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"No, no, ' Carl protested, with some force. "Exhibitionism is vulgar, disgusting. I am talking about an exhibit.'
"Well, then, I just don't understand, ' I said. I watched Carl as he stood in the midst of the jumble of metal and wire that makes his studio seem chaotic, though it is not. He walked toward me, cool brown eyes searching my face, looking for a way to explain what he had in mind.
"Look, ' he said. "Look at the Venus de Milo.'
"That's a statue, ' I said, rather obviously.
"Well, suppose it wasn't? Suppose it was a woman, standing here, in this room with a sheet draped around her hips and one bun on a pedestal?'
"Well, I don't know. I mean, that's a model. Posing. With arms.' I grinned.
Carl's face brightened. "Right. Now, suppose this is a gallery, not my studio. Suppose it's Sunday afternoon and the gallery is open and people come in.'
"Well, you mean, she just sits there? She's going to move, look around... breathe, for Christ's sake. You call that art? And, how can you sell it?'
He chuckled. Carl is as skeptical as I am about the division between art and showmanship and bullshit. He's a fine sculptor, and a good showman who can combine art and showmanship with style. He hates bullshit as much as I do. I'm an actress, work repertory theater.
"No, that isn't art any more than sitting on the toilet is art. No. I mean, you come in and you see her there.' He gestured toward his posing stand. "She's motionless.'
"Okay, she's still. For maybe five minutes. What's the art in that? No value added.' Carl and I have this conceit that art has to "add value' to reality. It's our 'economic theory of art' or maybe our 'theory of economic art' — we've never raised it above a gag.
"You're right. Perhaps it's just a passing idea. But, I really think there's an opportunity there for something new. A beautiful figure in stone is art. Why isn't a beautiful figure in flesh art, too?'
"Because we don't accept the results of fucking as art.'
"Yes, we do. A deer in the woods, an eagle soaring... '
"Carl, pigeons pooping on the porch is not art. Although some of the stuff they get grants for isn't much more than that.'
"Some people think fucking is art, you know — at least, pictures of it. But I think I know how to capture this. How to make a new artistic statement.'
"Great Barnum's Ghost, ' I said, "you're going to embarrass us all again.' I smiled to be sure he didn't take offense. One of Carl's great gifts is to combine art and showmanship in ways that have brought him fame and a good living.
"I think The Master would approve, ' he mused; Barnum is one of his gods. He looked at me sharply. My response was instant.
"No! No, no, no. I won't.'
"You don't know... '
"I won't do it. You've got some idea that's going to end up making me look like a goose.'
He grinned like the wolf he is. "You haven't got the neck for it, ducks, ' he said. "Take off your clothes.'
"Not until you explain.'
He stood back, looking at me, at the posing stand. "Okay. Look. I want you to pose. I want you to do the Venus pose. Let's try that.'
I've done dumber things than that since Carl and I have lived together, so I stood, pulled off my tee-shirt and shorts and walked, naked, to the stand. Carl looked at me as an artist, seeing my body, my flesh.
"Umm. Tell you what, put your hair in a bun.'
I went to the mirror on the wall. Carl watched me as I pinned my hair into a Grecian bun. I took my time — he loves to watch me move when I'm naked. His sculptor's eye sees bones, muscles, skin folds and fatty tissues; his lover's eye sees my shoulders, my buttocks, my pussy, my breasts. And, when I'm naked in front of him, I give him the best views I can. Seems to 'add value' to what comes after.
"How's this?' I asked, returning to the stand.
"Lovely, ' his smile warmed me, moisture shooting into the mouth of my vagina. He brought over a white muslin sheet, draping it across my hips. His hands moved my shoulders, arms, breasts into the position of Phidipides' statue. When he was finished, he stood back.
"Have I got it right?'
"Close enough. Your breasts are too big, you're too thin. You're not her, but that's not the point. It's what I'm after.' He leaned against the wall, assessing. I posed, watching him.
