Friday, December 14, 2012

Write On Edge: Gallery Challenge

Red Writing Hood gave us 500 words this week and a photo of a painting displayed in a gallery setting for inspiration.

I'm rarely moved by "modern" art. I'm not saying that I haven't found some pieces fascinating or beautifully chaotic. Most often than not I'm left with the idea that I could give finger-paints to a kindergartner and get better results. Don't get me started on Picasso.

And before anyone sends me hate mail, I want to admit that I do see value to modernistic art. Bank lobbies and doctors' offices for example, have a need for these sorts of abstract pieces. It's just not my cup of tea.

I stumbled across a sculpture carved by Wendell Castle which I am told is part of the rotating display of 19th to 21st century art in the historic Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. From a distance, and indeed from any photo I have seen of the sculpture, Ghost Clock looks like a grandfather clock draped with cloth, the way furniture in abandoned buildings or vacation homes may be. But Ghost Clock, sheet and all, is carved from a huge block of mahogany.

So I've been inspired by a photo of abstract art in a round-about sort of way. I return to Ivy Tanner, a reporter with nothing left to lose and a nerve-developed desire to rescue the man who saved her life. Shameless plug: Ivy's story begins in Escape, one of the short stories that is featured in Precipice.

I offer the following in response: Ghost at the Rendezvous

Ivy re-read the note for the hundredth time. Renwick. Castle Ghost. 1pm. Come alone.

She was alone, against her better judgment.

It was 1:30pm.

Ivy was accustomed to dead ends. As a journalist, she’d dealt with more than a few “confidential informants” who weren’t exactly honest. Getting stood up was part of the job and only caused her grief when she was supposed to be on a date. She checked her watch again and sighed.

Of the art galleries under the purview of the Smithsonian, the Renwick Gallery was Ivy’s favorite, more for the architecture than for the art displays. The laylight in the Grand Salon captured her attention as it rested in the ceiling atop the rose-colored walls, as if a skylight flooding the 4300 square-foot room with the essence of a perfect day. The Ghost Clock held a similar mystique. From a distance, the unsuspecting were easily fooled by the sculpture. After waiting for her no-show, Ivy now felt she had intimate knowledge of the piece. It was nothing more than an exquisitely carved block of mahogany.

“Marvelous work,” a docent said, approaching Ivy with a warm smile. “Wendell Castle was a genius.”

“Mmm, yes, I suppose he was.” Ivy returned the smile.

The docent reacted with enthusiasm, “The folds of the sheet are so dramatic-“

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Ivy interrupted, “but I fear I may have just been stood up. I’m, well, not in much of a mood anymore.”

“Ah, I see. I’m sorry.” The docent cast her eyes downward and backed up a bit. “The piece is still lovely and haunting; I implore you not to allow your current situation to spoil that.”

“I won’t, I promise.”

“Did you drop that?” she directed Ivy’s attention to the base of the sculpture.

A white envelope, no bigger than a credit card, materialized on the floor; its edges embossed with a distinctive ivy pattern. Clever. Ivy was slow to react. “Yes, I think maybe I did.” She stooped to collect the envelope and turned furtive from the retreating docent, leery of revealing the contents to witnesses.

A small key dropped into her hands as she pulled a note from the ivied pocket. Frustration bubbled in her heart. Why go through this much trouble to hand me a key? Why the scavenger hunt? She unfolded the message almost afraid of what she would find.

Locker 1625 at the Capitol Hilton Spa. Please be discreet. Contents will help get Mitch home.
Ivy released the breath she held and made for the door. The was little time to waste and traffic along 17th and K wouldn’t be easy to navigate.


  1. I thought this was beautifully done. Urgency and waiting all tied together in a museum, a place dedicated to enshrining the past.

    1. Thanks! I always imagined dead drops and secret exchanges happening in art galleries/museums. Maybe I watch too many movies, but the scene seemed appropriate. Nobody's gonna help Ivy outright so a clandestine scavenger hunt was a logical approach.

      I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  2. So much expectancy here, of the note, of understanding, of art. I thought it captured nicely the often awkward moment of art expert slamming up against non expert.

    1. Thanks! I've been in art galleries before -the Chateau Chantilly just outside of Paris springs to mind- when my purpose for being in a particular room was simply that I was waiting for my friend to catch up. Being polite while impatient was difficult as I listened to the docent, who spoke mostly French, explain a particular portrait I was standing in front of.

      Still life doesn't necessarily work with someone who has a short attention span... :)

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for the love! I'm thrilled you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  5. I'm always impressed when I drop by here. Your writing feels effortless. A natural.

    Stopping by from Write on Edge.

    1. Thanks! That's one of those types of compliments that wraps around me like a warm hug. You've truly made my morning.

      I'm happy you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  6. Okay, I clicked through to the clock, and seriously got chills. That's amazing.

    You are remarkably versatile, Shel. The whole spy/thriller genre suits you well.

    1. Thanks! Isn't that "Ghost Clock" something else? Wendell Castle has some unique pieces but I feel that clock is so haunting.

      Spy/thriller is a difficult genre to write: there's a delicate line between subtle danger and fast action. So with that said, I'm taking your compliment and running to the bank with it. :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  7. I love the mystery going on here! Ghost Clock is a great piece; I'd never seen that one before, but I can see how it inspired you.

    1. Thanks! I love internet searches. I've been led to some remarkable finds, things/places/people I might have never known about otherwise. Ghost Clock is one of those pieces.

      I'm glad you loved your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!