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The Disenchanted Artist – Flash Fiction

May 9, 2016

The Disenchanted Artist

Nina sat at her easel with a triumphant smile upon her face. She’d worked on her painting for weeks, fretting over the color combinations, the movement of her piece, and the contrasts. She was finally ready for the big reveal in class that day.

“Okay, students! Settle down. Let’s form a circle around the presenting artists,” the teacher instructed the students.

Nina stood quietly beside her covered painting. She watched as each of the other five uncovered theirs. There were landscapes, a couple were still-life, and even a portrait. She listened as each artist received ahs and ohs and applauds. She swelled with pride when it came her time to remove the white cloth from her canvas.

Nina’s painting wasn’t anything like the others. She’d studied the techniques of some of the greatest avant-garde painters of the past century. Painters like Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Dali and Bores. She took to heart the best of their techniques and incorporated them into her own work. Her painting was fluid, had movement and depth, but no discernible subject matter. The reaction from her classmates astounded her.

“What is it?”

“It’s a mess!”

“You call that art?”

Even the teacher reacted badly. “You, my dear, are no Picasso!”

Nina was devastated. She removed her painting and left the class. Nina knew that art was in her blood. It had to be. Nothing else gave her purpose. She decided to give up on painting and enrolled in a sculpture course.

Again, Nina studied the techniques of famous sculptors from around the world – Magdalena Abakanowicz, Constantin Brâncuși, Naum Gabo, and Henry Moore. She modeled her own work after theirs, incorporating movement and shape into her piece.

And again, it was time for the big reveal. This time the stakes were raised. One of the classes’ sculptures would be chosen for display on the lawn of the campus. They were given the theme of Unity and Nina was sure her piece fulfilled that theme. She stood by her sculpture, her hand poised on the white cloth. Everyone was to reveal their piece of work at the same time to the room of judges.

“Are we ready?” the professor asked. He waited for the approving nods. “Reveal!”

White cloths flew from the sculptures, many as tall as the room itself, others sprawled out for feet. Nina’s had both height and width. Her sculpture, cast in bronze, was of faceless figures in various shades, hands risen and clasped in unity. Their bodies had only a basic form and were fluid and rich in movement. Nina was proud of her piece.

Nina watched the judges. They were taking an enormous amount of time studying the other pieces, moving around them and cocking their heads. Most of the other sculptures were in classic forms. To Nina, they all looked like cookie-cutter models of Greek or Roman statues. When the judges finally made their way to Nina’s piece, they barely glanced at it. None of them walked around it or cocked their heads in thought.

“It’s too modern for our taste.”

“There’s no form.”

“We prefer a classical theme.”

Nina was again devastated. All she was trying to do was create art that had movement and shape. Nina dropped out of art school.

Over the next few years, Nina continued to create her own type of art. Her father, realizing that his daughter was determined to be an artist and nothing more, built her a small studio in the backyard of the family home. Nina spent all of her time there painting and sculpting. Her father wasn’t particularly fond of his daughter’s work, but he displayed her sculptures and paintings in his law office building.

And then it happened. Her father acquired a new client, an art critic from New York. The critic came to the modest office building and stood in the lobby, his eyes wide and his mouth agape. He was in awe of what he saw displayed everywhere before him.

“Where do you buy your art?” he asked Nina’s father.

“Oh this stuff? It’s my daughter’s work. Why, do you like it?”

“It’s magnificent! I must meet her!”

And this is how Nina became the talk of the art world. Her work was not ugly ducklings as she had been led to believe. She’d created swans.

©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.

(720 Words)


Each day in May, I will be participating in the StoryADay in May. Here is today’s prompt:

Via Julie – Write a story based on the Ugly Duckling structure

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9 Comments
  1. A good take on the prompt, Lori 🙂

  2. All of which goes to demonstrate that beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.
    Great story, Lori; smashing ending.

  3. juliathorley permalink

    Go, Nina! Lovely tale, Lori.

  4. This was so wonderful. I have a little tear in my eye! Go Nina!

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