Blurb and Chapter 1
“How do you feel seeing all these people admire your work?” Silvia handed Karla a glass of white wine.
“It’s exciting. A little scary . . . It makes me feel exposed.” Karla looked around the gallery where friends and strangers had gathered. Some of them were examining her paintings, others stood around and chatted, sipping their drinks and picking at the appetizers. A couple of Karla’s artist friends talked animatedly. A girl dressed in black, wearing high dress boots, with strands of purple in her short hair, waved at Karla, who went to join her.
“Hey, great stuff.” The girl with purple hair, pierced nose and eyebrows motioned at the paintings. “How did you manage this? I mean getting this venue? I’m looking for a place for my own work.”
“Geez, Sarah, don’t waste any time congratulating Karla on her success. Be your usual pushy self and only think about Number One.” A gangly young man with a pony tail shook his head and sneered.
“Oh, Jason, don’t be such an ass. Karla knows I’m happy for her.” The girl gave Karla a hug. “I didn’t know you did that kind of thing.” She pointed at Karla’s more experimental paintings. “That’s cool. I love that one with the PC sticking out of the flower. I’ll get us some wine. Don’t go anywhere; I need to talk to you.” Sarah pointed her finger at Karla, then marched over to the table with the snacks.
Karla wondered how Sarah managed to walk in her tight mini-skirt and the high-heeled boots. At that moment, she spotted Andreas, who was looking at her paintings. He must have come in as she was talking to her friends. At first, she barely recognized him. He was wearing slacks and a jacket and had evidently made an attempt to comb his unruly hair. “Listen, guys. I’m sorry but I have to say hello to someone.” Karla waved Sarah off, who returned with two glasses of wine. “Later, Sarah.”
“You look distinguished tonight.” Karla said as she walked up to Andreas.
Andreas appeared to feel uncomfortable dressed up. The outfit had seen its best days. The jacket seemed too tight for his muscular body, the sleeves were a little short, and the slacks bulged slightly at the knees. He gave the impression of a caged tiger.
“I don’t feel distinguished at all. In fact, I feel rather foolish in this monkey suit, but I thought I couldn’t very well attend an opening in my torn jeans.” He grinned and pulled at his poorly knotted tie.
“Oh, it suits you very well,” Karla tried to reassure him.
“I love your art.” Andreas squinted his eyes as he studied one of Karla's oil paintings. “The luminosity in this picture . . . . It reminds me of an exhibition I saw not long ago, of paintings by Giovanni Segantini and others.”
“Yeah,” Karla said, excited. “He is one of my favorite painters of that era. I love the Swiss and Italian divisionists. The way they created the illusion of light emanating from the canvas. They didn’t mix the paints but applied threads or dots or flecks of pure complementary colors next to each other. I kind of play with their technique sometimes.”
Andreas motioned at Karla’s scrap metal landscapes. “Interesting. Very different from your other work.”
“I’m still experimenting. I’m not sure yet where I’m going with those.”
“What’s wrong with that? Why limit yourself? That would be boring.” Andreas peered at her. “I like painters or artists in general who have the guts to experiment. Art is a constant search for new ways of expressing yourself, isn’t it?”
“I guess, you’re right.” Karla nodded.
“Hey, Karla, aren’t you going to introduce me?” Sarah, who had come up behind Karla, poked her lightly in the back and gave Andreas a flirtatious look.
Karla was getting annoyed at her friend. Sarah could be irritating sometimes, but today, she was outright obnoxious. Not wanting to create a scene, she introduced Andreas.
“So what do you do, sexy?” Sarah winked at him.
Andreas kept a straight face, folded his arms in front of his chest. “What do I do? That should be obvious. I’m here to look at Karla’s art.”
Sarah gave a toss of the head. “I don’t mean that. What do you do for a living? Are you an artist or something?”
“If you want to interview me, you have to make an appointment. But I warn you, I charge a lot.” Andreas still kept a straight face, but there was a gleam of amusement in his eyes.
“Okay, you want to be that way. Knock yourself out.” Sarah turned around on her heel and marched to the other side of the gallery.
“Your friend obviously doesn’t appreciate my kind of humor, either.” Andreas gave a quick throaty laugh.
“I guess not.” Karla smiled.
They walked over to where Karla’s watercolors hung. Andreas studied them quietly for a long time. “You really caught the effect of the light. They’re fascinating.”
