Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel (PAL), Serialized. #14 (“Be creative with your life”)

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel, by Mira Tudor

Today’s post is the fourteenth installment of my serialized novel Poets, Artists, Lovers (PAL).

You have all the previous installments HERE.

And here’s the whole novel, with the various Amazon links and a book description.

Please note that these posts go online on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and I will then take them down a month afterward. Enjoy!

#14: “Be creative with your life”

Bucharest, September 1993, almost nine years earlier. Marcel’s mother had baked two trays of small sandwiches to serve at her son’s seventeenth birthday. The aroma of melted cheese, ham, and tomato slices wafted through the large living room, reminding the alcohol-happy guests that they needed to eat as well.

Marcel set out to find his girl, whom he had last seen busying herself in the kitchen. She was now sitting down with her friend Maria on the back steps of his family’s floor-wide apartment. He looked at them seemingly at a loss and then made to get back to the dining room.

“You want me to help with something?” Anca called from behind.

He turned back and smiled. “No, it’s okay.”

The place was abuzz. More uninvited—and mostly unknown—people were showing up every moment. Marcel felt he was too cool to send them packing, and so his home quickly filled with an unwanted crowd. Most of the ones who crashed the party had already been drinking, so they didn’t need any warm-up time before feeling at home at Marcel’s. His mother was beside herself with concern. She kept looking for Anca and Maria, hoping to ask them a big favor. Eventually she thought of trying the steps to the back door.

“There you were!” she said when she spotted them. The girls turned their heads to look at her. Marcel’s mother brushed the palms of her hands on her linen pants. “I need your help.”

Anca and Maria sprang to their feet.

“A lot of people showed up. Far too many. Not all of them invited.”

“When?” Anca asked, surprised. When she had left the living room, only a few people were present, and Marcel was making the rounds talking to them.

“In the past half hour. I don’t think there’s enough food for everybody. But that’s not a problem—I can send one of the guys to the twenty-four-hour store to get some snacks.” She paused for a moment to catch her breath. “No, the problem is . . . I would like you to watch over things in Marcel’s bedroom. Make sure these guys don’t open drawers and so on,” she added with distinct apprehension. “It’s happened in the past.”

Anca’s disposition changed somewhat. She’d been rather buoyant that evening, happy to spend time with Marcel and his friends on such a joyous occasion. She hadn’t expected waves of unwelcome guests.

When she reached Marcel’s bedroom, some of the guests were throwing beer bottles out the window while a few others were cheering them on. Anca made her presence known by quickly turning on the lights and introducing herself with a pasted smile to the company present. The people in the room, largely indifferent to her gesture, continued to chatter among themselves. A girl and a guy sat splayed on Marcel’s bed in their tall lace-up black boots, propped up by his large sleeping pillow and two decorative ones.

Anca and Maria decided to place their bottoms on the desk, thus impeding the riffling through Marcel’s papers and notebooks. A few moments later Marcel’s mother appeared as well, carrying yet another tray of sandwiches, and smiling nervously from ear to ear as her gaze met the girls’. “Everybody feeling good here?” she voiced, looking hastily around to appraise the damage.

The girl and guy on the bed, whiskey and martini drinks in hand, didn’t even deign to turn to look at her. Maria and Anca nodded imperceptibly. Two guys on some chairs next to the desk got up and dived in on the sandwiches. “Great, thank you for the food!” one of them said. Marcel’s mother left, a little more at peace. The guy who had just spoken addressed his buddy, “She could have also brought us some more booze. I’m gonna go into the living room, see what’s left. You stick to beer?” He got his answer and left the room. After a moment’s hesitation, his friend followed.

Maria turned to Anca and grabbed her hand, tacitly asking her to come out of the room for a minute. As they explored the living room, a couple exited Marcel’s parents’ bedroom, tottering left and right. Maria turned to Anca, stunned. “The parents’ bedroom?” With a nod, Anca indicated something else. Maria looked in that direction. A guy and girl were at it in the middle of the living room, tongues sticking out, loins rubbing, and hands moving underneath their black shirts. Maria stared at them for a long five seconds. Her daze was interrupted by Marcel, stepping back into the house after having appeased some of his neighbors concerned with missiles flying down from his bedroom. He was having a hard time and was rattled.

“I think I might have to pretend the party’s over. But I can’t until Mother brings out the cake. So we’ll have to wait till midnight. It’s only half an hour away.” He turned to Anca and touched her on her left arm affectionately. “You okay?” Anca muttered something. She wasn’t fine at all. Then he looked at Maria. “Thank you, Maria. Thank you both.”

