‘A Work of Art’ is a short story by Gab Jopillo, a writer and fitness enthusiast from the Philippines. Edited by Ista Kyra.
It’s only when the dust has all settled, will you actually see things clearly.
The moment you take off your rose-tinted glasses and blow away the last of your tears, you’ll see the final picture that’s been there in front of you the whole time.
It’s almost like being in a museum and you keep seeing the exact same painting for ninety-nine times without understanding, until it ultimately hits you when you see it for the hundredth time.
I have to admit that I’ve been so focused on the good bits of this ‘portrait’, so caught up thinking of it as the painting of a lifetime, that I was unable to see flaws; the creases from the paint that had been applied too thick, the smudges in the corners from constant retouching, and the messy spurs of colour from using the wrong brush strokes.
It was only when the hype died down that I began to notice the flaws in what I had once perceived as perfect.
Truth be told, I know nothing about art.
I go through museums and art galleries and spend the day taking photographs with my friends and admiring how unique each piece is. However, I’m not one to stare at a Picasso or a Warhol and pick out how parts of it make sense of the whole; I’m not one to effectively decipher an artist’s bold statement on the canvas and translate it into reality.
All I can tell is that they’re beautiful and I’d never thought that they could do any harm––until I discovered that, that’s where I was wrong.
This portrait – the one that I thought to be a masterpiece, was one I barely touched.
Wearing my favourite patterned dress, I simply sat staring at it, mesmerized at how you could turn a blank canvas into something magical.
It felt as if nothing could compete with it, just because it was mine.
The rush of finally owning a piece of art––one of society’s most valuable pieces to be collected–– blinded me from seeing anything else.
It blinded me so much that I barely cared to make adjustments; barely cared to dip my brush into the Prussian blue bucket of paint sitting idly by me.
Maybe, to some, that might be a good thing; that I wholeheartedly trusted this would go well to the point that I didn’t dare to stick my thumb in.
In some further romanticized version of this story, perhaps, the cloth would’ve been taken off and I’d be wonderstruck at how beautiful the portrait is; raw but without flaws or errors to point out.
I’d have been fully immersed in its untainted glory. But that isn’t the case.
I failed to dip my brush and, like a little girl, sat naively at the wooden bench as the last stroke sliced through the canvas and left a deep hue of magenta. And the moment the dust finally settled–– when the thick white cloth that once covered the portrait was pulled away, I saw a mistake.
I recognized my mistake, and now I had to confront the consequences. After scrutinizing each individual part of the painting ninety-nine times, I finally grasped how they starkly contrasted with one another, resulting in a piece that might be considered mediocre by the hundredth viewing.
Like an unexpected blow, I found myself on the floor, my face stinging, and my gut torn to shreds. While the world remained indifferent, I became the fool in my little dress, with disappointment echoing in my ears. It felt like an eternity— the humiliation, the pain, the profound sense of indignity.
Until finally, a movement in the art. My voice caught in my throat as your gaze met mine, accompanied by that triumphant smirk of yours. As I struggled to suppress the urge to cry out, a crowd started to gather.
Girls and boys shoving themselves to the front of the line, pulling me from my bench, and pushing me to the sidelines until you were out of view and time began to turn.
Though sometimes, if I turn my head and position myself in just the right direction, I can still make out the golden framing and imagine the crowd continuing to swell. Perhaps it’s the result of the expanding distance and the passage of time that gradually unfolded between us. Eventually, my eyes perceived you as unremarkable—just another painting in a sea that showcases a thousand more.
That same wooden bench that once found me anticipating a work of art to marvel is now empty and cold. Maybe someday, it will find another exciting soul to anticipate the next mystery behind the famous thick cloth but for now, it sits empty.
As for me, I wander around the rest of the exhibit, still eager but ultimately cautious. Art is beautiful; however I still don’t fully understand it, I now know it can also be dangerous.