“Thanks.” Their eyes met and Karla felt a tingling sensation somewhere between her throat and stomach. I guess he can be sensitive.
“That mountain.” He pointed at a painting of Monte Sosto, a mountain in the Blenio Valley, a side valley of the Leventina just south of Saint Gotthard. Karla had forced herself to get up early one morning so she could catch the special quality of the sunlight piercing through the mist at dawn. It was one of her favorite aquarelles.
“I used to live in Olivone and looked at Monte Sosto almost every day,” Andreas continued. “I got so used to it that I didn’t even see it anymore. This painting brings out the mystical quality I noticed when I first saw it. I believe that art makes us see things we normally merely look at.”
“Monte Sosto has always fascinated me, because the minute I saw it, it reminded me of Machu Picchu in Peru,” Karla said.
“Really? You know, I think you have a point. I've seen pictures of Machu Picchu. Yes, there is a certain similarity. So, you’ve been to Peru? Fascinating. I’d love to go to Peru. They’re famous for their ruins and stonework—Uh-oh, here is your friend again. I think she’s in trouble.” Andreas motioned at someone behind Karla.
When Karla turned around, Sarah was walking unsteadily toward them followed by Jason, who tried to hold her back. “I’m sorry guys, I’m plastered.” She stumbled and fell against Andreas, who caught her. Sarah threw her arms around him and started to cry. “My life is a mess. It’s going nowhere. Nobody loves my art. I’m going to kill myself.”
Andreas tried to hold her away from him. “No, you’re not. It’d be a real pity if you did.”
“Do you really . . . think so?” Sarah’s face was a mess. Her black eye-liner was running down her cheeks.
Andreas, still holding her at a little distance, spoke vehemently. “Yes, you’re a very pretty woman, once you wash that stuff off your face. And don’t let anybody make you doubt your art work.”
“Oh, you’re such a sweetheart.” Sarah tried to embrace Andreas again.
Leave it up to Sarah to create a scene and steal the show. Karla was peeved.
Jason pulled Sarah back. “We’re going home. Sorry, guys, this is really embarrassing.” He shook his head. “She’s had a rough time.”
“I’m so sorry.” Sarah began to weep again and hugged Karla. The mixture of alcohol and a sweet-smelling perfume was overpowering.
Karla patted her back, trying not to inhale. “It’s all right, Sarah. I understand. Let’s talk when you feel better.”
Sarah nodded. She was still crying when Jason led her away. People were staring at them.
“Poor girl. What’s her problem, anyway?” Andreas asked.
Karla shrugged her shoulders. “She’s had all kinds of problems, mainly with money and trying to promote her art. She’s actually an interesting artist. She makes these huge paper mache sculptures, but so far she hasn’t been able to find anybody who would give her a chance to exhibit them.” Karla watched as Sarah stumbled outside with Jason holding her up.
“Is Jason her boyfriend?” Andreas asked.
“No.” Karla shook her head. “Jason is gay, but he’s Sarah’s closest friend. I’ll talk to Silvia. Perhaps she’ll be able to help. Silvia is the owner of the gallery,” Karla explained. “Just makes me realize how lucky I’ve been.”
Andreas, who watched as Sarah left, shook his head. “It’s not just luck. It’s also hard work, talent, insistence, and patience and yes, I guess, lots of luck.” He motioned with his head toward Sarah. “She’s quite young and if she’s already that disillusioned, she is in the wrong field. Art is a tough business. And if she keeps drinking like this, she’ll end up ruining her life or killing herself.”
“That sounds pretty negative,” Karla said.
“It’s not negative, just realistic.” Andreas narrowed his eyes. “Believe me, I know what alcohol can do to a person.” He paused. “My father was an alcoholic.”
“He doesn’t live with us anymore. I don’t know where he is or if he’s still alive. I have no contact with him.”
“It’s all right. Let’s not talk about it.”
Karla remembered Lena mentioning something about problems in his family.
“Sorry, Karla, I’ve come to kidnap you. The press is here.” Karla smelled Silvia’s patchouli perfume before she felt her arm around her. “A man from the local newspaper wants to talk to you.”
“Oh, no,” Karla said. “What am I supposed to say?”
“Come on, Karla. You better get used to this.” Silvia chuckled. “You’re on your way to fame and glory.”