My father was Charles Aldritch, a world-famous sculptor and a leader of the Neo-Baroque movement. My mother was Iphigenia Sage, a struggling painter who was gracefully saved when she met my father back in 1946. They named me Veralyn, derived from the Latin word for truth, verus.
I inherited a cornucopia of my family's greatest treasures, namely my father's manor, and the various sculptures he kept secret during his lifetime. I am constantly asked to sell these works to a museum at a high price, but I always refuse: “Great familial works must remain great family treasures.” They always nod their heads and assure me of my great service to art.
I host an art gallery on the bottom floor of the manor, where I collect a variety of artistic masterpieces from the greats and arrange for private viewings that could be afforded only by those who are just as dedicated as I to the beauty of art. Lowbrow folk, no matter how pretentious the type, would never be admitted into my gallery.
I walk down the stairs to meet my event coordinator, Blanche. I have a coordinator to give off the illusion that I'm busier than I really am, otherwise my reputation would plummet.
“Blanche, have the four families confirmed their arrival?”
“Yes, Ms. Sage. The Lambert family may arrive later than expected, but their chauffeur is trying his best.”
“Wonderful. I'll be down here when the bell tolls.” I smile and head back upstairs.
With the door closed, I scramble and put away the various things scattered in my bedroom in the Chamroeun Chamber. The bell should ring any second now—and there it is! I begin walking back downstairs and beckon Blanche to open the towering lobby doors.
“Welcome, welcome! May I please heartily welcome you all to the Aldritch Gallery? I'm Vera—do let me make your acquaintance…” I welcome boldly to the crowd. I greet each of them individually while they chit-chat in anticipation of meeting the Aldritch daughter. Sonne Eltz. Rudolph, Phillip, Anna, and Johanna. Jean de Roumont. Louise, Gaspard, Evelyn, and Hubert. Thomas Calverton. Dudley, Francis, and Marianne. Chichester Fairstone. Hugh, Andrew, John, and Emily. I really may forget these names by the time our tour comes to a close.
“Hello, hello! Now that I've had the pleasure of meeting you all, let's commence our tour through the gallery! We may take about four hours to move through its entirety, so please bear my conceit and lauding for the time being.” The crowd laughs, but none of them would understand the irony soaking my words. I lead them into the first room, where I hang the older work.
“Oh… my,” one of the frizzy boys gasps in astonishment after laying his eyes on a Donizetti.
“Flowers for a Tiring Maiden, or fiori per una fanciulla faticosa! A moving piece composed by a master in acrylic facture, I proudly hang one among Donizetti's greatest works, which I acquired at an auction not so long ago for a price of 7 million pounds. As you can see here, the nacreous coloring contrasting a balzarine-donning Lady Giulia herself with the flowers bring presented to her detailed Donizetti's fruitless romanticism, a painful, reckless journey through love's charmeuse. Adorable, isn't it?”
I lead them through the first section of the gallery with lame quotes just like that, their eyes fixed in intrigue to the ancient art before them. This is, now, where my fun begins. I was about sixteen years old when my father passed away, leaving me parentless during a very crucial period during my life. I strongly insisted against having a legal guardian and was able to live the life I have today because of that decision; much of the wealth I inherited from my family went into establishing my reputation as an renowned art collector by buying and selling works created by famous artists, and my being the daughter of Charles Aldritch helped in cementing that reputation.
But I am not quite who I make myself out to be.
I excitedly call out, bringing my crowd closer into the heart of the gallery. We walk through the purple drapes and enter the Visser Archive, named after a wealthy donor who funded a sizeable portion of the art adorned along the walls, and electrified whispering fills the atmosphere. I can't help but smile widely—our show is only just about to start.
“Lady Sage,” Emily innocently asks. “Would this be the famed Kashani's Brotterdale?”
Yes, yes! Oh, yes. You're indeed gazing upon Brotterdale, Emily! Tell me… what do you see? The themes? The facture? The embroidery? I press her enthusiastically, and curiosity suddenly screens over the room.
“I suppose Kashani's message here is that which pertains to the disruption of nature's saturation,” Emily replies stiltedly. “The trees here look less distinguished than the boy's outstretched hands… and the execution is just so powerful. The contrast is daunting in the symbolic sense.”
An old man pipes up. “I applaud your eye for true selection. I mean no ill-will toward the likes of van der Lucht, Beauchamp et al, but the famed classical virtuosos hardly compare to these forgotten figures. I see Beauchamp's technique and am taken aback, but I look at a Caillier and am immediately filled with a pang of confusion, longing, and desire. This is art qua art.”
I stifle a laugh.
“Toward my grace,” I reply. “It would be an inchoate legacy's disingenuity speaking had I felt anything but the same.”
