Sculpture is a branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. The original classification of sculpture required that the piece of art was to be of carved material or modeled material which created the desired result, however since the modernist movement those defining characteristics changed, generating a freedom for the artist in their processes and materials used to create a sculpture. Sculpture has always had a place within society: Ancient Greece produced the most recognized masterpieces of the classical style of sculpture, Gothic sculpture represented the agonies and passions of the Christian faith of that era, while the Renaissance period produced famous pieces such as Michelangelo’s David which lead the emphasis on the human body; this was and is still the object of much of the modernist sculptors, including my Aunt Rachel’s work.
In the past, sculptors were viewed as tradesmen so many of their works were left unsigned, but even when the sculptor did become well-known they retained the same social status as other artisans and didn’t gain much in financial rewards; this required many of them to hold multiple positions within society such as painters, jewelers and architects. It was the commissioned sculptors, those individuals that created specific personalized pieces for nobles, who were recognized as socially equal to painters while those sculptors who worked on decorating buildings or more mundane tasks remained viewed as tradesmen. This does not mean that sculptors in the past were not able to become wealthy. Artists such as Michelangelo, Leone Leoni, and Giambologna were a few who did attain wealth and nobility.
Just as with the artists of the past, present day sculptors have the potential for wealth and fame. A present day sculptor has the ability to make anywhere from one hundred to one million dollars per sculpture they create, of course this doesn’t mean that they are all millionaires; very few are able to demand a million dollars for their work, but the potential is there if the talent is recognized. My Aunt Rachel is one of the few. I heard her speaking with my Father a few weeks ago in his study concerning the sudden influx of money she was experiencing from her recent art sales. Apparently she finally mastered a technique that she had been working on for the past five years that created the accurate lifelike quality of her pieces; the effect of which made her statuary desirable to a great deal of art collectors who were willing to pay close to a hundred thousand dollars for just a single example of her work, so she needed advice from my Father on how to invest her money wisely.
My Aunt Rachel works primarily in sculpture which she concentrated on while attending Rhode Island School of Design. She began in the classical style but shifted to hyperrealism, which as I mentioned, art collectors seem to crave. Her pieces portray people and animals precisely as they exist; each possess a unique personality and life story. Early last month the RISDI Museum held an exhibition of her work which gained the attention of numerous other museums around the country and galleries with locations in New York and Europe. I overheard Mother mentioned this to the other women in her social club during a luncheon she hosted at our home for them. She also added that someone named Dimitris Daskalopoulos showed serious interest in Aunt Rachel’s work suggesting that he was the art collector who paid the largest sum of money to own one of her unique sculptures.
At a distance her sculptures were easily mistaken for living persons and even after standing only a few feet away, it was easy for someone to deceive himself, thinking that perhaps this unmoving form was a sentient being and that he or she was just holding their breath and staring into nothingness, day dreaming perhaps. It was only when the individual touched the form with the expectation of feeling supple warm flesh that complete awareness occurred; the hardness of the resin revealed that the unmoving person wasn’t a living being at all, but rather an inorganic sculptured likeness of one.
My Mother found Aunt Rachel’s sculptures unnerving, especially when more than one of them occupied a space. She never really enjoyed attending Aunt Rachel’s exhibitions and would do her best to purposefully schedule a different social event on the same evening in order to possess a valid excuse for missing them, but my Father would aggressively work in opposition to my Mother’s plans, adamantly explaining and ultimately convincing my Mother of the importance of supporting his sister and her art. I rather enjoyed attending the exhibitions. It was one of my parents’ social obligations that I eagerly attended with them. I liked Aunt Rachel’s realistic sculptures a great deal. I would linger at each sculpture; studying it, gazing into its haunting eyes, imagining what it would say if it could speak.
I once asked Aunt Rachel where she found the inspiration for her sculptures since each one expertly captured the individual’s characteristics and attitudes. Did she use models and if so, could I be one? But she casually brushed off my question and shifted the topic to me and what I had been doing with my time instead. She was never eager to talk about her artwork not even with other people outside of the family. She repeatedly turned down offers to lecture at RISDI pointedly stating that she would rather have her sculptures speak for themselves and I got the impression that each of her pieces did have something to say to whomever was willing to listen, unfortunately I never witnessed anyone taking the time to listen like I did. I suppose I could concede that perhaps no one present at the exhibitions actually possessed the ability to hear them. Well, that is except for me. I listened. I was a willing audience, I wanted to hear their unspoken words so I spent the time … listening, allowing their strangled whispers to echo in my mind. Many of them didn’t have very pleasant things to say.
My Mother didn’t hear me return home from my appointment with Dr. Worth, she was preoccupied with entertaining the women from her social club. This time they were gathered in the morning parlor, my Mother’s favorite room in the house, having tea. She sat on the beige upholstered Queen Anne sofa in the middle of the room with the other women surrounding her in various chairs. Each woman wore the duplicate fake smile and held a matching saucer and tea cup from Mother’s most favored Royal Albert china tea set she found while on honeymoon in Argentina with Father. They each feigned interest in whatever Mother was chattering about and the occasional tittering laugh filtered into the foyer where I stood observing them with morbid curiosity. Nothing that looked this perfect ever truly was.
“Our meetings seem so quiet without Carolyn’s violin music,” commented my Aunt Rachel. ”I miss it.”
There was a general consensus from the other plastic women in the room as they whispered amongst themselves.
