The End of Modeling

by Linda Vissat

THE END OF MODELING

By Linda Vissat

Common practice as a bronze sculptor is to mold an original piece of artwork when casting several editions, which makes the original distorted in some way; changed, broken, sawed in half... Like something from a circus freak show.

I pushed open the door, leaving the key in the lock. The phone was ringing, an uncommon sound. No one ever calls. The number is unlisted and what few friends I have are too busy to sit any length of time to chat.

"Really, Mom, I can't come up this week. My scheduled job application week, you know." I demonstratively relayed.

There was a pause and then click. So mom's going to visit in three weeks.

I had thoughts of arranging an outdoor barbecue that weekend with invitations to include Joanne and Dave, Jill, her sister, Karen and perhaps, my sister Marsh and hubby, Steve. Now mom will be here. I am never certain any plans I make will culminate. I plopped down in the gray, velvet, easy chair by the phone and contemplated the weekend's yard sale at Harry's. I closed my eyes and fought back tears.

It was a strategy I knew had no hope of manifesting and I wished I had not committed to it. The stings of my heart pulled, trying to hold it together I surmised. I left Harry three months ago for the third time and knew I would miss his spirit. I never really came to know it in full the seven years we were together. Although he was seventy years old he had a youthful, rebellious air about him. Pictures in his youth he looked like James Dean with the same "devil-may-care" aura leaping out of the photos. Harry was born five years after James Dean's demise.

I arose and walked to my bedroom where a photo I acquired of Harry leaned against my mirror on the dresser. At the time he was twenty-three. I was just a baby then, I mused shaking my head. He was handsome. The love I felt for him was misdirected to this illusive spirit in a 1930s black and white photo that I held in my hands. I reminded myself it was flatwork and I chided myself on how "flat" our love really had been in that length of time, or did I just have the seven-year itch?

I am a painter, but I've never sold a lick of work. All marketing attempts were directed towards Harry's work.

Harry would say things like, "You are getting flabby, exercise more, and go ride the bike."

As he snickered he'd say, "Well, that's what happens when you go "over the hill".

"Over the hill," I thought. I was much too sensitive and a "can't take a joke" kind of gal, plus the "over the hill" thing conjured thoughts of his age in my head.

Nothing could change the fact he was twenty years my senior. Oh, I respected him, his age and seniority. That's why I always kept my mouth shut. I wasn't assertive, and besides he was my boss, too. He was powerful for he had money and I didn't want to have him wield that over me in anyway. Having trust in my own emotional make-up was dangerously thin. I didn't want him to be an enemy should I loose control of myself and tell him off.

Harry had said on many occasions, "I never liked myself until my hair turned white."

His way of changing me was with words, not hand-manipulation as with his art when he used clay and paper mache'. His words impacted and changed me slowly. But, my thoughts of liking myself lived in the now, not when my hair turned white.

"When I do my artwork, I do it to perfection. What is a flaw on the model, I change. I make them better than they are in real life," he would say. He referred to the person. Unfortunately, I took it personally. I often wondered if he liked any of the models he ever had, or if it were just I he would say things like that to?

I assessed the original he had cast of me. He titled it "Ode To Mustang Ranch." Harry made a joke out of everything and added a sexual overtone. This piece was poetic justice to him and an ode to hookers, I guess, and/or the entourage of women he conquered. It followed suite with the closure of the "real-time" Mustang Ranch" in Nevada. He thought that would be a marketing edge.

      The original sat in my bathroom. It was made of paper mache'. The breasts and nipples were larger than my own, and perhaps more perfect, but the once strong legs that held her had been sawed off and the arm that once rested on her hip and screamed "conviction" was gone. I thought of it as a classic in the art world in its present condition, but not in the completed bronze casting. It now had a Venus de Milo look. Although the original had a classic air, in an emotional sense it no longer had strength and it's previous look of determination had drained.

     I covered it with a Mardi gras mask I picked up in New Orleans three years before. I left Harry and took a vacation with my two young girls. He didn't know where I went and thought it was just my house I had gone to. But he never called while I was away. He thought I was weak and needed him, but I spent a week in the French Quarter without a man. No, I didn't need Harry.

Harry used to say, "We'll get those flowers you love and plant them in the garden this year. Dinner plate dahlias were his idea of 'her favorite,' but those flowers were his last heartthrob's favorite, not mine.

Again he would say, "Baby, let's go to our favorite restaurant and have manicotti."

Eggplant Parmesan was my favorite Italian food. His use of possessive pronouns tied a knot of collective togetherness that frayed when I wanted carnations in the garden. "Baby" was an endearing term at first, but it turned into a shroud that made me helpless to interfere in his wish for long life and happiness.

I was a model at a nearby art school when we met. He was a sixty-year old student. Twelve students watched me in the class and sculpted in clay the form of my nude body. Harry was the best and he wanted to finish it. I stood solidly still while my muscles filled with uric acid causing searing pain, and yet I remained fully focused on inner meditation that took me to fields far beyond my physical form. Away from the twenty-four eyes fixed on me to places only I was privy. I was paid well for a time.

It came painfully easy, and ended painfully hard.

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