A story is not always the truth
Señor Sierra Vargas excused himself and Isabel from the reporter. “Just for a few moments,” he said. He led her to the back of the gallery, his voice low, his eyes narrowed, and he stood so close to her that she could feel the heat of his breath on her neck.
“Remember, Isabella mine, this show is supposed to put you in a new category as an artist. Be smart. Don’t talk so much about the art and the paintings and the other artists. I know you. You will make statements that confuse people. You must let me handle the interviews. We are building a reputation for you, making you an icon. That’s what sells paintings. Nobody cares about great art. They care that Van Gogh cut off his ear. That sells paintings. They want a story to tell. So keep your mind on what you are saying.” He took hold of her arm at the elbow. “Do you understand me?”
“I have always understood you, Señor. From the very first time I saw you. And I understand you now,” Isabel said in a low voice. The ring that once represented riches to her now looked cheap and flashy. But her tone was lost on the man as he led her back to the reporter.
“I found Isabel, a child living in abject squalor. She had no food and she was dirty from scrabbling in the streets,” he told the reporter. “Write about that, young man. And tell the people how even then she had a great talent that I could see. She made drawings in the dirt and went down to the beach and made paintings in the sand, using crushed berry juices for color. I took her into the church and together we prayed and God told us that she had a destiny. Tell the people that, young man.”
The reporter looked from Señor Sierra Vargas to Isabel. Isabel stared at the ground.
“Do you doubt what I tell you?” Señor Sierra Vargas asked the reporter.
“No Señor. Only … ” He stopped, remembering that Señor Sierra Vargas owned a sizable share of the newspaper both here and in Mexico City, and that his editor had told him to listen to Señor Sierra Vargas who had rich and powerful friends. So he finished his sentence, “only I was asking questions about the art itself. Of course I will write the story of how it all began.”
“Good, very good,” Señor Sierra Vargas patted him on the shoulder. “She has been well prepared to take her place among the greats. And so she will. But the story of her humble beginnings and her struggles is of interest to the people. Don’t you agree?”
“Of course,” said the reporter. “The way you discovered her is a great story.”
“Then I will leave you to tell it,” he said and walked to the back of the gallery where Elena was hanging another painting. This one was all golden, with ripples as if a silken fabric had been laid across the canvas, but it was an illusion of painterly technique that perfectly illustrated what Isabel had told the reporter. In looking at the painting, one saw water but one also saw the ghosts of trees and the forms of mountains. It was impossible to say for sure if this was a painting of something or of nothing, of a time of day or a state of mind. Its effect was a timeless dance in a weightless season. And, although Señor Sierra Vargas seemed a man of base interests, still he had stumbled onto something of rare quality in Isabel and he had recognized it from the very first time he saw her with her paintings.