My book of fictional ekphrases, The New Frontiers Of Conceptual Art, is now available as a digital copy.
It’s inspired by the people I met while working at the gift shop in Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
In case the term is unfamiliar, an ekphrasis is a literary description of or commentary on a work of art. In the case of NFCA, the artists and artworks are fictional but based on real people.
You can read sample pieces and grab your copy here.
Here’s the Facebook event: Portraits of the artists as men.
Winter in Toronto can be non-existent as a soggy laptop, but sometimes it’ll snow dependably and in plenty for many days, long enough to go outside and enjoy it. Michelangelo Anderson Lavoisier stood in his red ski pants and coat and toque at the top of a hill constructed out of snow against a brick wall of a butcher’s shop that sold horse meat. The hill, compacted by upside down garbage can, wore dozens of holes from the garbage can handles that were filled as soon as the first child caught one and tipped over. He was a fat child, Michelangelo, with a pointed, freckled face, red hair, and a slight hint of bow-leggedness. He considered sweets his greatest joy and his favorite snack late at night called for melting sugar in a pot with cream and dried coffee, and maybe a star anise; his grandmother, Estefanía Ramirez Lavoisier, taught him how to use the electric stove when she came to babysit. Michelangelo had climbed onto the hill by the side on a wooden ladder with a rectangular cut of cardboard in his teeth. Down below, a crowd of children paid no attention and formed two halves of a rainbow of winter gear. Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, only the fastest sleds made it past the gap in the audience to the edge of the street.
Scanning the road for cars, not wishing to depend on the onlookers for due notice, Michelangelo waved at a woman in an apartment window before letting gravity engulf him, his hands up front holding the edge of the cardboard to steer. He spun round twice during the first third of the descent, much to his delight, and traveled the rest of the way facing back at the hill, watching the powder he rustled in his wake. He stopped when the soles of his feet thumped and hyperextended against a Hyundai Santa Fe on the other side of the street. A few boys yelled “car!” to be mean though the road was empty. As soon as he’d realized he’d made it, Michelangelo tried to stand and shout with pride but fell from the dagger-like pain burrowing into his ankles; the two nearest children felt a sense of responsibility and carried him like a baby. They struggled with his weight, swaying away from the car then back, determined to hold on and save face amidst their peers. But they grew tired because the snow hadn’t been shoveled in a few days and took the last resort: understanding the SUV as a stretcher and chucking Michelangelo on the windshield to rest and recover.
The patient breathed heavily and squirmed on the car, managing to wave at his emergency medical responders to express his gratitude. It didn’t help his rehab that the windshield was covered in snow and harboured patches of ice that had been given a chance to harden. The thing that helped Michelangelo ignore the toothpick machineguns spraying his feet was the particularly dragon-like effect his breath had on the fine flakes. He ha’d hot air to clear a spot for his cheek and laid it on the frosted glass so that his mouth faced a good foot of accumulated snow ready for melting. He learned to breathe almost right up against the frozen fluff to maximize impact; the water drops seeping into the snow like a flesh-eating virus, like somebody’s bite mark or mold of the upper jaw. Soon enough, Michelangelo had ha’d a semicircle that from above seemed like it seeped out of his skull; together, the two instances of roundness re-enacted the profile of a disproportionate tomato. At the semicircle’s farthest point from its creator, floating in a now refreezing group of droplets, the second coming of Jesus Christ frowned amongst his belongings the day before he was scheduled to make his official return.
He looked just like he did in pictures except cricket-sized and with lower standards, long brown and red locks curled over his bare shoulders, goatee fully connected to an evenly groomed moustache.
He lived in (a once sprawling three bedroom, two bathroom, four foot by one foot icicle of) a mansion on a windshield in Toronto for two reasons. 1) He wouldn’t be paid for another two Thursdays after reporting for the messiah gig, and the rent was cheap. 2) He predicted it would all happen as it did three weeks ago as his first proper go at a miracle on the first episode of the first season of the reality TV ratings smash Jesus does Toronto.
The vested cameramen hovered conspicuously over the Hyundai’s driver’s mirror.
An inflatable Bible pool chair kept Jesus dry. Gathered on it was his wallet, made of hemp, an extra white monogrammed robe identical to the one he wore, a pair of frozen sandals, a bottle of wine marked “water,” a square boxy Tupperware container packed tight with butter tarts, and a thermos of black coffee. His attempts at salvaging heavier items like bed frames and mattresses would have to wait until he acquired an ice pick to dig them out.
While eager passengers screamed, racing down the hill to a safe stop, occasionally veering sideways and bowling into a section of the queue, Jesus cupped his chin in five fingers and caught Michelangelo’s attention. Michelangelo did not hesitate to take Jesus in his left hand for safe examination, soon determining that what he held had to be gummy candy.
“Ahhhhh,” said Michelangelo, torpedoing his gummy person in.
Jesus wouldn’t be almighty until after the induction ceremony the following afternoon; there was no use fighting back.
Nor did he have to. Michelangelo’s family’s limited means had taught him a long time ago that candy that is sucked on is candy that lasts. After one hairy lick, he dropped Jesus, spit, and was carried off by a woman that everyone supposed was his mother.
Jesus changed robes and had a tart.