The story of a an eccentric sculptor and the secrets he left behind.
The distinguished looking man in the burgundy jacket checked his pocket watch one more time. Then after a disappointed sigh and a guarded yawn, the museum docent returned to his work of watching gawkers and strollers as they made their way through the sculptures in the Remington Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art. Five days a week, noon to five, he endured the boredom. When he first began, it was the art that fascinated him. But through the years, the paintings became but pictures on the Navajo white walls and the sculpture but pieces of furniture. Nowadays it was the living sculpture that had become his fascination, the endless parade of uniquely created souls made of flesh and blood, circumstance and time.
Take the red-haired school boy nearly lost from his third grade class. What was the motivation for this little guy’s lagging behind? Disinterest? No. More likely he was one of those rare few that are born with that aesthetic instinct that can feel the breathing soul that lives within a work of art. Yes, this boy has the eyes that can see soul that the artist leaves behind. This young one does not know it yet, but his life will be haunted by the art.
Or take the grey-haired lady in her blue, flower print dress. She comes here every day at half past one. She gazes at the same sculptures day after day. To each work of bronze, to each block of stone, she gives a share of her lifetime. She pauses; she ponders; she seems to pray. Then she moves on. The docent many months ago came to imagine that she was a retired art teacher, a widow of an artist and the mother of children who had been long gone away and chpose never to write home. For her, these sculptures were dusty, dear friends who waited each day for her coming.
Young or old, they walked their winding paths among these frozen bits of the human experience. The Bronze Cube, balancing on its corner, or The Multi-Colored Stairway to Nowhere, or The Marble Ballerinas in Lesbian Love with Each Other, they all received their momentary gaze. But the one statue that caused almost all to linger was of a bent, old man leaning on his crooked wood cane. He wore a too long duster over too short trousers and in his free hand he holds a frayed, straw hat. He craggy face is framed by full shock of wavy, uncombed hair and a thick full length beard. His eyes have the look of weary wisdom and his face, the remains of a hard life filled with pain.
At his feet are etched the words, Il Erre Toujours. The docent had looked up those in his long lost French school book. The words mean, Still He Wanders. The Old Man was a creation of the famed sculptor, Andre DuPierre, born 1888, died 1978, or so said the words on the little grey sign that told of such things.
For reasons that the red-jacketed docent never did understand, the statue of the Old Man made the grown-uos sad and made the children grow quiet and still.
DuPierre and Monet
The Sculptor DuPierre lived and died in a vine-covered cottage in the village of St. Anselm-by-the-Sea. He lived there with his works of stone and his secret thoughts and his six-toed cat, Monet.
Sometime in the life of DuPierre, it became tradition that young boys would prove their courage by tapping on the old man’s window in the darkness of night. They would skulk their way through the hedge row that lined the ocean road until they reached the maple trees that bordered the short, winding drive to two-story house. Then they would dash from one tree to the next until they could dare take that one last dive into the overgrown shrubs by the house.
From there, the would-be window tapper could peek into the twelve pane windows and watch the sculptor DuPierre going about his work. For DuPierre always worked in and the night, never in the daylight as far as anyone knew. He worked his art in the golden light of twelve lanterns that swayed from the beams of his house. The air inside the windows would be a cloud of stone dust created by each blow of the chisel the old man would bring upon the granite block. For the young lad who was peering itno this secret realm for the first time, the larger room had a ghostly look. A grey haired man with a shaggy grey beard, clothed in stone washed denim trousers and shirt, all covered with an old leather apron that reached nearly the floor moved about a gathering of stone figures, some nearly done, some but on the verge of being born.
From time to time, the old man would reach for his briar pipe he kept on the rough hewn table that was oddly set in the middle of the room. With one switch on his pants, he would strike the match, then light the pipe, and then drift into a few minutes of pensive thought. At times, he had the look of a pleased and satisfied soul somewhat amazed by the work of his hands. Yet at other times, he appeared to be gazing into the very soul of the stone itself, seeing the visage of what was waiting to be.
If the lad was brave enough to look awhile longer, he would eventually come upon the old man’s cat. In the dark green, overstuffed chair that sat in the corner of the room, beneath the lamp with the pale yellow shade, would sit Monet. Monet was a well-fed cat who looked quite content with himself, dusty grey fur, thick and full, with bright amber eyes that seemed to smolder in the flicker of the lantern light. Monet would meow now and then and watch an occasional housefly pass by. But most of the time, Monet either snoozed or yawned or watched the old man chisel away.