March 29, 2004

The End of Sanctuary

I was invited to Ruth’s for dinner this past Thursday evening, and I went to my old farm happy as a katydid on a summer evening. What an old fool I am!

The professor was there and over cranberry juice, crackers, and cheese - Ruth doesn’t allow alcohol at Orchard Hill Farm - he described his progress in my studio, “Sanctuary.”

“ I’ve photographed everything as I progressed down through the layers of stuff you left, Isaac.”

“But, I left no layers. Sanctuary was in fairly good order before I went to live at Pine Needle Retirement Home. As I had told you, Henry our dog had gotten a hold of one of the Varnastrama journals and jewed it up a bit. I know I left some of my writing, drawing, and photography in piles, but they were neat piles.”

“I wonder then what could have happened,” he said, and continued “ you know of course that there was a leak in the roof and many papers and drawings were damaged or destroyed. As far as I can see several years of your work and the papers that document it are gone. There are few if any pictures left that include the children.”

“Yes,” I said, “I was aware that there had been a leak. But I did not know that so much was gone. We’ve talked of these problems before.”

“And,” continued the professor, “Why did you burn some of your things.”

“What?” I asked in shock.

“I asked Ruth why some of the photographs, drawings, and papers were burned, and she told me she didn’t know they had been, that you must have burned them. Isaac, are you all right?”

I suppose that I was nearly apoplectic at that point. It took me several seconds to reply. The room was silent, and I could hear Ruth and Samuel fussing over dinner preparation in the kitchen. “I had no idea,” I finally managed to squeak out. “I never...”

“I found the burned materials in the Northeast corner of Sanctuary, he said. They were beneath the top layer, so I hadn’t seen them until I photographed that area and carefully removed some of the water damaged papers on top.”

Dinner was ruined. When spoken to I replied in monosyllables because I kept wondering who would have done such a thing and why. I watched Ruth as she spoke to the professor and thought that perhaps she had done it. I certainly wouldn’t put it past her. She hates my work so. She still thinks I’ve spent most of my life as a half crazed artist, and that she, her mother, and her brothers were damaged by my confused sexuality. However, I know that Rebecca and I did a good job bringing the children up. Both boys are successful professionals, and Ruth in her own right is extremely successful. The orchards are bringing in more fruit than ever, and our little fresh produce stand has become something on the order of a year round produce super market with crafts and lawn furniture thrown in.

Finally, during dessert, Ruth intoned in that sweet, unctuous voice she uses to gloss over self-seeking intent, “Daddy, the professor thinks that all of your things need to be stored in a safe place.” I asked if that hadn’t been the plan all along, but Ruth continued “So, they will be stored at the university in Pittsburgh.”

“But, I will still be able to use the things I want, right?”

“Think, Daddy. Are you going to drive hours to the university every time you want something. And, you would have to drive back with it.”

The professor jumped into the conversation at this point. “Of course you will be able to use things from the archived collection of your studio materials and work. It will simply be a matter of your signing them out at the university museum library, working with them in the library and returning them before you leave.”

“But,” I said, “I won’t be able to take them with me.”

“No,” he said.

It is indeed the end of Sanctuary. It has been removed. Yes, it exists, and yes I will continue to work, but Sanctuary is in the basement of a museum. It will no longer live, change, be damaged, or grow. It feels as though my right arm has been cut off!

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Take a look at:

Betty Bower’s Miracle Cards for wonderful political commentary you can send to your friends. She plays the part to the fullest!=

Holty’s blog for great political comentary and much more from an Australian point of view.

Mark Harden’s Artchive. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the best place to find excellent images of artist’s works on the WWW.

Gay Artist’s Galleries

Oku’s Surotic Gallery, an erotic art site.

Arts and Letters Daily, ideas, criticism, and debate, a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education., the Daily Digest of Arts, Culture, & Ideas.

the Advocate, the LGBT news magazine.


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