“It’s tragic that the police still haven’t found Josh,” sighed my Mother as she set her tea cup and saucer on the lace doily that covered the antique French coffee table in front of her. “Carolyn is barely hanging on to her sanity. I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”
“Our police department is clearly incompetent. I’ve been saying it for years since those people went missing back, what was it, about five years ago? No one was ever arrested in connection with those cases either,” complained Janette, the cardiovascular surgeon’s pregnant wife, clearly agitated by the current circumstances surrounding Josh Keyes disappearance. “It’s ridiculous. A comatose boy just doesn’t go missing from his hospital bed. Something is obviously very wrong here and the mayor isn’t doing anything about it.”
My Mother comforted Janette, who was sitting beside her on the sofa, with a brief pat on her arm “Well, we won’t be donating to that man’s campaign next year,” stated my Mother, picking up her saucer and tea cup as she stood from the sofa. She carefully looked at the women surrounding her. “And I strongly urge you ladies to refrain as well. It is necessary for us to stand in solidarity if we want a new candidate in that office who is able to protect us and our families from those who intend us harm.”
The women nodded their agreements as my Mother walked over to the side table where she had set the tray with the teapot, sugar bowl, creamer, and platter of ginger snaps that she purchased from a local baker. She gracefully placed her cup and saucer down and proceeded to refill it with hot tea.
“Someone must know something in that hospital,” commented Camille, the widow who lived with her Corgi, Solomon, down the street from us in the small yellow cottage. She turned to question the youngest of the group. “Has your husband said anything?”
Janette shook her head while she rubbed her enlarged belly. “If anyone knows anything they aren’t coming forward. Andrew said that they’re probably afraid of losing their job.”
Frustration and fear maliciously slithered into the room to join the tea party eroding the usual peaceful composure of the women. It was clear to these influential women that someone was responsible for the teenager’s disappearance and they demanded justice. They would use their power to avenge the injustice that was being perpetrated in their city.
“Well, clearly this is negligence by the hospital,” accused Bridget; she was the District Attorney’s wife, “Regardless of the incompetence of the police department, the hospital is responsible and should be held accountable.”
There was vigorous nodding in approval from most of the women. Brittany’s mother, Nora, however intently stared at my Mother and instead of nodding, leaned over to the blonde woman sitting beside her on the Queen Anne sofa opposite my Mother’s seat and whispered to her. The blonde stifled a snicker and sipped her tea.
“Yes, that they should,” agreed my Mother. “Edward and I have decided that Angie will not be receiving any further treatments there. We will drive to Boston if necessary. I’ve lost all confidence in that place. It’s clearly not safe to leave our loved ones in their care.”
“I don’t blame you, Caroline,” agreed Camille.
It was apparent that my Mother spied the exchange between Nora and the blonde as she caught Nora’s direct gaze forcing the woman to look down at her tea cup. Clearly she had something to say to my Mother, but didn’t have the courage to confront her.
“What do you think, Nora? What is your opinion of the situation?” My Mother inquired holding her newly filled cup of tea as she slowly sauntered over to the seat she had vacated moments before. “For someone who is usually very vocal at our gatherings, you’ve been most quiet. Well, that is with the rest of us since Diana there,” Mother gestured with her free hand to the blonde woman beside Nora, “Has been receiving an earful from you. So why don’t you share with us what you’ve been sharing privately with her this entire morning?”
Nora seemed to have gained her courage as she looked squarely at my Mother as she spoke. “Brittany told my husband and I that she saw Angie in the hospital outside of Josh’s room the day that he disappeared. She said that Angie was acting suspicious,” she paused, resting the saucer and tea cup on her bare knee. “Caroline, what was your daughter doing there? Did the police even question, Angie, or does her ‘condition’ exempt her from that?”
I audibly gasped as I watched from my position in the foyer. My Mother, though uncomfortable alone in my presence was noticeably confident and assured among her peers. Brittany’s mom had to be aware of that, so I guess she was either incredibly brave or unbelievably stupid; I couldn’t decide which. Directly confronting my Mother with an accusation wasn’t going to leave her on my Mother’s “good side” and from the expression on Nora’s face I think she realized this and regretted vocalizing her thoughts. My Mother, without a word in reply, purposefully set her tea cup and saucer on the table, and stood smoothing her dress with the palms of her hands, then loosely clasped them in front of her. The other women in the room stared silently, as I counted the seconds as they passed. One. Two. Three. Four.
“Is there an implication hidden somewhere in those questions, Nora?” My Mother’s voice was dripping with honeyed annoyance.
“I … I …,” Nora stood and looked frantically around the room at the other women. “Come on. You were all thinking the same thing but are just too afraid to ask. You’ve all been talking behind Caroline’s back, don’t pretend like you don’t. Don’t pretend like the conversations don’t happen.” She began counting on her fingers, “At the tennis courts, at the spa, at the park, at the café … at the Stevenson’s cocktail party! As soon as Caroline is out of earshot you all talk,” she opened and closed the fingers of her right hand, “And talk and talk but in front of her face you act like Angie’s just another teenaged girl, but we all know she’s not. We all know that Angie is crazy. Isn’t it obvious that she probably knows something about what happened to Josh?” She paused looking at everyone else in the room except my Mother, who was only about a foot away from her. “Brittany is afraid of Angie. She’s afraid of her and they were once best friends. Shouldn’t that raise some questions?”
No one in that room said a word.