Imagine an art collector. But this art collector, all of a sudden, is the bad guy. Because he sneaks into Rothko’s Chapel in the pitch black of the night, stealing one of the fourteen murals on the wall. Or, actually, he steals all of them. He has big hands.
            So Mister Art Collector arrives at his evil lair, which is just a home for a modernist, and gently places one of the fourteen pieces in his bedroom; the rest are hung throughout the house. When he gets up at sunrise every morning, the morning light pierces through the window and illuminates the large, black-ish painting at the foot of his bed (instead of a TV at the foot of his bed, like a normal American human being, he has this piece of work). And the art collector thinks to himself, “wow!” Maybe he has a religious experience too, right before his morning coffee. Rothko’s work pierced his little heart. I don’t know. But, as you can guess, the Chapel is not happy at all. They are displeased.
            The Chapel panics. “Where are the paintings?” they ask, just like the guests who visit the Chapel and stare at the black pieces, thinking, “Where are the paintings?” (Hah hah hah the irony strikes the Chapel now!) They’re all in a whole flustered situation. “Jee whiz,” the Chapel thinks, and they decide, almost as if they had an epiphany, “well these are all just super easy pieces of modern art—we can just print out some more.” And everyone breathes a sigh of relief; luckily modern art is easy art, they all think.
            So the director of the Chapel goes home and says hi to his wife. “Hello,” she says back, and notices what he’s doing. “Why are you taking those eggs from the fridge, honey?” she asks. He says, “well I heard that Rothko used eggshells or eggs or something like that in his paint,” and she responds, “What??” And the director says, “nobody can know about this, because there has been a big scandal, so we have to be a bit secretive,” and his wife says, “am I a part of this?” and he says, “you are now! You’re my accomplice!” Nobody really knows what he means.
            The director throws the eggs into his HP Color LaserJet MFP M281fdw (oh GOD just go to the print shop!) before pressing “print,” and the printer, through some miraculous divine intervention, does not jam. “Reeeee!” screams the printer. And out come, I dunno, 255 pieces of eggy black paper. The director's wife gags. The director staples the papers all together, so that now he has fourteen giant large black sheets. “Just like a Rothko painting,” he thinks, smiling, enchanted.  
            And so people visit the Chapel, staring at the eggy pieces of 8.5x11 papers. In fact, somehow, an impossible sunlight strikes the paintings, and all the guests think “wow!” Some of them have a religious experience, too. They don’t notice the staples at all! And the Chapel lives happily ever after, but that’s not the point.
             Every morning, the art collector sits looking at his paintings and paces around his house. He gets bored. Some mornings, he wakes up and stares, waiting for God to open his heart, or waiting for some type of ineffable communication with Rothko’s artistic intention. But nothing comes. The morning sun comes through the same window every morning, each time at a slightly different angle, but the paintings have lost their magic. The collector’s home is now disenchanted. 
            And then, just like the Chapel, the collector has an epiphany. “What if I make the paintings even better,” he thinks. “Yes, yes, that is what I will do.” And so the collector, not really an artist himself, takes a crayon (yes, a fucking crayon), and draws on the painting. 
You should be cringing right now. Because the collector drew, with his clumsy big hands, an apple. Or an orange. I’m not sure, because it was a deformed circle, really. But the collector was happy—he drew a circle and called it an apple (I prefer to think of it as an orange). And through this, he had his own artistic intention to communicate; he felt part of the profound community that has something meaningful to express.
That feeling was addicting, so he scribbled on all of the paintings. With a villainous laugh, he cried, “yes! Yes!” and felt understood, if only to himself.
I will skip to the ending now. Surrounded by shitty paintings, the collector decided, “I must burn these.” So he burned them. He burned them and internalized that artistic impulse; he no longer required a canvas; he no longer cared about the purity of an art piece; he just lived his life as if he were always painting, feeling understood, if only to himself.
I think this is some form of enlightenment, and so the collector emerged from his lair, only to be swarmed by the cops, handcuffed (this was difficult because he had big hands), and taken to prison. And the cops saw the ashes of the canvasses and thought, “well shoot, this is all pointless!” 
In prison, the collector made friends, who asked him, “what are you in for?” The collector, equanimous in his cell and probably eating mashed potatoes or something, replied, “making art.” He paused. “But now, here, I get to share it with others.” His friends scratched their heads, and nobody, like the director, really knows what he means.


