Art; By Any Other Name: Chapter 2
“Good Morning everyone.” Arthur calls out, stepping into the classroom, allowing the voices die out. “For those of you who haven’t had me before, I am Mr. Brown…” He explains, starting to scribble his name onto the whiteboard with a washed-out marker. Distracted, he is still beaming from the successful opening the evening prior. “Although, many of you are just going to call me Arthur anyways, so I don’t know why I bother with ever announcing my last name.” He jokes.
A selection of the class starts to chuckle lightly. “Don’t forget Art… Teacher.” Another voice chimes in, and more laughs join the chorus.
“Yes, that nickname has seemed to stick through the years.” Arthur rolls his eyes, picking up several stacks of papers in various colors. “I’ll start passing out the syllabus… and with it, a flyer in goldenrod telling you about my Art Gallery.”
“You have a gallery now Arthur?” Comes the call from several students.
“I have… control of a gallery. I’m running it for the remainder of the fall season, until the pieces get to go elsewhere.” He explains.
“Where did they come from then?” Comes a question. “Why do you have to give them up?”
“Do I look like I can afford priceless pieces of art?” Arthur teases. “I teach high school punks like you five days a week, and not even all year round. I could barely afford the art that kids scribble on placemats at the buffet.”
Arthur waves his hands downwards, waiting for the playful snickering to die out. “That’s why I’m introducing this now… because it won’t be around for the whole semester. I want to organize a field trip for everyone to head out there for our Renaissance unit, but as you know, the district doesn’t like to shell out money for stuff like that. I wanted to have some of your parents to come by so that they can possibly put in a good word.”
“There’s no way my dad will want to see any art.”
“That’s right Mr. Brown, when we were kids, his dad kicked us out of the yard for drawing with chalk on the concrete.”
“We were in his parking spot, to be fair.”
“Okay, I get it.” Arthur stops the boys. “The flyer has everything you parents should want to know about the gallery if they so choose to stop by this Friday night. After all, I don’t really get any parent-teacher conferences like the other teachers. And if they decide not to come… be sure to let them know they’re classes plebeians.”
Bow tie nearly stifling his breathing, Arthur watches shifty-eyed as the trays full of plastic stem ware are filled sloppily, alternating cheap champagne and sparkling cider.
“Don’t tell me you’re nervous about this now, Arthur.” Tara pokes him in the back.
“Talking up in front of art fans—that’s one thing. They already into the art for crying out loud! Their focus is on me… silently criticizing and confirming my ability to show these interesting pieces as much fanfare as they deserve. Who knows with these… parents?”
“I… I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Arthur… Are you saying people didn’t think you were the right choice to host the exhibit?”
“No, Tara, try to keep up.” He gives a quick shake of his head.
“I have to… convince these parents that… art has its merits and that… that I’m not wasting their time here… or that their kids aren’t wasting their time in my class.”
“I think you’re way overthinking this. That parents who do come are going to be just as enthusiastic about art as the kids who enrolled in your class.” Tara reassures him, hand slowly moving towards one of the full glasses.
“No!” Arthur shouts, hand swatting hers away in an exceedingly gentle motion. “Sorry… we need to have as much alcohol about so the parents can… relax, if just a bit.”
“Have it your way.” Tara rolls her eyes before turning on her tall heels and trotting off.
Looking down at his watch, Arthur watches as the hands moves closer to the opening time. Shoving the collection of empty glass bottles to the back of the building, he quickly returns to the front of the house and unlocks the doors, swinging them open towards the path up from the street. The cool fall breeze rolls in, exhausting some of the heat from under his collar.
As the clock hits its mark, Arthur undoes the velvet rope barrier to the empty entranceway. A few minutes pass, and a sole couple turns into the path, making their way up towards the door. The woman, draped in a lazy looking sun dress, waves at him.
“Mr. Brown, right?”
“Nancy! Thank you for coming tonight.” Arthur gives a quick nod of his head to the two.
“Sorry we’re a bit late. Finding a parking spot here was tough at this time of day.”
“Oh! No problem.” Arthur relaxes upon hearing the words. “Please head on inside for now. My assistant here will be able to show you around while we wait for other parents to show up…”
As the two walk in through the doors, another few start to move towards the entrance, looking up at the tall David statue. Giving them another nod as they pass, Arthur follows them in. Passing the doors, he gives a brief look back at the statue, starting to glow under the orange accent lights dancing up at the statue’s legs.
As Parents start to mix with the regular visitors, Arthur passes by the various groups, talking with parents he recognizes, and following up on those who happened to bring the flyer he had given out.
“Hey, you in the suit!” Someone calls out. A tall man in Khaki shorts and a rough looking t-shirt walks up to him, sandals flapping under his feet. “Mr… Brown, am I right?”
“You’ve found me.” Arthur responds timidly, looking upwards at the tall man as he initiates a borderline violent handshake.
“I’m Charlie’s dad. Eric. Nice ta’ meet ch’a.”
“Charmed.” Arthur responds, cradling his crushed phalanges. “I’m glad you were able to make it.”
“Well… you know. Not too much into art myself. The wife wanted me to come though, check things out.”
“I’m glad you could make it at least. Are there any pieces you would like to know more about?” Arthur offers.
“There was one thing I suppose… I was worried about allowing my kid here because… well, you know.” The man clears his throat. “There are a lot of nudies in these paintings. Boys these days… you know… horn dogs.”
“Nudies? Horn dogs?” Arthur gives him a sideways glance. “Oh, you mean work with nudity. Well, Romance artists did have a sort of fascination with the human figure. You must have seen our David out front, no? One of Michelangelo’s most famous works.”
