyes and remained a partial resident for three weeks.

It was, in brief, and at first, a whirl. They drank, smoked the same cigarette, watched TV, painted, SX-70ed, drew, and traced each other’s outline on the bed. She posed like a Boucher, he like a Schiele. He loved her art; she was mad for his. They traded works by bidding for them with kisses. They dropped by his loft and she glued her Etruscan eyes to his new paintings, finding them even more unique than those she had fallen in love with at the Marcus gallery. With the sensation of their indomitability that comes when love umbrellas lovers, they schemed together in restaurants he had read about, fantasizing modestly that painting in the late ’80s would one day be looked upon as the Alma–Rex era. The new couple was feted at various dinner tables in the homes of collectors, Alma’s artist colleagues, and even some of her old college friends. Rex was famously unknown, and Alma was so famous that the world’s expectations, she confessed while priming a huge canvas, constantly threatened her with extinction. He had his future entirely ahead of him and could not yet fall far, as he was just on the ground floor, while she, high in the stratosphere, suffered the fate of having to ensure that each of her shows maintained and even advanced her position, lest she tumble down to earth. Meanwhile, they both lounged on cloud nine.

By the end of three weeks the whirl had spun down to a mere domesticated breeze. Rex returned to his loft and painted while allowing a respectable amount of time to elapse between phone calls to Alma, who was working furiously now to make up for the weeks given to love. She was to have an exhibition in the spring. Aware of the delicate ecology of lovers and artists, they pledged not to comment on each other’s paintings until the works were finished. But on seeing the early stages of Alma’s work for her forthcoming show, something in him ached below the surface of his understanding. Still, love gave Rex’s brush its own voice. It sang cantatas and arias and country-and-western songs, lieder and hymns, sinking into blues only at times when work kept him apart from Alma. Rex saw Alma with less frequency as the time for her show drew near. She could bear no interruption. They sometimes met for dinner late at night but went home separately, taking different cabs.

Rex sent Alma three white rabbits for her show. When he arrived at the jammed gallery, fifteen decent minutes after the opening commenced—she preferring for good luck’s sake to be there first and alone—he was electric as if seeing her afresh. But by the time he half reached her through the crush, his eyes had already taken in the paintings on the walls and he halted like a calf stunned at the braining gate. The paintings were larger-scale, charming, but fervorless versions of all the work she had seen him create that winter in his oblivious joy.

Frederic Tuten is a writer of fiction. He is a professor and the director of the graduate program in English and creative writing at the City College of New York. This serial appears regularly in Artforum.

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