Ghost Gallery

Here is the gallery. You've come at a perfect moment; there's an opening tonight. Several in fact -- painting and sculpture in the main rooms here, dance in the performance space next door. Wine and cheese and witty conversation wherever you go, my dear. Come along, I'll show you around.

Ah, I see you like these watercolors too! Exciting, aren't they? Such remarkable color saturation! Yes, a suggestion of Degas in the early works, there in the flow of the shoulder and arms. I see what you mean. And the later ones, this portrait of the two young boys, and the male torso ... can you see the influence of Joan Brown?

No, I'm sorry, we can't get any closer -- there was an incident last week. Even now there are haters. Even now. Let me adjust the light. Too much and the artworks disappear, I'm afraid. Too little and you can't see them either, you're quite right. A fine line, a fine line; we do the best we can.

The welded steel pieces in this room are by a Puerto Rican woman. Impressive, don't you think? Take this one -- all that mass, yet it soars. Improbable as an airplane or a battleship, I've always thought, but a lot more pleasing to the eye.

No, probably you wouldn't know her name. She was a junkie. A prostitute. Learned to weld in high school metal shop, so the story goes.

Now, take these bronzes... Look at the grace of this one, like a Brancusi. They were lovers, these two artists. Maybe she started using because of him, or maybe she was a junkie already when they met. Who knows? They were young. You won't have heard of him either, I'm afraid. Nobody ever heard of either of them. They had a studio, kind of a garage really, on MacArthur near the freeway overpass. Nights, he dealt drugs and she picked up johns on the corner. Days ... well, look around you and see the beauty they were capable of.

Take the patina on this little mare and colt of his. I work in metal myself, and I can't replicate it. He studied chemistry in school. I've heard he got into drugs the way he got into working with alloys. Oh yes, of course, he had it too. Maybe needles, maybe unprotected sex, what does it matter? Think blood transfusion if you want.

These collages on the back wall are something special, don't you think? This one is called "Quilt," for obvious reasons. Four hundred twenty-seven faces. Oh yes, I know all of their names. Oh yes, I certainly do. I knew most of them personally. Some of them intimately. Writers, actors, musicians... That's my life. That's why I'm here.

Okay, my dear. Look around at your leisure, have something to eat and drink. Curtain in an hour. Tonight we have modern dance -- a premier, naturally, that's what we do, you know. This one's a collaboration: composer, choreographer, set and costume designers, and of course the solo dancer. Him, you might have heard of, actually; he was beginning to make a name for himself in Chicago when he got sick. That was back in the 80's. His work has matured since then. True of everyone here, you could say. Their work has certainly matured.

Oh, my dear, it's just splendid you found us, that you're here tonight to see all this. I only wish you'd brought some friends! Tomorrow? Not these works, they'll be gone. But come anyway; there'll be others. Every night for however long it takes, there'll always be others. A new show every night. No, no archive. How can you archive what never was? Once through these rooms, that's all you get. And then on to the performance space, on with the show! So fabulous, I guarantee it. You'll call for encores. Throw flowers. Clap till your hands are numb, bring the soloist back again and again. Call for the composer, the dance-maker, the designers and give them standing O's, as their waists thicken, their shoulders stoop and their hair grows streaked with grey. Bravo and brava and bravo again until the curtain finally falls and the lights dim at last on all the dances that might have been danced, the paintings that should have hung on the walls of the world.

Please sign our guestbook on your way out.

--Sara McAulay (2001)