"How long can you hold that?'
"Well, you usually give a model a break every ten minutes or so, ' I said, not moving.
"Yeah, but there's something missing yet. I want it to look like a statue, not like a model.'
I stood, breaking the pose, and went to the kitchen area. "Take a break. Think it over. Have lunch. Beer?'
Carl grinned and came to me, taking the beer can from my hand and putting it back on the counter. He pulled my nakedness close to him. I slid my hands down the back of his sweat pants, feeling his warm, bare butt, reaching under his ass to tickle him intimately. He kissed my neck, caressed my back and butt. I reached in front to hold his cock.
"You've been working on this, ' I said, stroking his rigidity, spreading moisture.
"Your fault. You're too beautiful.' He took my breast in his hand.
We ended up on the wide, rug-covered couch, where he gently slid his cock inside me, meeting no resistance until he could go no further. We lay together, feeling and touching each other, loving to watch each other in the act of sex. The pile of the rug always prickles my back, makes me move against his hairy front. And then it feels good on both sides.
Lunch was very late. When we had eaten, he went to put the dishes in the machine. He bent, his balls framed by his powerful legs for some moments as he peered at something in its recesses. An idea tickled my consciousness.
"Have I told you I love your balls?'
He straightened, turned. "Yes. Same as I love your pussy.'
"Come here, ' I said, rising and moving toward the posing stand. "Pose me again.'
He arranged the drape and I took the pose, holding it, concentrating — mute, remote, unseeing. When I had to, I shifted subtly to relax some muscles, tauten others. Not really a different pose, but a different version of it. I held that for a long time, then moved again in the same way.
"Yes, ' Carl said, "yes, that's it. You've got the idea — really, you've taken it where I hadn't. Tell me how you're doing it.'
I stood up, relaxed, dropped the drape. "That's tiring, ' I said, sitting back on the stool and pulling my knees up to stretch the muscles.
"Well, if it means you're going to show me your cunt every time, I'm for it.'
I laughed. "This morning, you said exhibitionism is disgusting.'
Then I said, "Well, you know I did a lot of mime in college. What I was doing just now was a Still Mime. You keep the same position, but you vary it slightly so you don't cramp up. You can hold almost the same pose for — I don't know, maybe an hour if you're in practice. I'm not.'
"But that's just what I was thinking of. Could you practice?'
"And still do five shows a week? Forget it, I haven't got enough spare time to be a statue. Besides, you know how I hate pigeons.'
"Ha. Serve you right.' Carl came to stand beside me, his arm around me.
I put an arm around him so I could press my breast against him. Living together is a body contact sport. "Anyway, you can't do Venus. Derivative. Copies of the Greeks are out.'
"Oh, sure. That'd just be bare-ass kitsch. There's enough of that as it is.'
"So, what do you have in mind for a subject? And where are you going to get someone who can do it? Still Mime isn't easy. And, who pays?'
"Damn, you're pushy. You're trying to impose reality on Art. I won't hear it.'
"Okay with me, Carl. Just, when you try and figure it out, start with 'Who Pays'.'
He folded me in his arms again and one thing led to the usual. I had to hurry to get a shower and head for the theater.
I handed Carl the envelope. "Looks like something from your old buddy Ethan Colton.'
Carl read the letter. "Yeah. You know, I sent him a proposal a while ago, after you did the Venus.'
"What did you propose?'
"Well, it was to provide a living sculpture. He'd have it for a specified period of time — say four hours a day for so many specified days.'
"And what does he do with it, for God's sake? Carl, I don't believe this.'
"He can do anything he wants. Put it in his home, lend it to a museum, set it up on a street corner, for all I care.'
"Even if it's me?'
"I thought you said you wouldn't do it.'
"Well, I do feel sort of... I guess I kind of own it, Carl.'
