Sunday, December 06, 2015

Picasso In The Sky With Diamonds

His name was Luis Montoya Escobar. But to history, he has no name. He lived in a nameless village in the Spanish countryside after the turn of the 20th century. Luis labored as a miserable blacksmith convinced both the world and universe were out to get him. Not to mention his wife.

A man living on the edge of violence instead channeled his passions to canvass. Luis harbored no dreams of being a painter. His blacksmith father would highly disapprove of such a silly pursuit and Luis intended to honor his father's wishes. He was only driven to paint as a last resort, to pick up a brush instead of a knife.

But to the heavens he could not deny he was a fractured soul no matter how he repressed his dreams. Every compliment was two-edged. If his blacksmithing were praised he'd dismiss it as a soulless pursuit. If his art were praised he'd dismiss it as a pointless pursuit. No matter which one he chose at any given time, it would be the other he longed for in his servitude of two masters.

As his despair weighed heavier on his shoulders, the more extreme his painting. By 1908, more than a few of the villagers considered his work deranged. Luis' wife had no sympathy for his creations either, especially since she was often their subject. From where the heartbreak of his life came from Luis could not pinpoint. True, he felt alive when painting but that provided no answer for the dilemma of feeding both his body and his soul.

One day, a traveler passed through in a steamy summer rain. Luis hated these humid days mired in the heat of his already suffocating shop. Thus, his temper was short when the traveler stopped to ask directions. Plus, he instinctively hated the man, recognizing something of himself. Luis was very tired of Luis and any reminder of himself was not welcome in the least.

The traveler was hungry - not for his stomach but for his soul. His constantly searching eyes took in everything down to the smallest detail. This man was on a quest for the Next Step, halted and hounded in his promising journey in life; directionless and floundering in festering fear. One thing he did know: it was out there somewhere. Both internally and externally the stranger combed the universe. Like a gun in his back, the aching emptiness drove him forward as a blinded man in a blizzard. Both heaven and hell nipped his heels: to live on the edge of unfound life-changing excitement was a storm he must endure or die.

Then suddenly the traveler broke through to Luis in their bickering conversation when he said, "You know, no matter what a man chooses to do in life, there is nothing harder than keeping a marriage alive. It's easier to spin a mountain on a needle than to do that!"

Luis needed no encouragement on that topic. They departed the shop for some afternoon wine and even though Luis had begun to hide his paintings he was eager to show this kindred alien traveler of the world his creations.

The traveler was in awe. "These are fantastic! You could shake up the world with these!"

"Oh, they are nothing. Just my feelings in haste."

"Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen. Tell me, when did you paint this one here?"

"That's the last one I did. The villagers have started to whisper about me, the work is that disturbing to them. I painted as a child but my father beat me out of it. I guess I still paint like a broken child."

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

"But I wasn't even trying to do anything. Can't you see it barely looks like a woman? It just came out that way how I felt."

"Art is a lie that tells the truth. Let me take this last one at least and show it to the world. It will change your life!"

"Senor, I'm afraid you do not understand. This last one I did, I did like all the others. I got mad and drunk at my wife. I thought my head was going to split in two. That's the only time I paint. I don't really like going through that wretched, wretched pain. It tears my soul in two. I'm only telling you this because I think you're someone who can understand. My soul is fragmented like that painting. Mother Maria, help me!"

Luis, at odds with himself, could not be convinced to allow even one painting to be taken. He clung to them for dear life. Take them away and his life would slip through the cracks never to return - or so he convinced himself. The truth, however, was just the opposite. His name slipped through the cracks of history never to return even though having broached the next great direction of art in the modern world. But the traveler knew genius when he saw it.

Back in Madrid, his simmering brush - for he too was a painter - exploded with his own expression of "fragmented" painting, which he renamed "cubism". These expressions did indeed rock the art world, making him a superstar overnight. When asked if he was worried other artists would soon start copying this new style and perhaps steal his thunder, he replied: "Good artists copy. Great artists steal."

Luis never painted again. Instead, he divorced and spent the rest of his days in a bottle. The daily drunkenness was all the proof he needed of his cursed life. He had painted as well as he could but never was it enough to make him famous. Oh sure, that guy walking through the village liked them that one time but he must have been delusional thinking Luis out of everyone in the world had discovered some groundbreaking art technique. No, he'd done the sensible thing and not let himself be made a fool of. His father would be proud.

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