The Negative Girl

Most mornings about ten o’clock she’d leave her apartment and head for the art museum.  The path was indirect since she wanted to avoid the addicts and drunks, the panhandlers, who’d yell at her. Bad teeth and globs of spit and when they got too close, she’d dodge into an alley. Unhappy people of the urban breakdown. All of them agents of the dark lord. Her journey went in a Z shape and bordered the highway, then through a concrete sculpture park, quickly past the police station, and finally the museum.  It took about twenty minutes.  She’d been coming to the museum for the last three months.  A kind of free art therapy was her motivation. The paintings were portals and the revelations far cheaper than the $200 plus per hour charged by the head doctors of the world. A real deal, apart from her membership dues.

For the last two days she’d been sitting in front of a body lying in a field of black sunflowers.  The chest appeared to be cut open.  The title was The Orders of the Night, by Anselm Kiefer. 

Her entry and occupation of a painting averaged about three hours.  Silence and stillness were her main outward manifestations and she’d turn into a sculpture, frozen in place, barely breathing, but no one ever really noticed her as they walked through the room nodding or muttering.  She was mostly invisible and only the guards saw her in their bored way, but she was beyond reproach in her contemplative, well-dressed, and pretty state.

The bench where she sat was backless, yet she never tired.  After a session of introspection she felt like a light, perhaps a nighttime star, untethered from her surroundings.  She was drawn to paintings of dark images, black, white, greys, the trace of reds or yellows and within them she would find the terror or happiness, the tears or laughter of her life. 

The paintings would loom over her and she imagined how she would paint the images, what colors she would use. Becoming the artist was key to her method.  She didn’t want to know anything about the real painters, the hometowns, lovers, enemies … nothing about schools, places in art history, and, certainly, nothing about the specific painting she focused upon.  She wanted no context from others.  No critics to tell her what to think.  No reviews or biographies.  None of that.  Those things interfered with her journey. She only wanted the initial attraction she felt toward the painting and then her inward melting into the colors and shapes. 

Her eyes were keepers of her secrets and she was willing to look inside herself and find the forbidden places, gently carried by the painting she had befriended.  Occasionally, she experienced an ecstasy, not unlike a sexual relationship, with all of its pitfalls, follies, and destruction.  She often laughed to herself that therapy, of any sort, always had a difficult time escaping the effects of one’s sexual realities and fantasies. 

She thought like this:  Had she painted The Orders of the Night what would have happened to her before the creation of such images?  This was the process that led her to confront memories of past experiences.  Yes, she would think, the rape would have allowed me to produce this work.  The beating.  The kidnapping.  The death of my friends.  The death of my parents.  The drinking.  The drugs.  Wild nights. Too much money.  All of these memories came to the fore in force and she would relive them, there in the art museum.  Instead of being debilitating, she saw the infinet importance of what had happened to her. Those things, good and bad, were the perfect motivations for her to paint The Orders of the Night.  

The painting demanded a retrospective of her life and when she arrived back at her apartment, she felt renewed, more capable in dealing with despair and anguish and suicidal ideation.     

She got out a canvas and began to draw black circles, over and over, filling the space with the mysterious, mystical shape. Her thoughts returned to the museum and she felt confident that paintings had hands and hidden rooms and then she began to remove her clothing and she was in her skin and she thought about what sort of a painting she could create out of scars.        


6 thoughts on “The Negative Girl

  1. I can see how Dafoe inspired you. This is a story told by an omnipresence narrator – not judgemental or partial in any way and, for a Duke story, not reliant on metaphors. I hope you keep forward with this style and see where it takes you. I’m not sure about the title – is she negative because she prefers a world devoid of color? I was reading about the painter’s style (cause unlike neg girl I have to know everything) and it is very raw. Stripped to the scars.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, she is negative in that she has been injured and never able to find help in dealing with her problems. All the other therapies just didn’t work out. SSRI’s, the talk sessions, the residential treatments, the sponsors, etc. But then she discovers a reverse art therapy. A passive art therapy, where she only contemplates drawing/painting and tries to see what would have motivated her to create such a depressing work. She does this without the collateral noise of comments from others about the painting, so she is able to come into the shapes and colors clean and reliant only on her own thoughts and experiences. The desolate nature of the paintings are geared to drawing out those past events which have made her life totally “negative”. Will this form of therapy work? Only time will tell. Duke PS, Since this is such a tricky subject, I rewrote it this morning. I’d be interested in what you have to say.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m always a little worried when you rewrite a piece I’ve connected with but you make a good point about art. It shouldn’t have to be explained (unless the work is very old and deals with themes no longer recognizable I suppose). I like the phrase “collateral noise.” I was thinking (and I wrote you) about a person in my life I always considered negative but that was because she couldn’t abide human beings. But she had her animals and so perhaps she had great moments of joy and was happy in her curmudgeonly way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow. This one comes with a punch.
    Paints are portals, and viewers are invited to interpret as they please — no direction from the artist needed (or wanted). We should always take what we want from art, sans guidance or instruction. “How dare you tell me what I should see or read into a work of art!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always loved when writers write about painting/paintings. Something about translating the two-dimensional physical image into a 3D mental one appeals to me. This now makes me think of blind people and art museums. They must go to them, of course, and they probably bring their writer friends who are good at description and perhaps have pleasant speaking voices.


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