#190 - "The Painting"

posted Jul 16, 2012, 10:09 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Aug 17, 2012, 10:45 AM ]
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
April – Erick’s friend
Grayson – April’s boyfriend
Rico - a security guard

“It’s a lot bigger in person than I thought it would be,” Erick remarks.

“Is it too big?” Chris asks.

“Does it hurt?” Grayson jokes.

April elbows Grayson in his side.

Erick had read in the LA Weekly about a showing by the Brooklyn-based artist Mickalene Thomas at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. He was vaguely familiar with her and her work from his short time living there, so he coordinated an arting field trip with Chris, April and Grayson to the former rail yard at Bergemot Station for the exhibition.

“This is the piece from the Weekly,” Erick says, transfixed by the vibrant colors, rhinestones and 70s influence that invokes an era he feels a special affinity for despite the fact that he missed more than half of it.

“I like her afro,” Grayson says.

“Of all the things this piece could be about, all you notice is the afro?” April asks.

“You would have gotten mad if I said something about her big lips, so I went with the least offensive of the two,” Grayson explains.

“There’s strength here. And dignity. She holds her head held high and doesn’t take any bullshit from anyone,” Erick states out loud to himself.

“It’s like she’s saying ‘really?’,” April adds.

“According to the brochure, there’s another version of this piece in the show as well,” Chris informs the group, looking around.

“It’s over there,” April states as she walks Erick over to the other version of the painting in which the full face is shown.

“Here it looks like she is saying, ‘really!’ with more exasperation that in the other piece,” Erick surmises after a few moments.

“It’s like ’really?’ in the other piece versus ‘really!’ in this piece,” April piggybacks. “It’s so powerful.”

Chris and Grayson look at one another in confusion. “If it makes you feel better, I just see a black woman with big lips and big hair,” Chris whispers to Grayson.

“Maybe it’s one of those things we often get told we don’t understand,” Grayson whispers back.

“Maybe we can’t understand it.”

“Maybe they don’t want us to understand it.”

“Maybe we don’t really want to understand it.”

“Maybe there isn’t anything to understand. Maybe we all just have to understand that the only thing there is to understand is that the fact that we’re all understanding the same thing but differently.”

“And perhaps from a different perspective.”

“But it’s still an understanding.”

“Or at least an appreciation.”

Chris and Grayson pause for a moment to join Erick and April at the other painting. “My head hurts,” Grayson says.

“Are you okay?” April asks.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“We just got deep there for a moment,” Chris explains.

“Were you guys talking about the painting?” Erick asks.

“Yeah,” Grayson admits. “There’s a lot more to it than we originally thought.”

“I felt the same way when I saw it in the Weekly,” Erick concurs. “I just had to come see it in person.”

“Why don’t you take a picture with it?” April suggests.

“I should,” Erick responds as he walks toward the painting.

“There was a sign posted as we were walking in that prohibits photography,” Grayson admonishes.

“Oh they don’t really enforce that,” April responds.

“Then why are there two security guards posted?” Chris asks.

“Would a place that only accepts donations really pay two security guards to make sure people don’t take pictures of a painting as opposed to making sure those same people don’t actually steal any of them in the first place?” April reasons.

“That’s a good point,” Grayson concedes.

Erick walks over to one of the security guards. “How strict are they about the whole ‘no taking pictures’ thing?”

The security guard smiles faintly. “They’re pretty strict,” he answers.

“Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.”

Erick walks back over to the group. “Essentially, they’re being paid to watch us not take pictures.”

“Now that’s just silly,” April responds.

“Maybe so, but those are the rules,” Grayson replies.

“Then why aren’t those rules posted in the gallery itself?” April asks.

“I think the two security guards are enough of a posting,” Chris chimes in.

“Chris, you strike up a conversation with that guard. Grayson, you strike up a conversation with the other one. Erick, go stand by the painting and I’ll just happen to take a snapshot of you with it in the background. You’ll get your photo and no one will be the wiser,” April plots.

“Lucy, don’t you think those two security guards are onto us? We’ve been standing here talking about everything but the paintings in this gallery for the last five minutes,” Grayson says.

“Then we’ll circle the room for a few minutes, casually talking about some of the other paintings and then execute our plan,” April instructs.

“All this for a picture?” Grayson asks.

April places a light hand on Grayson’s cheek. “It’s not for a picture, honey. It’s for Erick.”

“That’s very sweet, April, but a picture with a painting is not worth whatever the consequences are for taking it in the first place,” Erick states.

April turns around and places a light hand on Erick’s cheek. “Erick dear, what can they possibly do to us over a photo? Besides, a few other people have walked in so it’s not like they can watch all of us at the same time. By the time they figure out what we’ve done, it will have already been done.”

Erick thinks about this for a moment. “In that case…have you seen this landscape piece over here?” Erick says as he walks across the gallery to a living room composition accented in green, clearly also influenced by the 1970s. 

“Yes, and what about this portrait of a lady in a veiled hat? She’s probably on her way to church,” April says as she moseys to another section of the gallery and takes out her cell phone.

Chris and Grayson look at each other and shake their heads. Chris walks over to one of the security guards and motions for Grayson to go talk to the other. Erick slowly makes his way toward the painting and turns around.

The security guard Chris is talking to casually walks over to the security guard Grayson is talking to. Grayson makes his way over to Chris and the two slowly walk out of the gallery just as April turns around and takes a snapshot of Erick.


Chris and Grayson are standing outside when Erick and April are escorted out of the museum a few minutes later.

“Wow, they weren’t kidding,” Grayson comments.

“They banned us from this museum for life!” April exclaims.

“That’s pretty strict,” Chris observes.

“And they took pictures of us!” April adds.

“Weren’t you two supposed to be distracting those guards?” Erick asks.

“We did,” Chris responds with a smirk. “I don’t know what happened.”

Erick shoots a Chris an incredulous look. “I have a feeling that I do.”

“Then we both know something, don’t we?” Chris retorts.

April takes out her cell phone and shows Erick the picture she took. “At least you got the photo you wanted.”

“Absolutely,” Erick says, looking at the photo. “A great shot of my feet and the floor.”