What is art?
Sadly, we only asked this as we stood over her corpse. Over the centuries, art had died.
Those who pined for it, connoisseurs such as I, were forced to turn to the works of the ancients.
Perchance, I met a merchant selling sculptures finer than those of the third dynasty. I offered to make him wealthy.
Soon, I had his secret and not much longer after we departed on a journey, a quest for art.
Our barge sailed the great ebony river. Its black waters were so wide that two vessels could pass and never catch sight. Ancient, abandoned temples lined its banks and sizable islands were sprinkled along its length.
Legends told that these islands once held the palaces of demigods. Scholars claim they were inhabited long before the birth of our first God-King.
These isles were shunned, full of dangers, cursed and haunted… But we were resolute.
Mooring by a jetty, we hiked across the unspoiled, verdant splendor. The trees were heavy with ripe fruit and berries sprouted everywhere. Great, dark trees with hulking trunks provided shade, towering up to shield the world from our view.
In the vales between those boughs, we discovered a crumbling estate, a sculptor’s, judging by the many fine specimens. They were magnificent, without equal.
Some had been weathered and spoke of their great age. Others, protected from wind and rain, were perfect… priceless…
As the barge became full, I scoured the site for choice pieces.
At first, they all seemed worthy subjects, imbued with beauty by the genius of their maker.
Then, I found her. She was the very blossom of womanhood, the flowering of femininity. She alone was worthy of that graceful master.
I stood for hours amazed, perplexed. I could only doubt that such could have been achieved by mortal hands. She had been executed by some unearthly means, some technique I could not conceive or recognize.
Oh, such a thing cannot be. No heaven holds an angel half as fair. Oh, that she was once real!
My heart broke with the thought that I could never meet her. Then it shattered as I wondered why such a beauty would bother with me. In that moment, life was less than nothing, for life was agony.
There, I offered in a whisper, my soul but to glimpse her.
The ancient demigoddess, the sculptor of the stone, whispered back across the ages.
So be it.
There, in but a moment, I saw the breath of life. Stone became flesh before my eyes. Warm and alive, she looked to me with a knowing smile. There, I knew her as I have known her for all of time.
There, in but a moment, the breath of life was gone. Flesh became stone before my eyes. She and I shall gaze forever as our moment transcends time. In ages to come, they will see the magic of the sculptor’s hand.
They will wonder, as did I.
What is art?
It is I!
story by Joe Stanley