Friday, April 24, 2009

Courteous And Discourteous Paintings

Whenever he began painting he would try to think of a word. Unfortunately each time he did this he thought of the same word: courtesy. As a result most of his pictures focused on courteous subjects: pots, pans, kitchen sinks, table clothes, forks, a vase, hand towels, etc. For some reason the idea of courtesy, for this particular painter, was bound up with kitchen objects. He had 24 canvases of the same courteous plate, for instance, and 15 of a courteous napkin. He painted courteous milk glasses and courteous waiters, courteous aprons and courteous straws, courteous spoons and knives and corks and bibs, all sorts of courteous culinary things spread out across countless canvases. Then one day the painter hit upon another word: discourtesy. What resulted was an array of canvases featuring misplaced forks (one, for instance, rested atop a piano) or sullied aprons (a bright splash of blue tarnished an otherwise immaculate checkered top) or clogged kitchen sinks (an owl, it seems, got stuck in one, and a human ear in another) or spilled glasses or handle-less pans or torn table clothes. Critics of his work (the few friends he had managed not to drive away, his mother, a roommate, etc.) found the discourteous pieces more engaging, though, they all agreed, not quite as pleasant as his previous work. Frustrated, the painter tried coming up with another word. He failed to come up with one, however, and as a result has stopped painting altogether.

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