"Wish you'd told me. Anyway, we can work that out. He says he wants to see 'the piece', as he puts it, before he buys it. What do you think?'
"I haven't thought about it since we did that experiment. We've got to come up with a design, with all those things you talk about as part of the 'artistic process'. Carl, you've gone nuts.'
"Look, Cyn, do you want to try it?' He was determined, not impatient. "Are you game? If you are, fine, if not, I'll look for someone else. I put a pretty good price-tag on it; it should make money, if nothing else.'
I thought about Carl working with another woman on a project I had — sort of — created myself. I thought about Carl working with another naked woman. I thought about being a probably nude sculpture in Ethan Colton's office building or something. I thought about doing something really weird but new and challenging. It took me at least two seconds.
"Of course I'll try it. Once at least. What do we do? Let me see the proposal you sent him; we need to start somewhere.' When I had opened the mail, I'd already taken off everything but my jeans, so I dropped them. I took the proposal Carl dug out of his file drawer and sank back with my feet up on the couch to read it with Carl looking over my shoulder and caressing the underside of my thigh.
"At least you left us some lee-way, ' I said. The proposal was pretty vague, simply offering a work of 'living sculpture' for a large amount of money. "No wonder he wants to see the goods first.'
"He's a collector of modern art, but he's no fool. I figure I must be on to something if he'll even consider it.'
We worked all afternoon. I posed, we looked through the literature — all the Greek and Roman stuff, the Renaissance things, right up to the more modern present-day soft and fiber-glass things.
Carl said, "Surrealism's out, that's clear. You're too gorgeously real.'
I thought of mythology. "How about Venus rising from a sea of semen?'
"Come on, Cyn.' Carl scoffed, then laughed. "Anyway, where'd we get all that jiz?'
I said, "Well, the point is, I think it's got to be something that's a stopper. The ancients idealized the body, we can't — I am what I am. It's got to look like something perfectly natural, only it's a statue that isn't one.' I looked at Carl's thoughtful face as he pondered, fiddling with his beard. "And I won't sit on a toilet.'
Carl smiled slightly. "Of course not. No, I want to do something that expresses what the Greeks were after — beauty for itself alone, but totally real. You're right, we can't change what you are, idealize your proportions. But we need to come upon you at your most beautiful, radiating beauty. Like — no, we can't do that.'
"What can't we do?'
"For me, you are most beautiful when you come. I could watch you forever. It's awesome.'
"You're sweet, Carl, but get real. I get all sweaty and puffing.'
"Yeah, and incredibly lovely. I can prove it.'
We ended up on the couch with the video camera focused on me as I rode Carl's cock. I love to do it that way; I can really express myself. He played with my breasts as I gave him a really good fucking. I figured, 'What the hell, I've never done it for the camera, might as well make it good.' When the moment struck, I lost track of everything for a while. Then, we looked at the tape.
As I saw the first frames, watched myself slide my pussy down on his cock that first instant, I said, "Carl, I've never really cared for dirty movies.' But my pussy recalled the feeling.
He watched me rising and falling over him. "This isn't a dirty movie, Cyn. That's simply beautiful. Artistry. Watch it.'
I didn't argue with him, I watched with him, critically. It went on for a long time, as though the act was worthy of the effort. The woman on the tube was beautiful, she loved what she was doing, did it well and looked wonderful as she did it. I watched her move, watched her build the moment. Watched her burst into orgasm with her partner.
"Shit, ' I said, "that's incredible. I can't believe it's me, Carl. I don't even look like me. And it is beautiful.' I looked at the clock. "I've got to run.'
When I got home after the show, Carl was working at the easel, naked, the TV in front of him. "Here's our proposal, Cyn. Come and look.'
He had done a drawing in charcoal. It showed that beautiful woman on the tape at the peak of her orgasm; he had caught the radiance of her sexuality and joy.
"What do you mean, that's our proposal? Carl, you're mad. No one can do that for four hours. And I won't.'