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Looks Like a Smash

For the next three days there was no word about Lita. By Sunday night Isabel had lost hope that anyone could help her. She stopped going to Brooklyn, as it seemed pointless to keep crossing the bridge, ringing the bell and waiting for someone to answer. Her disappointment grew, and she began to doubt Eduardo’s claim that he knew everything about what Lita was doing. She considered calling him but she couldn’t bring herself to pick up the phone.

While walking from the hotel to the gallery, she began to stop in at other galleries to look at what other artists were showing in New York. She asked the hotel concierge for information on other art shows and was astounded at what was happening in the city. She visited every museum she could reasonably reach and still she had not seen them all. And the gallery shows! It was like she was discovering another planet. Never had she seen such variety or sheer volume of work. Florence had not been like this. Most of the work there had been old, done centuries ago, or that kind of street art made for the tourists to buy and take home, maybe a few easels with photographic representations of famous Florentine buildings and views. And in Mexico City, there were galleries and art, to be sure, as there were in Puerto Vallarta, but this . . . it was like a great banquet with no end to the table. The farther afield she went, the more galleries there were, the more work to look at, the more possibilities to consider. Much of what she saw looked strange to her, as if these artists were trying hard to find some way to make a statement that would be stand out. But it seemed to Isabel that in the attempt they were simply muddling around with unclear abstractions tied to nothing. She thought about the history she had learned and tried to fit these images into it somewhere. She spoke to some of the gallery directors, picked up brochures with artists statements, tried to understand their ways of reacting to the world. And she began to see her own work outside the context of her small world. She wondered whether it would have any relevance here.

The days before her show was to open, were so packed with things to do at the gallery that Isabel actually stopped obsessing over Lita’s whereabouts for chunks of time. Her thoughts were of her work, the life she had built, the meticulous concentration of effort she had pursued for so many years, and how this was a great chance for her to make a statement beyond her small world, and perhaps out of reach of Señor Sierra Vargas. She felt pulled by some unseen force to perform at her peak, as if something momentous was about to happen and her future depended on her being ready. In a way it was like giving birth, this making art, this showing it to the public, assembling it all in one place – like giving birth to a series of ideas as intangible as a breeze, yet as potentially powerful as a tornado, which was after all, nothing but a great wind stirred up in a small space. At the gallery, everyone was very excited and there was in the air a nervous energy that infected the whole staff. Raymond was in and out, so busy that he and Isabel had no time to talk. Isabel’s attention was completely focused on hanging the show, correcting and polishing her statements about each piece, and helping with placement of every painting. By the time it was ready for the opening, Isabel walked around the gallery as if seeing her work for the first time. These were old friends and yet, in this environment, it was as if she they were looking back at her as strangers meeting her for the first time.

“I think it’s going to be a smash,” said Amanda, who had come up behind Isabel and was looking at the same piece, a large painting of deep blue with specs of silver white that seemed to disappear over an invisible horizon where a streak of gold hinted at some mystery beyond the blue.

“A smash?” asked Isabel. Sometimes English was so confusing.

“A hit,” she said but Isabel still looked confused. “It’s wonderful, inspiring. When I saw the slides I liked some of them, but now . . . seeing the works like this . . . you’re going to do very well with this show. I think the gallery owner wants to talk to you about direct representation.” She patted Isabel’s shoulder and smiled. “I wish I could afford one,” she added. “That one.” She pointed to the blue painting with specks of white and the gold glow at the top. “It’s a beauty.”

Isabel Part 2, Episode Twenty-Nine

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