“Hey.” The man nods, looking up at a print of The Birth of Venus. “Do you think these old guys… ever spanked their meat to one of these paintings?”
“Spanked their meat?” Arthur squints at him sideways.
“You know.” The man offers, shaking his hand back and forth near his groin suggestively.
“Oh! Well… The ancient Roman people were very open sexually. It’s very much reflected in the paintings too. You know, prostitution is actually one of the oldest professions, and in those days, it was just a part of society for someone… you know… to want… certain things.”
“Ha ha ha!” The man laughs. “Could it be… Arthur, that you’re a prude?”
Feeling his face start to become warm, he stumbles. “Well… I’m just another one of the guys… I guess…”
“You’re a riot man.” The man chuckles. “I can see why my kid likes you. I’m gonna’ check around for a bit and head back. Might catch you later, then?”
“Yes… yeah… catch you later.” Arthur stutters as the dad walks off.
“Hehe.” A small feminine chuckle from behind catches him off guard. “Don’t pay him any attention. I swear, that man has no tact whatsoever.”
“Excuse me?” Arthur ponders aloud, turning his head to face the voice. His head tilts down to face the woman, deep brown hair and tanned skin looking past him at the dad strutting through the exhibit.
“I once chaperoned with him on a field trip back when our kids were in middle school together.” She explains, eyes rolling. “I mentioned how I had a tri-tip sandwich packed for lunch, and he ended up talking my ear off about the positives and negatives of each type of fuel you could use on a barbecue. No matter how disinterested I could make myself sound, he wouldn’t take the hint.”
“I… see.” Arthur replies, eyes blinking rapidly back at her.
“I’m so sorry, I’m doing the same thing.” She giggles, shaking her head.
“No, no. Not at all.”
“I’m Lisa- Caroline’s mom.”
“Oh, yes. One of my freshmen students.” Arthur perks up. “They all seem so excited about this year. Her… enthusiasm about art must come from somewhere, I suppose?”
“Oh, well.” Lisa flaunts. “I took a few art classes in college. Not even enough for a minor in it. I just happen to take the bus by this place on my way to work, actually. I had seen it, never assuming it would belong to one of her students.”
“I don’t own this, no no.”
“I did… I did organize most of the pieces making their way here.” Arthur adds assuredly. “I know all about these pieces. Would you like me to show you around?”
“Oh!” Lisa claps her hands together enthusiastically. “Well, don’t mind if I do.”
Pacing the gallery, Arthur stops by each of the paintings, enthusiastically talking about the styles and artists. After picking up a couple glasses of the champagne, they two head outside to the garden, already mostly empty.
“…I can’t say that’s exactly how they did it, but the painting was obviously an extremely involved project.”
“I… see.” Lisa responds, eyes drifting off towards the replica statue, empty glass dangling in her hand.
“I uh… I’m sorry if none of that made sense.” Arthur apologizes, downing the rest of the bubbly liquid, stifling the cough it causes. “Forgive me, too, if I didn’t leave any spaces to get a word in…”
“Oh, no. I’m sorry if it seems like that.” Lisa replies honestly. “I did agree to have you show me around, after all. This statue just caught my eye.”
“Ah, it’s another replica, just like our David out front. The local university’s art class made it. I should mention the work it’s based on is another Michelangelo; this one is called ‘Night.’” Arthur explains, gesturing at the figure of the woman lying on her side.
“It’s quite nice.”
“Mhm, I’d say they did a good job.”
“Although there’s one thing about it that is distracting.” Lisa adds.
“Oh?” Arthur replies hesitantly.
“Forgive me if this sounds crude but… the chest seems a bit off. You think the students were bashful when they worked on this part.”
“Ah, well, interesting you say that.” Arthur points at the statues breasts. “It’s actually quite true to the style. You see, Michelangelo himself wasn’t very great at reproducing the feminine form in marble like this.”
“I can see that.” Lisa nods her head quizzically.
“During his lifetime, it was never clear his sexual orientation. However, when historians went through his writing, it became obvious that the man was clearly, very, flamingly, homosexual.” Arthur explains, wavering back and forth with a grin on his face.
“Ha!” Lisa snorts, holding her mouth. Slipping from her hand, the plastic champagne glass falls to the ground.
“It’s most likely he never properly saw a naked woman in his life.”
“I hope this isn’t what my daughter and the rest of your students are learning in your class.” Lisa giggles, wiping the corners of her eyes.
“Some people…” Arthur continues, ignoring the previous comment. “…have compared the breasts he made to ‘crushed oranges,’ simply stuck on the chest of a man.” He goes on, wagging his finger at the statue.
Lisa releases another snort, covering her mouth, buckling over to stifle her laughter. Moving to pick her discarded glass on the ground, the door opening behind them make the two jump.
“Arthur… uh, Mr. Brown, you need to come and see this.” The dad from before bursts out from the exit. “Hi, Lisa. Long time no see.”
“What’s going on? Is there something going on inside?” Arthur asks, worried.
“Not inside… but we’ve had maybe some vandalism with the big guy out front.” The dad waves at them to push through the bushes by the side of the building.
“David?” Arthur mumbles, jumping over the short row of hedges to the front walkway. Stumbling after him, Lisa follows.
“It seems…” Eric explains, pointing up at the statue. “Someone stole his junk.”
“His junk?” Arthur makes his way up, looking up at the front of the statue where a significant chunk of plaster has been ripped off between the statues legs. “My god, they’ve castrated him.”
“Oh god, Arthur.” Lisa attempts to stay straight-faced. “To be honest, though, it wasn’t the most detailed package I’ve seen.”
“I… I don’t know what I’m going to do about this…” Arthur slumps down, defeated.