Maria went into the kitchen to see if she could help with sandwiches or anything else. She came back following Marcel’s mother, who was in a tizzy at not finding the key to lock her bedroom and somehow dragged Maria there too. The forty-something woman first looked in the nightstands’ drawers, apparently indifferent to the fact that her bed had been given a workout. Next, she gathered the silky gowns that had been pushed to the side on the bed and threw them on a chair on top of other clothes. They fell down. She picked them up and stuffed them in a closet. Then she remembered the key to the room was in the top drawer of the TV chest.

Maria watched her, amazed.  

“Surprised at the mess?” Marcel’s mother asked with a smile and a glint in her eyes as Maria stood there frozen, taking it all in.

Maria smiled back and gave another glance at the wrinkled satin sheets. She couldn’t believe that couple had used Marcel’s parents’ bed.

Marcel’s mother woke her from her reverie. “I’ll change those sheets later.” She winked at her.

“Those are beautiful sheets,” Maria said.

“They feel good against the skin too,” Marcel’s mother said with another wink.

Maria gave her a rather cold stare.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that. You’ll get to be my age, and then you’ll understand. Hopefully, you will afford to buy satin sheets sooner than I did.”        

Maria was puzzled. Marcel’s apartment, spacious and decorated with modern Romanian paintings and furniture from the first half of the twentieth century, spelled “rich.” She managed to smile, though.

Marcel’s mother stretched the bedcover over the unmade bed. “You seem to be such a nice girl. Be careful whom you marry. Have you heard that phrase, ‘Appearances can be deceiving?’”

Maria nodded.

“Good, then. Remember it,” advised Marcel’s mother as she straightened up. “Men nowadays seem more enterprising than ever. And then you live with their parents for a long, long time. Who may be nice people. My in-laws are.” She smiled at Maria. “Try not to become a professor or an artist, if you can. It robs you of your independence. In this country, at least.”

“What if you have a vocation?” Maria asked.

Marcel’s mother sat down on the bed. “We’re complex creatures, Maria. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one thing in this world for you. Be creative with your life. Learn many skills. Don’t ever get complacent or lazy. You never know what life may throw at you, and you have to be prepared. We don’t live under communism anymore. You have to be ready to change paths if one vocation doesn’t pan out. Or a certain job. Don’t wait too long, either. Life is so very short.” She got up. “I think we’re done here,” she said, looking around the room. “Oh, let me just grab this.” She picked up her jewelry box from her closet, covered it with a scarf, and took it to the kitchen, where she dropped it into a drawer. She then retrieved from another drawer stick candles for Marcel’s birthday cake, seventeen of them plus one for good measure.

She arrived at twelve midnight sharp with the cake, closely followed by Marcel’s father. One of Marcel’s friends turned off the music, and everyone started singing “Happy Birthday” enthusiastically, the people who didn’t know Marcel even more so, as they were more inebriated. Parties were fun.

Some ended sooner than others, however, as some guests were to find out soon after they finished their slice of cake. They left the scene grumbling that the party was lame, and that it was all for the best, they might as well try two others taking place the same night. They would have left anyway, they said, taste a bit of everything. Marcel saw everyone out, including his friends.

Fifteen minutes later, about twenty people were back in Marcel’s home, the large apartment now free of unwelcome visitors. Marcel headed to the tape deck, put on Depeche Mode really loud, walked up to Anca, and, in a burst of feeling that surged through them both, wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up.

A few moments later his hand slipped into hers, and he waved to his friends as he headed into his bedroom with his sixteen-year-old girlfriend.

“Shouldn’t you play the host?” Anca ventured as Marcel turned off the lights.

“No, they’re big kids, they can hold the fort for a while,” Marcel answered. He sat down on his bed and stretched his hands out for her, inviting her into his arms. Then he eased her down on her back and started kissing her.

“Let’s go back to the living room,” Anca said after a short while. “Who knows what they think we’re doing in here,” she added with a hesitant smile.

To be continued . . .

Golden Dream, Glass Painting; and a Note on Art Galleries in Downtown Bucharest

Whether you’re an art aficionado or not, I think you may find you’ll enjoy some of the art galleries in downtown Bucharest on your next trip here. Entrance is free and I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. I am amazed myself every time I go for a leisure stroll and stop at Artmark or Galateca or Cercul Militar / Military Circle (the latter one where Victoriei Blvd crosses Regina Elisabeta Blvd, close to University Square). I had another favorite gallery on Victoriei Blvd, but unfortunately it closed down sometime this year. Other galleries I invite you to explore are Elite Art Gallery close to Unirii Square and Art Yourself Gallery near Romana Square.

All of these spaces showcase contemporary art, but Artmark also has an impressive collection of 19th-century art (along with collections of various objects they sell at auction) which rivals in many ways that of the National Art Museum (not in size, of course) and is free to visit. So you have nothing to lose; give it a try! Artmark’s building lies close to the National Art Museum, on a street (C.A. Rosetti) which connects Victoriei Bldv to Magheru Blvd.

Here’s a photo from my last promenade in the area, when I caught some contemporary pieces right after the official close of an exhibition.