I sent this to my brother and he said he needed to do a closer reading. I assume that means that I was not so clear. So I will tell the story again, except this time, maybe the story will be clearer.

There was once a man called the Patriarch. And God spoke to this Patriarch. The Patriarch said, “here I am.” God said, “sacrifice your son, whom you love.” So the Patriarch said “Sounds good to me,” and walked up a mountain to sacrifice his son. And just as the Patriarch was about to cut his kid up, his hand was stopped— “Lay not thine hand upon thine lad!” said God. “Alrighty!” said the Patriarch.
 So, the Patriarch went home. It’s not really the satisfactory and horrible ending we were all secretly prepared for. As a story, it’s kind-of a letdown, and it just confuses everyone who tries to make sense of it. But the Patriarch spread his seed among the nations. Or, among the pages, because now we all know his story.


            I’m not sure that helped out. I’ll admit that it complicated the story that I thought I was telling. So, I will tell the story again.

A mother and her daughter lived on a plot of land in the countryside. The mother was widowed. Her husband died from consumption in the mines, which was unfortunate. I hear we can treat it these days. And I’ve heard that the husband was very loving. In fact, when he was not in the mines, he cultivated wildflowers on the plot of land. And it was a large plot of land: the most beautiful around. The neighbors would come to the property to stroll among the flowers, and some would take a few flowers home. The husband would also pick a few flowers and would give them to his daughter. The daughter would arrange the flowers, giving the arrangement to her mother. In this way, the home grew to be an intimate and beautiful home, with flowers of every color in each room. It was completely vibrant and lively. But now the father had passed. His memory remains in the flowers that bloom each year.
            Now, as the mother was getting old, her hands collecting soft wrinkles, it was the daughter’s turn to care for the mother. The mother was put out of work, you see, and the countryside lost its viability as farms were laid to fallow. The town began to empty, as neighbors left and became urbanite strangers, restarting their lives in cities far away, while the mining company that the father had worked for began to buy up their land. But the daughter stayed to care for her mother, holding her hands tightly. She maintained the life on the idyllic plot of land the best she could, though times were changing. She held her mother’s hands firm, steadying them. The mother completely trusted her daughter.
            The daughter, by trade, was a florist, and the fallowing of some of the flower fields nearby spelled financial trouble. So, the daughter would wake up at sunrise each day and walk through the field where her father once picked flowers for her, immersed in the crisp morning air, and refreshed by the sweet, wild smells of the springtime bloom. And her heart swelled, too, alone in the field, for her father’s presence seemed tangible. When the morning sun rose and the air became heavier, the daughter began her work, picking some flowers for arrangement. At noon, the daughter entered into the shade of her home, where she made lunch for her mother and began to arrange the flowers. The mother cried at the daughter’s work, with a nostalgic smile on her face. And in the afternoon, the daughter left for the local markets to sell them. Sometimes her flowers were even shipped to the cities, where old neighbors purchased reminders of their old memories. In this way, the daughter lived a happy and successful life in the spring, where she could provide for her mother while maintaining her job as a florist. In this way, she could hold her mother’s hands steady, looking her straight in the eyes, saying, “I will always take care of you.”
            But in the fall and winter, the daughter had no flowers to pick. Nor, really, did anyone in the fields around her. Her job as a florist always fell flat during these seasons, and although she had saved up her earnings to try and make it through the winter, the spring growing season this year ended early, cutting into her savings more than usual. And worse yet, climatologist made predictions that the growing season would shrink each year, or that there were better plots of land for flowers further north. Flowers were a decadent luxury too, they thought, and she might be better off finding a more utilitarian job in the city. They told the daughter, “You might have to migrate with the rest of your town.” But the daughter refused, promising to take care of her mother.
            So, the daughter soon ran out of money, pockets empty. She walked out to the field every morning, and although she could stroll through the tall grass, no flowers bloomed. She was still immersed in that crisp morning air, with the most beautiful plot in the countryside, smelling the open expansive wilderness, remembering her father in her heart. But she had little to do, so she just walked back into her home to cook food for her mother. 
            In the next few weeks, daughter soon ran out of food, and had to go to the market to make her living. First, she sold some of her old clothes, and then some of her mother’s old clothes, and then, in desperation, for memory is valuable, she sold her father’s old clothes. The mother and daughter survived for a couple more weeks, but still would not be able to persist through the winter. Yet, the daughter continued to still the mother’s hands, maintaining her promise.
