Your whole life you were misdiagnosed as colour blind, when in reality you could see colours no-one else could. You see art differently, the sunset and sunrise differently. A rainbow to you is out of this world. One day you go to visit the Mona Lisa. You see something no-else does…
How could a simple painting perfectly capture the dappling of the sun across flesh? Or the movement of a soul inside of barely restored canvass? A mere artistic rendering, centuries old. The most important painting of the modern world.
I stared longingly at it, that I could one day have a tenth of that. A tenth of the talent. A tenth of the palette, colors stretched betwixt one another.
And that for once, it looked like a painting that was made for me, that represented a hair of what I saw in real life. Where the life lines crossed and spun around her head, the dimples where purple green shadows entwined across her skin.
“Beautiful,” I whispered. Long had I assumed that no art would ever be made for me; the confirmation that this world wasn’t built to be perceived. How lonely. How entangled. How entrapping.
“Shhhhhh,” The Mona Lisa said, drawing a finger across her lips. I stared. Entranced. Horrified. Interested. “I already know I’m beautiful.”
A brief hesitation, lips opening, closing, and I took a step closer. Had that really…?
“Must you stare so?” The painting asked.
I took a step back, and her eyes followed my path. The Louvre museum of Paris wasn’t as crowded as I’d expected it to be. Bright slashes of color hung in my vision, entombed in spectacle and protected only by steel accouterments.
“Are you alive?” I whispered.
The painted quirked an eyebrow. “Can you see me?”
I shot a glance around. A guard waited around the corner, his eyes flicking over to me, then back down at his kit.
“Yes?” I hissed.
“Fascinating,” she laughed. “Are you a painter? You have the artist’s eye, after all.”
I’d sketched mostly. There was… When you could see all the colors in the world, and couldn’t find most of them anywhere, it was hard to muster forth the effort to try and capture only a part of it. How could I describe a rainbow when more colors existed in it than were captured by artistic renderings?
“I’d… I’d like to be,” I whispered.
“You’d make a good painter,” The Mona Lisa confirmed.
Dazed, I took another step forward. Holy fucking hell.
“Do you… do you always talk?”
“I do,” The Mona Lisa said. “Few hear me each year. I haven’t had a proper conversation since… oh, Warhol? What a talented man he was, he understood so well what drives the mind’s eye. A shame.”
I swallowed. “Do you get lonely?”
By god I did. Holed up in an apartment, hoping classes might go well, hoping paychecks might clear a bit sooner to nibble away at the shackles holding me.
“No,” The Mona Lisa said. Then she brought her arms up. Gestured around her, trailing elegant fingers five hundred years old. “I have around me the sum and total of the greatest art in all the land, artist,” her smile barely touched her cheeks, but it felt like the heat of the sum. “And this art has me as well.”
“Does it all talk?” I asked.
“Few as directly as I do,” The Mona Lisa demurred, tilting her head. “But does it need to? Look upon me, artist. See that I have outlived my creator eight fold. Is it not that most great of blessings that a simple splash of paint such as I may see the future, be held in greatest regard for the span of human existence?”
I swallowed. “It is great.”
“And I will live longer than that still, cast upon every image that blesses or parodies me. A thousand thousand eyes to see out of, a thousand faces in my image. Me, a mere noblewoman, now a goddess affixed mindlessly to every surface. Immortal.”
“But only I can see you?” I asked.
“All can see me, artist!” She gestured grandly. “Does it matter if they know I live or not? My image will never die so long as the human eye falls upon me! That is the fate of all art, let alone that which thinks. That which is extended far beyond use. I crave endless variety, novelty, which extends far beyond my frame, and here there within I have it! Eternity. I shall see the sun die and star in a thousand thousand plays of free creation.”
Her smile finally touched her face, and I felt as if I could feel it too.
“Just you?” I asked.
“Look around you, artist!” The Mona Lisa smiled. “All art has such a fate. And there is so much art. That one day, a creation of yours might be honored such. Doesn’t that motivate you?”
“There’s not enough pedestals in the world for that,” I returned, slowly. But my mind drifted to the old drawings in my sketch book. Did it yet live with all of the colors I could muster of the world? Did it yet crawl and contort and whisper needily?
Had I ignored it?
“Then you will have to make pedestals,” The Mona Lisa returned. “Look upon all of the shelves of a library and you will see dreams, artist,”
I took a breath and held it. “And of those dreams, how many become the Mona Lisa?”
“Do not seek to surpass me or become me!” The Mona Lisa chided. “I am the greatest work of art there ever will be known.” But her smile twisted slightly. “That will ever be known.”
“That doesn’t mean that greater works of art don’t yet exist,” The Mona Lisa confirmed. “Nor does it mean any artist should give up. You, you who are blessed to see all of the colors of the world, and every artist, you should know that what art craves the most is to be seen- no, what art craves most is to exist. Don’t you feel the tug behind your finger tips, behind your very eyes? My world is sparse in the living art, if only because so much art has failed to be made.”
“And yet there is still so much around you,” I whispered.
“But there could be more,” The Mona Lisa returned. “The world can be beautiful, endless, varied. We all have art inside of us, you understand.”
A brief pause. A hesitation where I looked back at the guard, then up at the painting. “Do you get lonely without someone to talk to me?”
“The great works are never lonely, artist,” The Mona Lisa whispered. “But perhaps, if you want to pay a proper homage to them… create, and create giddily. And maybe I will see your work among those held most exalted. A great race that all art takes place in, that I may play among the stars of your minds.”
“If only I’d make it?” I asked.
“If only you’d make it,” The Mona Lisa said. “Now begone, and stop talking to paintings. Make your own.”
and I left. I had something to do with the stretching screaming hours of the night at last.