Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both
No one knew who I was. Perfect anonymity. And still, I was nervous. How couldn’t I be? They were all here to see my work, my art. They were going to tear it apart within earshot. They were going to pick out every simplistic detail, every poor color choice, every theme unexploited.
I pulled down the hem of my short black dress. It wasn’t unlike what most of the ladies in the room wore, a cocktail frock, but my thick thighs made me self-conscious. Like I needed anything else tonight.
“A drink?” a female voice asked. I squeaked as I jumped into the air. Cringing as every eye suddenly turned to me, I snatched a flute from her tray and took a gulp. The white wine burned down my throat and my face flushed, but at least I had an excuse with the alcohol.
“Excuse me. Are you here with anyone?” The male voice was much softer than the female and I didn’t jump as badly, though my wine did bounce in the glass.
“Pardon me,” I said, steadying myself on his arm. Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that I was no one. I was just another guest at the unveiling. “No, I’m free.” I frowned at the expression. Did I sound too eager?
“Good, so am I. I know several people here and know exactly what they are going to say. You, I don’t know. Walk with me?” The longer he talked, the more I picked up on his accent. Although his English was very good, I had the impression it wasn’t his first language.
“Uh, I...I’m not much of an art critic.”
“Bah,” he scoffed. “Everyone has some taste, even if it is very poor.”
My back straightened, thinking he was commenting on my paintings.
“For instance, do you like that one?” He pointed to Autumn. The leaves shone and the tree was reduced and bare.
“Yes. It makes me think of independence, standing alone.”
The man, who I still didn’t have a name for, nodded. “Indeed, and a certain disrespect for the parent. Leaving them to the crows.”
My mouth hung open. I hadn’t meant to imply that. “I-I thought the parent was stepping back for the sake of the child.”
He held his chin for a moment. “I didn’t see that. I do see a solid separation of the two.”
I nodded, feeling a little less off-kilter. “Yes. The child isn’t content in the shadow of the parent.”
“Ah, and so the parent is reduced, casting less of a shadow. A shame Evans didn’t include a shadow to emphasize that. I appreciate your inside, Miss.”
“Toni,” I answered, giving my first name. “And you are?”
“The artist is Toni.” He narrowed blue eyes, watching me closely. “I am Bernard,” he answered, not giving his second name either.
I gasped all the same. “Minsk? Bernard Minsk?” He had been known to launch many artists through his purchases and endorsements.
“Yes, Miss Evans, but I think we’ll just be Toni and Bernie a bit longer, yes?” He took my hand and laid it on my arm, leading me to the next painting. While he regarded it, I heard the comments from others, wincing when someone was particularly acerbic in their critique.
“You mustn’t listen.” I turned my head and my nose nearly touched Bernard’s. “They will only discourage you. This isn’t your best work, but I can see it, just beyond. In another year, maybe two, you will be producing even finer.” He patted my hand on his arm. “Don’t listen. Only look with me. See the beauty in what you have created.”
Looking at my art through Bernard’s eyes, I could see more, beyond. His praise and constructive criticisms inspired me. So much so, that I couldn’t wait.
“Will you excuse me?” I asked, pulling away to head for the door.
“Wait! You can’t leave your own unveiling!” His voice carried through the room and all eyes turned to me.
“I have to get started on the next one,” I explained with a smile.
Bernard’s wink was just one more thing to send me running to the canvas.
Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com