This is the story of Lucian La Croix, artist of unrecognized genius and fashion disaster.
Lucian looked at his work on the easel. He didn’t want to have this meeting. He didn’t want to talk to some asshole with an MBA (probably, he knew nothing about the guy) who would tell him to change his work, or that he needed to “get out there” more. He was an artist, damnit, not a show dog, and he firmly believed he needed to focus on his work, not on entertaining art buyers. Shouldn’t his seriousness be enough?
It didn’t matter, he’d promised his best friend Lorelai that he’d meet the guy, and now here he was waiting in his loft for the dreaded visitor. He’d made an irritable attempt to make the place presentable, stacking the art books normally scattered across the floor, picking up some of the old drop clothes and throwing out the myriad of cigarette butts, even going so far as to put away the supplies he wasn’t using. The apartment itself was beautiful, a big old factory overlooking the city lights. He had collected beautifully aged antique furniture, and magnificent old industrial fixtures… of course the heating was finicky, and the electricity had it’s quirks (if you had the toaster and the lights on at the same time the lights would dim in the kitchen) but he didn’t much care. A big wrought iron chandelier made to resemble an octopus hung from the ceiling (something he’d made himself) and from its tentacles dangled paper flowers, each lit by a rose tinted bulb. Huge canvases hung on the walls, depicting a variety of scenes in his inimitable style. Giant grotesque faces on some, others held demented gardens, and some erotic images made darkly surreal by some odd element, flowers blooming on groins, vines tangling around naked limbs. One canvas depicted a woman with beaks for breasts, another a goat legged clock-work man, another a giant fanged rabbit with metallic looking spines down its back.
He’d made tea and crumb cake and set it out on the antique coffee table he’d refinished in shiny black lacquer, contrasting nicely with the fluffy white sheep skin rug. Lucian himself however was a mess.. His jeans bore numerous paint stains, and one hole from where he’d split solvent on them. There was a spot of bright peacock blue oil paint on his cheek, an a splatter of muted grey green on his blue dress shirt (he’d refused to stop working after showering in preparation), and he’d attempted to brush his hair to make it less untidy, but it had only made matters worse… then again what did he care if he was presentable anyway? Lorelai had only made him promise to meet the man, it wasn’t as if he had to impress him.
Of course the fact of the matter was, Lucian could have been beautiful. His features were fine, angular, and they would have been devastatingly pretty if he wasn’t nearly always cultivating an unflattering week’s growth of beard. His hair although a questionable shade of mousy brown would have fallen in soft waves had he bothered to use conditioner, and his lithe body was of the sort that could wear nearly anything (but for the oversized mud colored garments he draped himself in).
He’d have to be polite, the guy was Lorelai’s friend after all, but that didn’t make him anymore enthusiastic about the prospect. He paused in his work and checked the time, a few more minutes.
Downstairs Jack Torn waited for his potential client, the place was certainly attractive enough, though Lorelai had warned him about Lucian’s… peculiarities. The intense reclusiveness, monastic dedication to his work… annnnd the appearance. However, her warning did not prepare him for what he saw.
Lucian was a wreck, dressed in paint stained garments, face masked by at least a week’s worth of beard, hair frizzy. He wouldn’t have been caught dead even doing yard work looking like that. He was a man who prided himself on his presentation. He was stylish, the epitome of downtown seemingly effortless cool (though to be honest his appearance was the result of hours of careful maintenance on top of the numerous blessings nature had given him.) after all, he had to be. He was Jack Torn, the art dealer who told the world who was hip. He had a reputation to maintain, however unprepossessing appearance or not, he’d seen this guy’s work and it was… transcendent.
He had to get him on the roster.
"I’m Jacob, Jacob Torn, you can call me Jack," he said extending a manicured hand and noticing the other man’s slender graceful fingers. Despite the paint splatter, Lucian had beautiful hands.
