Last time on Ace Archer: We met Lara Termigant, the artist responsible for the Gaslight painting in the Sunshine Tampon commercial. Visiting Lara in her Massachusetts home, Caryn was astonished to find a painting of her own grandmother!


Chapter Thirteen

“Have you ever heard of Ace Archer?” Caryn asked Lara Termigant.

“Nope,” Lara said. “Is it one of those online poker games?”

“He’s… no. No, he’s not.”

“So… that painting,” Caryn said, pointing to the portrait of her grandmother. “Did you, um, use a model for that?”

“Oh god, no!” Lara laughed. She put one long-nailed hand up to her lips to cover her blush. “I, um, I’m not really comfortable around naked people. Most of the stuff in the orrery is stuff that I do right off my head. She’s just someone I made up.”

Except she isn’t, Caryn thought. She’s my Granne.

“Do you mind if I take some pictures of your gallery?” Caryn asked.

“Orrery, actually,” Lara said. “My gallery is for things that don’t fit into the big picture. Stuff I want to sell or just do for fun.”

Caryn had taken her phone out and took a photo of the painting of her grandmother. Looking closely at it, she noticed that the water Granne was diving into had long shadowy shapes swimming around in it. She had no doubt that they were sharks.

“Now, when you say ‘big picture,’ what exactly do you mean by that?”

Lara smiled and rubbed her hands together with an almost maniacal eagerness. “That is a question that requires tea.”

“Tea is good,” Caryn said, continuing to peruse the mass-media collage that made up Lara Termigant’s orrery. She wished there had been some way of getting Ace himself out here, because there were several pieces that she suspected he might recognize. While Ms. Termigant excused herself to prepare tea, Caryn began snapping photos.

There were three basic types of art hanging in the “orrery,” and that wasn’t counting the potted plants interspersed between the pieces.

By far the most common were landscapes. At first Caryn thought they were some kind of experiment in color, with green skies and black deserts littered with crimson bones. A painting of the Colosseum in its prime, yet lit with disco lights and chrome corbels holding up a shimmery glass velarium. A dusty red canyon lined with hungry angels formed of sandstorms and lightning. There was a certain Roger Dean sensibility to them, but the realism was far beyond any Yes cover.

There were also a lot of retouched photos. Mostly old photos, magazine clippings, the occasional Polaroid… wow, Caryn hadn’t seen a Polaroid in forever. Each of the photos, however, had been painted over in acrylic: a falcon in flight towards a falling woman in a loose white dress, an old man on an island with chromatic energies flowing from his eyes, Burt Ward as Robin with painted Roman senators surrounding him, knives in hand. The photorealism of Termigant’s paintings was absent here; her style was present, but these seemed more like sketches… almost even doodles.

The oddest pieces were… well, what Caryn would have classified as from the school of “found art.” These were the parts of the orrery that seemed the most… orrerish. An iPhone with half of the screen painted white, the other black, was mounted in a frame. A military-style action figure in a cap and blue uniform was mounted on a copper model of the Sears Tower, King Kong-like. A chain made up of different colored handcuffs encircled a Dover paperback copy of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. An old metal top, the kind with a screw-like axis that one pumped to spin it to which several peacock feathers had been glued in a knotwork pattern. A round black piece of felt with the words “ACME PORTABLE HOLE” stenciled on it covered a happy looking plastic sun like a shroud. A human skull with a crack down its forehead like lightning hung in the center of a web of red and gold yarn, each strand tied to a plastic animal toy.

Lara Termigant walked back into the entryway from her kitchen carrying two mismatched mugs of hot tea. She gave Caryn one that said “Don’t Tell Me Pluto’s Not A Planet!” in pink letters on black.

“So why do you call it an orrery?” Caryn asked. “Isn’t that a model of celestial bodies, not a… um… art thing?”

“That’s exactly what it is,” Lara said. “I mean, it’s not complete or anything, but it’s a model of the universe.”

“I’m not sure that I understand what you mean by that,” Caryn said, looking over the artistic eclectica.

Lara sipped at her tea, and Caryn recognized the expression on her face. It was the face Caryn made when she was trying to tell someone something obscure she found fascinating without coming off as a crazy person. It was a look that came up a lot in Caryn’s life, and it actually made her like Lara Termigant even more.

“A lot of the time I just create things. I see something in the world and I want to draw it or paint it or build it out of Legos. I’m really lucky in that the stuff I create is apparently interesting or beautiful enough that I can get paid for making it. That’s my art.”

Caryn nodded.

“But sometimes when I paint something… it’s like I recognize it. Like it’s part of a bigger picture. Like I have a jigsaw piece and I know that it’s part of the puzzle but I lost the box when I moved years ago. So I take those pieces and I keep them separate. The painting of that woman you asked about… after I finished it, I realized it was one of those jigsaw pieces. Except it’s not a jigsaw puzzle. Gah, that was a really crappy metaphor because it’s not like there’s just one right place. It’s more like part of a mosaic. Like a tile, what do they call those?”

“They call them tessera,” Caryn’s fact-checker brain supplied.

“Anyway, one day I decided to stop just putting all those special tesseract paintings aside and see if I could figure out just what picture they were going to make. And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t a mosaic either. Because it wasn’t like these things were making a picture. It was like they were part of a universe. A big universe of art.”

“But you’ve got things like… like jazz musicians and iPhones and action figures along with your paintings. So it’s not just art.” Caryn wondered if that was offensive. “Is it?” she added just in case.

Lara looked at the collection of miscellanea closely, like she was seeing it for the first time.

“Well, it’s all art, I guess,” she said. “Maybe the art is in putting it in the right place. I mean, it’s not like scientists invent science things. They just figure out where the science things that are already there fit in.”

And that was when Caryn Alexander figured out where all of this fit in. Why her grandmother was diving naked into a pool of sharks on a Massachusetts artist’s crazy wall. Why there was a painting of an old man’s gaslight hallucinations across from it. Why Lara Termigant didn’t have the slightest idea why she was putting these things together. This orrery wasn’t a map of the universe as we knew it, Caryn realized.

Lara Termigant was creating a map of the universe according to Ace Archer, Space Pioneer.

ACE ARCHER will continue November 5, 2013…

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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