It’s too intense she whispered to her new husband. The chalk pastel was a wedding gift from you, his best man. The artist.
I imagine your hands seeking shelter in pockets or each other. Your mouth remains closed, smile tight, as the couple unwraps The Tempest, mounted professionally in a frame you could not afford. A personal gift.
The canvas screams a message that only receptive ears can hear.
The name isn’t original. For some artists, the tempest was a violent storm. For Shakespeare, it was love and betrayal. Freedom and repression.
Art historians have tried to unlock the meaning of Giorgione’s La Tempesta. A breastfeeding mother, her pubic area exposed. A soldier smiles at someone outside the frame. Neither woman nor soldier seems to be aware of the gathering storm. His work remains a mystery but I see the unsettled clouds, feel the temperature drop. Wind licks the seaweed air. My memories permeate the scene like tea-stained paper. Repressed pangs of decisions I cannot take back.
When I look into your Tempest, I see conflicted emotions. A cauldron of troubled brew. “This thing of darkness I Acknowledge mine.” You blend layer upon layer of meaning like the contours of a topographic map. Trails to follow through depressions, valleys and slopes. What do you see? Forests of despair. Mountains of hope. An ocean hiding unexplored depths. Everyone’s story is there somewhere beneath the surface. Yours, mine, others.
The Tempest now hangs on my wall, purchased after the wedded couple returned it. Each stroke infused with your perceptions and biases. Intentional and unconscious lines and color, your narrative laid bare. Original.
A female dancer poses for you draped in a sheet. You sketch from above, a bird’s eye view. Hours of observation and anatomical study honed to capture her fast-twitch muscles and explosive power. A body trained to express emotions with ease and grace.
Your fingers slice through the current of doubt. Shall the feet be this large, this masculine? Shall the nose be longer, stronger? How many drafts end as crumpled papers shot into the wastebasket? How many sketches start on a fresh page? You stand back to view from different angles. Female. Male. Both. Neither. Questions ripple from the center.
You like your modifications, a new story. Saltwater stings the eyes and floods the mouth. You light a cigarette. Inhale and exhale curls of turbulent truths. Keep your rudder in the water and face the bombardment of crushing waves. You come out.
I see your fingers smudged with black, blue, and yellow chalk-pastel. A bruise at various stages of healing.
Stephanie Reddoch is a retired educator and sommelier. She lives in rural Eastern Ontario with her husband and menagerie of rescued animals. She’s published in Sweet Lit and White Wall Review. When not reading or writing, she jogs, cooks, and hacks up golf courses. You can find Stephanie on Twitter at @brut11.
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