Lucian nodded. ”Have a seat, there’s tea and crumb cake and wine if you like, Lorelai said you might be interested in showing my work.”
Jack nodded. "From what I can tell you have one hell of a portfolio, I'm amazed no one's snapped you already," said the redhead, making himself comfortable.
Lucian laughed. "Well now, I'm going to be honest with you, I know I don't look like an artist, I look like a house painter, and someone must have told you what I'm like at openings, but really what I think is important is the work. It shouldn't matter what I look like, or how charming I am. I eat, sleep, breathe my work. I'd die without it, and all that nonsense, the wardrobe, the persona... the bullshit, is why idiots like Banksy are famous while artists who have an ounce of integrity get shoved off to the side. I'm an artist, not a show dog, and I'm not going to pretend I'm some eccentric fashionista to get people's attention, nor am I going to expound upon the mystical nature of the creative process, I'm creative, I'm talented, I work, that's it. Now, if that all makes you change your mind, it's fine with me, but if you're still interested I do have a hell of a portfolio."
He knew it probably wasn't the wise thing to say if he wanted the show, but then again, were he weren't so prickly he'd have a hell of a lot more shows in the first place. He poured himself a glass of wine... why was he so nervous? He wasn't normally the type to get silly just talking to a good looking guy, though he had to admit, Jack Torn was very good looking. He wasn't the type Lucian had ever chosen for companionship, he'd usually chosen serious to the point of asceticism artists like himself, Jack looked more like one of his muses, those brightly colored peacock boys, with their vibrant hair, dramatic makeup and eye-catching clothing, their bodies their canvases. Lucian envied the directness of their self expression now and then, their ability to shout to the world "Look at me, because what I think is what I am" their bodies as vibrant as their souls. Maybe that was why he found himself so out of sorts.
Jack looked him in the eye and nodded. The other man’s bluntness, his earnestness… well he could respect it, hell he liked it, on the other hand, he’d have to learn to play the game. Like it or not, if you wanted to make a name for yourself in the art world, you had to play the game.
"You’re right, it shouldn’t matter how you look," said Jack, voice as direct and honest as Lucian’s had been, "I’ll be the first to admit the sequins and no substance nature of art marketing rubs me the wrong way. Having to appeal to people with all the money in the world and no taste is a shitty thing to have to do, but you wouldn’t be meeting me if you didn’t want to show… if you didn’t know that work like this needs to be shown, and unfortunately if we want your work to be seen by the people who deserve to see it, we have to get past the hoity-toits, and that means being willing to play the game.”
Lucian found himself surprised to hear the other man agree with him. Normally gallery owners rushed to the defense of their clientele and berated him for his failure to understand business.
He found himself liking this Torn fellow against his will.
Jack was clearly a realist to Lucian’s idealist. Lucian stroked his scruffy chin and considered. ”I’ll be honest, it’s important to me that people see my work, otherwise I’d have refused this meeting,” he said thoughtfully, ”I suppose you think me a hopeless idealist… or worse, possibly more than a little insane… which it seems is an occupational hazard,” he added with a chuckle, “but I assure you I’m quite lucid… though, I probably am rather a hopeless idealist.”
The other man’s manner had a genuineness, and interest he wasn’t used to from art dealers. This one… he might just be willing to work with.
"But, honestly you seem to have integrity. I’ve met gallery owners before whose only interest was the bottom line, while the art itself was just a commodity to be bought and sold… you… seem to understand both sides of it… and that’s rather a new perspective to me," he said, "I’ll go get some of my other pieces."
Jack nodded, so he’d gained the artist’s approval, or at least sort of. That was good, with idealists like Lucian one never could tell, though he had to respect the other man’s forthrightness.