I can barely take it anymore; I hold in my laughter for a thought-forgone moment and burst out in hysterics, tumbling around in a high-heeled spectacle. Some among my crowd ask me if I'm okay.
“This. This right here,” I puff my cheeks to hold in the laughter. “Look at Cupid's wide-open mouth.” I point at a Berlioz sculpture across the room. Giggling ensues.
Tut, tut. Let me explain. This entire gallery is a farce. Louise de Gaspard is intently gazing upon Malboud's Fire and a Golden Lapel. I painted that three years ago in the Chamroeun Chamber. One of the Calvertons (who knows which one?) found himself at the Vermundi Fountain, something I sculpted about a year ago. Andrew Fairstone? He's discussing de Muñoz's Lerpagutti with an Eltz elder. And the oh-so-silly story behind this crowd is that they had all taken interest in visiting my gallery after a trip to the Goethe family gallery, where they hang the famed Niemann piece Der Zorn Gottes in a gilded frame. Except Der Zorn Gottes was never a Niemann work—it's my own, and I sold it to the Goethes for thirty million dollars.
I am an art forger. Somehow dabbling in these affairs is considered criminal, but selling art for its name, creating an economy surrounding it, and bragging about your collection is absolutely legal. This world we live in is completely backwards; creativity is provided its merit by the appraisal of an extremely unartistic group of people. They're all the same: spoiled shells of people throwing around their money to attain status in a world that had only ever been about the struggle of self-expression. How contradictory!
Truth be told, my mission here will seem unclear to our naked imagination, but I am aware, at the very least, that whatever it may be and wherever that leads me is a product of these perfect circumstances I have been born into. I think that if I had not taken advantage of the things I had been given, I would be leading an extremely boring life with a boring set of friends and a boring set of ambitions. Being an artist in this day and age may just be the most inane thing you could possibly get into.
What do I have to express? Where are the feelings that I can recycle onto empty canvasses? How do I move a paintbrush with romantic passion? Art is just incredibly boring. You see the same feelings, the same thoughts, and the same ideas being reused day by day to make different pieces in the same media that have always existed. I can write entire diaries, paint million-dollar portraits, sculpt works that hang in museums, so where is the value in all of that? Painting, dancing, sculpting, filming, and writing… isn't anyone else as bored as I am with all of this?
I think true art comes through pushing things forward: it isn't my ability to make art that sells well—who cares?—from which I declare myself to be an artist, but instead my ability to forge, mimic, cheat, deceive, balance, fake, hide, and laugh that makes me an artist. I only truly prize the new, the daring, and the avant-garde.
But even then, my self-tolerance, in the light of an Artist, runs dry by the minute. I must create something new. Dear reader, I may not yet be free of my shackles, but I will dare try entertain you with the novelty I myself never received. I will color my grey world with pigments it has never seen before.
Overture: La munda fabricada op. 22
“Come Herme, and let louche wings touch as naucified harlots do.”
“Hey. Hey, you.”
I walk into a compartment housing a couple, my finger pointing at the woman lounging in her fur coat. I open my suitcase and lay it down on the table, exposing my delicate paraphernalia to the man sitting next to her. Are they married? I unearth Guertena's Dama en la roja from the pile and push it in the lady's face, who still, somehow, hasn't reacted to any of this.
“Hey. Hey, you.”
I walk into a compartment housing a couple, my finger pointing at the woman lounging in her fur coat. I open my suitcase and lay it down on the table, exposing my delicate paraphernalia to the man sitting next to her. Are they married? I remove Guertena's Dama en la roja from the pile and push it in the lady's face, who still, somehow, hasn't reacted to any of this.
Like twos in four:
The Lady in Fur What's wrong with you?
Me, Veralyn What's the matter, sweetheart?
The Lady in Fur Get out!
Veralyn, as Aldritch And miss the baboon's mark for quarter of a million?
She looks at me curiously! And, of course…
The Lady in Fur What do you mean?
Veralyn, as Sage Oh, madame! The irvine spring has emptied its basin today for your fortune. Look right over here.
I point to the portrait on your left. The Lady in Fur A picture of you?
Me Oh, no, no. I wouldn't dare let myself be painted on acrylic. Are you an artist?
The Lady in Fur No, I'm afraid not.
And I say:
Me Oh, but of course! This is—and italicize this—Dama en la roja.
And the crippling sod next to her says:
Nasty thing Are you serious?
Me Wonderful to make your acquaintance, monsieur. I'm Vera Sage Aldritch.
I vigorously shake his hand. To my fortune, he goes: Kind man And relieved, I would say…
Me Yes! Like twos in four, threes spoil the floor.