            One morning, as the daughter took her sunrise walk, a woman in a business suit stood on the field, approaching the daughter. “Hello!” she shouted, while waving her briefcase back and forth. “Hello!” the daughter shouted, continuing on her path towards the house, but with a listening curiosity. The daughter walked up on the porch, sat on a swinging chair, and the woman followed. “Excuse me,” she said, “I’m with the local mines. You know them. Your father worked under me. It’s too bad to hear what happened to him,” and the woman, looking at the tall grass in the flowerbed right on the porch, picked one and offered it to the daughter. The daughter leaned back in the swing and took in a shallow breath, reluctantly accepting the gesture. She scanned the field, looking around.
            “But you see,” the woman continued, “you have one of the most beautiful plots of land in this entire countryside. The acreage is fantastic. And, no doubt, with some prospecting, we could prove it to be an incredibly valuable plot of land too. Surely you would be willing to part with some of it.”
            The daughter’s hands began to shake. She stood up, leaning on the railing that bounded the porch, looking around. The woman stood up too, leaning on the railing right next to her. “There is not much of a future left here for me and my mother. But we must do what we can to maintain it.” The woman nodded, understanding. The daughter continues, sighing. “My hands are forced. I will give you some of the more remote acreage, but please take care of it while you can.” The woman nods. The mother trusts the daughter, although it breaks her heart. And with the mother’s forgiveness, there is food for the winter.
            The next winter, the woman returns. “I have made sure to take care of your land. Our prospecting is still in the maze of paperwork. So, you have not seen our men work your old land. It continues to be pristine. But, if you’ll permit me, I am wondering if you would sell more of your acreage.”
            The daughter, caught up in the grass in the field, accepts the offer again. With her mother’s forgiveness, there is food for the winter. The daughter can care for her mother one year longer. But the mother's memory starts to fragment.
            For five years, this cycle repeats itself, until the daughter sells all of the land. The prospecting has begun and is successful. The daughter’s memory of her father is buried underneath the smell of mining machinery. She no longer takes morning walks in the crisp morning air. But she continues to care for her mother, in a home surrounded by industry. “Thank you for caring for me,” her mother says. Her mother begins to tell her stories about her father.
            “Do you remember when you were so little, oh you were so little, when your father cared for you in the way you care for me now?” the mother asked. And the daughter knew what was coming, so the daughter complained, “mother you always tell this story! I know what happens, I can tell it faster than you can.” The mother smiled. “It doesn’t matter how well you know the story—it’s what happens in the telling that matters. The telling never gets old, even if the story does.” The mother continued.
“Do you remember when you were up late at night, sick with a horrible cold? You woke the both of us up with your cough! And while I stayed in bed, your father took you out onto the porch in at night—do you remember this?—your father took you out onto the porch and sat you down on the swinging chair and sang you mining songs. He sang you those sing-song tunes—oh they’re so inappropriate these days!—that he and his friends would sing in the mines. He had you sitting there in his arms, staring up at the night sky. He stayed up with you all night, and you were coughing, coughing, coughing. He hoped that if he held you tight enough, then he’d squeeze the sick right out of you. And he tried, wrapping you up in so many blankets that you could’ve been strangled, but it only made you comfortable! So he held you all night in his arms, swinging slowly, right up towards the stars, in the face of oblivion. And to be completely sure, we really didn’t know if you’d get better. We really didn’t, because you had that cough for so long. And it got bad, you know. But your father continued to stay up with you each and every night. He continued to stay up with you as long as you had that cough, and even after it went away, swinging up with you towards those stars. And slowly, while you were just a pile of blankets held in his arms, you got better. I mean you’re here, right?  Now if only he could see you swinging up towards the stars these days…” she said. The daughter nodded. Soon, the mother passed away.
By now, the daughter needed to get a more utilitarian job in the city. City lights replaced stars. Concrete replaced flowers. The daughter moved next to her old neighbors and became an accountant. But now, no one in the city had flowers from her fields. The daughter, too, had her stories but nowhere to place them. Yet, her father’s presence grew bright in her heart, and the daughter hoped to embody this memory for those around her.  

Back to Top