Short Story Series 1 – Part 4 (SSS1-4)

[…continued from Part 3]

Lydia continued, “So, you mentioned the word magical and, frankly, I did start each work with a little sympathetic magic. And I played on my own symbolic and emotional attachment to the constellation as well as my own personal traits and incorporated that into the process. It’s all perhaps a bit complicated and boring…”

“No,” I interrupted, “please go on.”

“Well, I began with the obvious position of the stars and the familiar constellation shape as we in the west now see Pisces. I took, as seeds, not the symbol of two fish entangled, but the pattern of the major stars as seen from earth. Considering their mass and relative sizes, I began sculpting clay spheres to represent the stars, concentrating in my mind on each one as they were made. I attached them to a wire frame. In my mind, my intentions were to represent Pisces and at that time it was indeed Pisces to me. I began this at a time when the sun was in Pisces, in the middle of the stretch at the beginning of March. I also worked on it only at night when the constellation was visible. From this point on, the sculpture would be transformed and likely no longer resembled anything like a constellation.

“The next phase involved an enormous amount of intuition and papier-mâché. I took my time familiarizing my hands with the clay stars, their size and positions and I did this for about an hour with my eyes closed, meditating on Pisces and the space that was created by the constituent elements. Then I applied the paste-laden paper to the balls in a very organic way and let the overall bridging shapes between them take form on their own. When I liked what I felt and finally saw, I moved on and continued this way until I had a solid abstract form with a single contiguous surface. When the paper was dry and firm, I covered the entire sculpture with a one-sixteenth inch thick layer of clay. Surfacing the clay with textures, patterns and symbols was a very important and personal process.

“From that point, I made a mould and I used the lost-wax process to create bronze sculptures which would finally be mounted. That is the abstract sculpture the viewers at the gallery surveyed.”

“Lydia, that is so brilliant – what a loving way to create a piece of art.”

“The only way,” she added. “This process imbued them with something quite magical, I think”

“And you did all of the other zodiac signs that way?”

“Absolutely. Each one took about a full week to model and cast. Three months of work stretched over an entire year, of course, to take advantage astrologically. You know, Adrian, loved the idea so much that he bought them and has commissioned a chess set. Normally, I would have rejected such an assignment, but I adore chess. Do you play?”

“At an expert level,” I replied.

“Can we play,” she asked?

“Maybe later. I need you to tell me why you called me a skilled alchemist, why you showed me the gorgeous sky tonight, and told me of your sculpture series which I can only imagine is breathtaking. I’m holding you to your promise to send pictures!”

“It makes me feel so good that you like my technique and want to see them.”

“To be honest, Lydia, I have to share something with you. I’m a little overwhelmed – in a wonderful way, mind you.”

“By what?”

“By you! I said, as she smiled. “You know when you opened the door to Kathleen’s house this evening, I – I had such an unbelievable sense of – I can’t explain it – everything about you is so magnetic that I am drawn to you.”

Smiling, visibly delighted, she put on her index finger on my lips to shush me for a few seconds. When she withdrew it, in a movement quicker than the eye, she  kissed me, but ever so gently with her eyes closed, as if trying to intuit something with only her heart and her lips. Then she pulled back a little, saying, “Was that OK?”

Instead of an answer, I put both of my hands firmly on her cheeks, pulled her face back toward mine, and kissed her for about a minute, though my recollection of the experience seems like it was an eternity.

“It’s cold. Let’s go inside and have a tea while you tell me about alchemy,” I suggested.

Lydia looked me dead in the eye and smiled. She stood on the tips of her toes, said, “OK,” and collapsed back on her heels before leading the way with my left hand in hers.

“Please have a seat on the sectional,” she said as she walked me right near it, “and I’ll put water on for tea.”

Kathleen’s living room was very large as was her fireplace. The sofa and chair where we were sitting before is closer to the fire; and the sectional couch is closer to the middle of the room with a more direct view outside as well as Kathleen’s entertainment console. An array of independently dimmable pendant lights hung from the apex of the ceiling, each at different lengths casting shadows which could be interesting or distracting, depending on how the area was lit.

Lydia put on water and immediately came back to sit next to me at one corner of the sectional.

“Tell me, Patrick, why I felt dazzled by the wood inside Adrian’s lodge, particularly the exposed beams and rafters so exquisitely finished.”

“OK, I have to admit I am proud of that. I didn’t merely design the space and specify the layout of the wood, but I actually insisted that I, myself, select the pieces of wood to be used for each building member from the mill . It was the only way I could be sure of the patterns in the wood – the flow and size of the grain, if and where knots could be located, and so on.”

“And those patterns were part of the design, essential to the layout of everything else, as in synergy,” she presumed.

“Absolutely,” I stated.

“So, you were blending elements together to make something, more than just the sum of the parts, in order to leave an impression – visible and/or emotional – on the people who would be exposed to this construction.”

“Yes, isn’t that what architects do,” I asked?

“Not all. But, great artists, yes.”

“You think I am a great artist,” I asked?

“Yes!”

“But, you called me an alchemist?”

“Patrick, it takes a skilled alchemist to be a great artist. Think of the origin of the word alchemy or in Arabic, alkīmiyā, which means “the chemistry.” A lot of our science has its origins in early Arab world and alchemy was indeed the beginning of chemistry. Certainly the aim in the middle ages may have been the prospect of turning lead to gold, but in essence, alchemy is about transformation whether you look at it materially or spiritually.

“Such as the transformation of water to steam, which is what your kettle is doing over at the bar?”

We both burst out in laughter.

As she got up to get the tea, she continued, “The Vail Lodge is a spectacular work of art, Patrick. You should be proud.”

“Well, truly, it is the only design I’ve ever done in which I not only enjoyed every aspect of it, but I also had such a cathartic release that was elevating.”

“An ascension of your spirit,” she added.

“YES!”

“That’s my motivation, Patrick. If there is no ascension, no expansion, then there is contraction or stagnancy. And still waters breed mosquitos.”

I chuckled.

“When the process itself is transformative, you will have that feeling.”

“I’ve never had it in any other design,” I admitted.

“You can find it in any activity, Patrick. But, each of us has the propensity to serve better in some arenas than others. Forgive me for saying this, but…I think you would make a fantastic artist, and by that, I do not mean a mere artisan, someone who works for money. You have the heart of a pure artist, someone who needs to satisfy the soul. The spirit moves you to produce and you follow it: your productivity is birthed from inward reflection. It’s hard for an architect to do that, but of course it is done – Frank Lloyd Wright, Van der Mies, Corbusier. Their clients didn’t hire them to design buildings; their clients said, ‘Please give me a Corbusier and I will pay you’ or ‘I want a Frank Lloiyd Wright, please and thank you!’ You will do well as an artist, producing…no…transforming the world around you inside your cauldron; and you will be much happier. …Earl Grey alright?”

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia

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