#Supercontemporary exhibition of contemporary art at Artmark Auction House in Bucharest
#Supercontemporary at Artmark Auction House, Bucharest, Romania

And here’s an amazing piece from yesterday’s walk, when I swung by Cercul Militar and caught a glass painting exhibition by Elena Cioclu. The two images presented here are on show until August 5. My favorite is Golden Dream. It includes not only a cross, a (church) bell and angels, but also an axis mundi (through the cross), a liminal circular area which includes references to vegetation and organic forms, and a spiritual realm where angels support the structure of this world, including by holding on to the edges of the bell (and therefore helping it move in the world). The color composition is also intriguing, with golden, blue, and turquoise hues (which I haven’t captured very well) and with a more intense, orange reddish dot at the center of the cross, in a blue square. This bit is very significant, as it may refer both to the human nature of Christ and to His sacrifice; also to the intensity of the center that holds all things together.

Note as well the circle around the meeting point of the arms of the cross,  which is an ancient symbol of the Sun adopted by the Celts; given that it’s also split in four, it also references, just as crosses do, the four corners of the Earth and the four elements that—at least in Western symbolism—make up this world (earth, water, air, and fire). And if you don’t see any symbols of the Trinity, keep you hair on: the vertical arm of the cross is flanked by three beams on each side, making up a total of seven, which among other things (the seven days of Creation, for one) is said to represent the unity between the Holy Trinity and the created world.

Golden Dream sells for €1800.

Golden Dream (
Golden Dream (“Vis de aur”), glass painting by Elena Cioclu

NB: I had to take the photos at an angle because I developed a smudge on my camera lens (can’t fix it) and also this is glass, so I didn’t want my profile reflected in the photos.

Balance (
Balance (“Echilibru”), glass painting by Elena Cioclu

If the above two pieces are too spiritually charged for you, I’ll leave you with a photo of marigolds from nearby Cișmigiu Park 🙂

Marigolds in Cismigiu Park, downtown Bucharest
Marigolds in Cișmigiu Park in downtown Bucharest
 
 

Lucia Lobonț, Moody Pictures

I love the aesthetics of Lucia Lobonț’s ceramics, whether they be tamer decorative pieces, moody portraits, or mixed-media-informed collage-like compositions with more recognizable use of decalcomania (Here’s an example of the latter.)

I discovered Lucia Lobonț about a week ago at Elite Art Gallery in downtown Bucharest, where she had two portraits and a mirror frame on show. Here’s one of the portraits and part of the mirror.

Lucia Lobont_Reflection and Portrait

Lucia Lobonț, Reflection and Portrait
Glazed Ceramics

In the piece to the right, I’m drawn to the economy of gestures in marking shadows and red cheeks, and, of course, the moody tone, set by those wonderful droopy eyes, the chubby chins, the quirkily curved lips, and the full ovals of the faces.

Ion Iancuț’s Light Seekers

Earlier this month I saw Ion Iancuț’s personal exhibition Light Seekers (sculpture and pastels) at Senso Gallery here in Bucharest.

Most of the works were quite memorable, as I expected. Here are some of them.

Ion Iancut_Light Seekers_Senso_June 2018

Light Seekers, 2017
Bronze
44 x 77 x 6.5 cm (17.32 x 30.31 x 2.55 in)

Look how these Light Seekers seem to rest on their walking sticks, as if they had found something like Archimedes’s fulcrum (“Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”).

Alternatively, I see them pointing down from the sky with sticks like diving rods—rods which point us to the light hidden in our earthly lives, under our worries, disbelief, and general lack of interest in higher forms of existence we could embrace . . . if we only paid attention to the many fulcrums in our paths which could help rise us aloft.

Ion Iancut_Accordion_Senso_June 2018

Accordion, 2017
Bronze
17.5 x 47 x 42 cm (6.88 x 18.50 x 16.53 in)

 

Ion Iancut_the Archers_Senso_June 2018

The Archers, 2017
Bronze
78.5 x 35 x 49 cm (30.90 x 13.77 x 19.29 in)

 

Ion Iancut_Tired Angel_Senso_June 2018

Tired Angel, 2017
Bronze
43 x 32 x 10 cm (16.92 x 12.59 x 3.93 in)

 

Ion Iancut_Star Seeker_Senso_June 2018

Star Seeker [n.d.]
Pastel on colored cardboard
70 x 50 cm (27.55 x 19.68 in)

Ion Iancuț was born in Răducăneni, Iași county. He graduated from the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Fine Arts in Bucharest in 1974.