Lucian stood, and collected some of his better canvases, startling images that ranged from the disturbing to the sensual. A bridal party surrounded by dancing skeletons, a hungry stylized wolf like animal staring unsettlingly at the viewer, a plump milk maid working in the nude with an odd placid saintly smile on her round face, one particularly striking image was a portrait of a young man, depicted from head to waist, whose long hair clung wetly to his slim naked body, and whose high cheek boned features bore an expression of a striking mixture of challenge and fear, whose blue eyes had a vibrant almost mad intensity. The image was a self portrait of Lucian, he’d shaved while he was modeling for it, and in that image one could see quite clearly the potential that under lay baggy clothes and excessive facial hair.
Jack nodded and made noises of approval until they got to the portrait, the image made him do a double take. It couldn’t be… was that… it had to be. Lucian. If the portrait was anything to go by, the man was… or at least could be stunning. Why the hell was he hiding himself away under facial hair and paint stained rags when he could look like that?
Lucian blushed when he realized he’d grabbed the self portrait by mistake. ”That wasn’t meant to be there,” he said hurriedly, “… an experiment in self portraiture… I couldn’t find a model who could give me the right expression, so I used myself, but in essence… I’m willing to work with you,” Lucian said, chewing on a fingernail, betraying his nerves. He still hadn’t the foggiest why he was so nervous, perhaps he was worried that this seemingly wonderful opportunity was all going to go horribly wrong somehow… or something like that… maybe he’d forgotten how much he missed showing his work.
"It’s alright, it’s an incredible piece, very striking, as to working with me, if you’re willing to work with me I’m willing to work with you, but we’d have to agree to trust one another, at least to some extent. I’ll trust you to know the art end of things, and you’ll have to trust me on the details and presentation… starting with the fact that you’re going to need to shave and wear something that fits… there’s no good in hiding yourself under a mass of facial hair and fabric. Are you amenable to that."
Lucian nodded. ”Shaving? Honestly, it’s no great sacrifice,” he admitted, “just leave my hair long enough to tie back when I’m working and we’re good.”
"The hair is no problem, I mean a trim and a conditioning treatment wouldn’t kill you, but the length is fine, and like I said, you’ll need to shave, as for wardrobe, I don’t want to dress you up so that the focus is on you rather than your work, that’s a cheap trick for bad artists, and I think we’re both better than that, I want you to compliment your art, not compete with it," replied Jack.
Lucian hummed. ”Alright, give me a second.”
The artist disappeared into the bathroom to clean himself up properly. He showered and shaved, even bothering to use the conditioner Laurelai had forced on him the other day.
When he returned the beard along with the blue paint that’d been on his cheek were gone, and his hair no longer resembled a bird’s nest, and he’d changed his clothes, a black t-shirt and tight jeans that had been a gift long tucked away in the back of his closet.
"There, now I’ll probably prove a bit less of a distraction," he said with a chuckle "shall we talk about what direction we want to take the show in?"
Jack stared for a moment. Less of a distraction? Yeah right. Now, in the flesh presented with the material he was going to be working with, he saw the artist’s full potential. The portrait had, if anything, understated the artist’s good looks. With the right clothes, and hairstyle, his new acquisition would be a show stopper. Still, he managed to pull himself together.
"Yeah—" he said, "we’ll need to discuss an overall theme to tie things together. Based on your work I was thinking dreams. Do you think you could manage a large piece over the next three weeks."
"I quite like that actually, images from the subconscious floating up to the conscious," he murmured, "As for that, hmm, I have an idea, something that seems like a couple in bed, with one having just awoken and the other still asleep, until you realize they’re identical and the awakening one is a life sized puppet," he mused "actually I’ve been meaning to do that for awhile," he added, "so… either you’ve got ESP or we’re very much on the same wave length. I’m thinking about 6 foot by 8 foot."
Jack grinned. A fast worker, and he seemed to be together and on top of things, unlike a lot of his artists whose adherence to deadlines was nonexistent, and whose emotional outbursts were always causing him endless trouble.
"Perfect, shall we meet up tuesday to sign the contract and see about sorting out your hair and wardrobe?" asked the redhead.