Emily had always assumed that someday she would grow to be a wise, old woman with refined tastes; as if the knowledge of fine wines and fine arts would simply come with gray hair. When she finally did become an old woman, she had many beautiful memories and grandchildren, and plenty of money–but she still felt deprived of the sophistication she had dreamt about. So, with some indignation, Emily set out to acquire the refinement she believed was rightfully hers.
She began attending art lectures, classical concerts, wine tastings, and gallery openings. And after only a couple weeks training, she began giving tours at an art museum. Had you visited the museum on a day she worked, you would have heard her proud voice echoing in the galleries, saying things like, “This one is a real tour de force!”, and “Would you look at this! It’s simply breath-taking… A real tour de force.”
Her husband, Frank, in the mean time, had begun spending more and more time in his garage since his retirement. He was slowly relearning his tools, and enjoying every minute of it. He loved the planning, the precise measurements, the constructing. At the moment, Frank was working on a large, sturdy table on which he could place more tools and do more work.
Realizing that he had forgotten to have breakfast one morning, Frank took off his safety goggles and headed back inside the house. In the living room, hanging dead-center above the couch he noticed a large canvas that was covered in one big smudge of paint. “Emily!” he shouted. She came in from the next room holding a croissant.
“What happened here?” said Frank, pointing at the canvas.
“Do you like it?”
Frank laughed. “That’s funny.”
“It’s a Rothko.” She said. “Not an original, of course.”
He stopped smiling and stared at it for a moment. “You’re not seriously hanging up this garbage in this house.”
“It’s not garbage. It’s modern art–”
“Ha!” said Frank. His face began to go red. “That’s not art. The hell’s the matter with you? Since when do you go collecting this garbage? And why the hell is Mozart playing right now?”
“It’s not Mozart, silly. It’s Haydn.”
“Who. the hell. cares?” Frank took a breath and placed his hand on his forehead. “All this art nonsense… It’s all bullshit. Nobody really likes any of this crap. It’s just stuff people say they like so they can look interesting. Admit it. You don’t give a shit about ‘Rothko.’ Next you’re gonna be hanging up pornography because that’s what the idiots at the gallery told you was really hip. It’s not hip. It’s crap. It’s a scam.” Frank could have gone on for at least another five minutes, but Emily had left the room with tears welling up in her eyes.
Frank stood in his living room alone. His house was becoming the exact kind of place that he mocked. He looked at the Rothko, wondering how people could buy into that kind of stuff, but as he stared into the glowy, fuzzy, bright paints he became slightly entranced. He then walked into the kitchen, fixed himself a drink, and headed back into his garage.
For a few days, Frank and Emily did not speak. However, the Rothko painting still hung on the wall and Emily saw that as a good sign. One Afternoon, Frank came into the living room and sat down next to Emily on the couch below the Rothko. His face looked timid and apologetic. “Emily,” he began, “I’ve been thinking about all this art stuff. And I’m sorry about what I said.”
“Well. That’s okay, Frank.”
“I, uh… I took a trip to the museum the other day.”
“Oh, yeah right.”
“I did. I even went into the modern art section. I was just looking around. You know, just trying to see whatever it is you see in that stuff. I didn’t like most of it. But there was this one painting that just really captivated me.”
“Really? Do you remember the name?”
“No, but I did take a picture of it.” Frank pulled out his camera phone and handed to Emily.
“Oh!” she said looking at the screen, “That’s beautiful. Just breath-taking… If I had to guess, I would say maybe an early Pollock, or it could even be a Horiuchi. It was certainly made in the 1940’s, I’d say. …So powerful! A real tour de force of emotion!”
Frank took the camera back looking extremely proud and pleased with himself.
“I’m so proud of you, dear,” said Emily.
“Well, I still feel bad about what I said. I’ve been working on something for you in the garage that I think you’ll really enjoy.”
Together, they walked out into the garage where Emily saw that everything was brightly lit. On the freshly made table were brushes, tubes of paint and colorful stains. And above that, hanging on the white wall, was the very piece that Emily saw in the camera phone.