Watercolors by Ioana Nicoara

IMG_20171128_145835_ioana nicoara_annart_bucharestIMG_20171128_145818_sm_ioana nicoara_annart_bucharestIMG_20171128_145840_sm_ioana nicoara_annart_bucharest

Watercolors by Ioana Nicoara, AnnArt Gallery, Bucharest, November 2017

Upon seeing them, I had the sense right away that they visualize inner life. Inner life of the cells, or, barring that (we think of cells as contained and never quite imagine them at further microscopic levels), the life of our emotions permeating us like breaths or whooshing over us, coming together with neurons that fire sparks of thought—and cells responding to all that energy, electric . . .

Dumitru Radu, Echo

dumitru radu_senso_IMG_20171213_145548
Dumitru Radu, Echo, [year?], Senso Art Gallery, Bucharest, December 2017
Bronze and marble
30 x 30 x 30 cm
€3,500

dumitru radu_senso_IMG_20171213_145603

This figure doesn’t move inside the bell, so it’s not quite a bell clapper, but with its trumpet and openings in its body suggests to me someone who has embraced a certain space of meaning—certain themes from the past, for instance—and turns to that space—that of the bell—to amplify his concerns in a certain way, his voice growing in the echo of others who have worked before him (in this respect, to me the bell he’s echoing into could be the trumpet of a predecessor like him).

This type of bell is, in fact, in Dumitru Radu’s oeuvre some kind of funnel, one that brings us in and out of existence, and also a musical instrument through which the music of God resonates. For more about this approach see this presentation by Luiza Barcan at Simeza Art Gallery in Bucharest in 2014. (The talk is in Romanian but the video shows many of Radu’s recent sculptures.)

Spiritual Bucharest and Crazy Bucharest

I went to visit several artist workshops last weekend, as this month over 70 artists In Bucharest and Mogosoaia are opening their premises to visitors on weekends on the occasion of the George Enescu Classical Music Festival.

One of the artists I visited was graphic artist Carmen Paraschivescu. Her workshop is filled with intricate designs in mixed media, the ornamental tracery pinning down vivid, effusive inspiration. Here are two works she did for an art salon on Bucharest. They are titled Spiritual Bucharest and Crazy Bucharest.

IMG_0622_sm Spiritual Bucharest

IMG_0628_sm

IMG_0630_sm
Spiritual Bucharest (detail)

IMG_0632_sm
Spiritual Bucharest (detail)

 

IMG_0623_sm Crazy Bucharest

And here are two other works of hers

IMG_0619_sm

IMG_0621_sm

Carmen Paraschivescu will open her workshop next weekend too, so if you’d like to have a look at these pieces, she’ll be happy to receive you for a chat and a glass of wine at Str. Doamnei nr. 5 (the tower on the corner of Academiei and Doamnei streets) between 12 noon and 8 p.m.

IMG_0636_sm

“I like the search, the constant tearing apart of landmarks.”—Ciprian Istrate

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Ciprian Istrate’s exhibition A’TOPIA at Galateca in downtown Bucharest. His portraits are arresting—which is no surprise given that he painted church murals for twenty years. Have a look for yourself! I could see speed, assurance, and “mirror eyes,” as the curator Iulia Gorneanu dubbed them, eyes which draw our attention in so many ways, and every time with a vigorous intensity which both pulls us in and keeps us at a distance as if in awe of their presence.

IMG_0413_ciprian istrate_portraits_galateca
Ciprian Istrate, A’TOPIA, Galateca

IMG_0451_ciprian istrate_two portraits_galateca
Bride in Times of War

IMG_0415_ciprian istrate_angel during war
Angel During War

Jagged Inflections

Marian Ionescu of the band Direcţia 5 has had his first painting exhibition this year at the largest contemporary art fair in Romania, Art Safari. He then exhibited at ARCUB. Here’s one of my favorite paintings of his show there. It’s titled Urban, and for some reason reminds me of Keith Haring’s lines. It also speaks to me of how we try to impose rational lines onto a city to oppose its organic growth, and how at the end the fabric of that city is a jumbled mixture of lines that make up a palimpsest of its urban history.

IMG_0387_Marian Ionescu_Urban
Urban, 200 x 180 cm

IMG_0391_Marian Ionescu_Urban_detail
Urban, Detail

Cristian Pentelescu, The Gate

Here’s a work I saw at Senso Gallery in Bucharest last fall.

I’ve seen warm marble in Bernini’s Rape of Persephone (where Pluto’s hand sinks into her flesh), pregnant marble in Brancusi’s Beginning of the World (where an ovoid rests on a polished steel plate: the material world and its metaphysical alter in bud), marble draped in lavish folds in Michelangelo’s Pietà, diaphanous in Giovanni Strazza’s Veiled Virgin . . . but I’ve never seen marble quite so soft and elastic as that of Cristian Pentelescu’s in The Gate, or if I did, I don’t remember—

cristian-pentelescu_the-gate
Cristian Pentelescu, The Gate, Marble, 35 x 20 x 18 cm (13.8 x 7.9 x 7 in)