You’re sitting there with your muse and your muse is telling you something and you’re following it, and you end up the next day looking at it and thinking, ‘What the hell was the muse saying to me?’ – Nathan Oliveira (Artist)
“The real comic muse is the one under whose laughing mask tears roll down.”
– Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs, (Author)
Not always, but often, my muse arises from the inside-out, and from this place inside – wherever it is rooted, be it the head or the heart – from time to time, the whimsical, the weird and the humorous ascend unbidden from their crawlspace. Conversely, when working from the outside-in, we are inspired by the tangible; be it a luscious dish of fruit, the face of a stranger, a landscape or even a concept, the muse exists as a thing already, complete in its form, with its raison d’être … And wherever or however the muse originates, we take its hand and run with it. And so, it was with Señor H.D.
We met on a narrow side-street in Nerja, Spain, beneath a bright and burning sun, off the beaten path of restaurants and tourists. Clothes hung quietly from balconies to dry, the air hummed softly with the gossip of neighbours; it was just a normal residential day, with children dressed in their Sunday best and a red ball bouncing over the cobblestones. So, who knew passion tapped its foot, waiting, as sometimes passion does?
But that’s life, isn’t it? It’s all about the crossing of paths.
Meandering along as a group of friends, we turned a corner and there he was – the love of my moment! He was standing on a table – an appropriate place for his kind, and he was among good company: a gang of Pez Heads gleaming in their suits of reds, blues and yellows, bobble heads of only the highest class, a few respectable dinosaurs, action figures bulging with promise, and, of course, the omnipresent teddy bears, a bit worn for wear with a life’s job well done … the crème de la crème. Here stood an array of a little boy’s collection baking in the sunlight, a tale of love discarded, of toys outgrown. Yet, among a crowd of even that caliber, Señor H.D., shone like an angel – with his fancy costume, that sexy hat, those crazy legs, and that smile (boding of an adventurous future) – well, the long and short of it was: I had to have him. And for a euro handed to a little hand, H. D. was mine. … As we sauntered away, it was Marion who noticed the peculiar compartmental crease in his face: That’s got to be there for a reason, no? Indeed, facial creases are never for nothing, thus, back we tracked to the table where the little boy explained, “Well, you see, if you scrunch his legs up into his chest, he opens his mouth.” He tried with all his might to demonstrate, and then, giving up, he sighed, “…But he doesn’t work so well anymore.” Indeed, scrunching one’s legs into one’s chest would open anyone’s mouth, but H. D. had retired from this monkey trick; his face had grown stiff with time. His raison d’être – designed to entertain the innocently masochistic minds of children with his expressions of pain – had finally shifted. Slipping him gently into my purse, I promised him a new life. … One day.
Sometimes muses sit around for a while – even years – doing nothing, but in this case, although a quiet fellow, H. D. begged attention. On returning him “home” to my goat shed studio in the mountain village of Competa, I set him safely upon a rough wooden shelf next to my laptop and every morning, rain or shine, he greeted me with his renegade smile, as though bursting with the excitement of a new life and all the trouble it could throw his way. This was not a fellow who would fall from a wall, spilling his yolk among shattered shell. After years in hiding, it was his time to shine and suicidal thoughts were the furthest from his mind. As a woman, I must say that nothing inspires like a confident man with a joie de vivre … thus, one day, in the warm light of a day near done, with a palette of love, I painted him.
… H.D. liked his portrait, I think, although he may have preferred, as do we all, that I’d blurred his creases or rendered him thinner – but, he is an egg, after all, not a string bean, and a good egg he is. Now, many months later, he sits on a shelf in my kitchen and from his place above my stove, he watches me cook. No doubt, omelettes are a source of some discomfort, but, for the most part, although he’s no longer the apple of my eye (again, he’s an egg) he seems content to be what he is, The Man of the House, habitually reading the morning news, and watching sitcoms at night. … But that’s the nature of passion, isn’t it? Being unsustainable it must evolve, eventually, into something else: something quieter, something softer, something that smiles rather than roars. That’s not to say he no longer inspires me. One day, yet, he may climb the sixteen steps to my studio and posing himself on the windowsill, where the sunlight casts him in the most flattering way, he’ll tip his hat, wink, blink and blow me a kiss … and then, we will begin all over again.
… Such is the power of the muse.