Mark Baker

Lady Leverhulme

Mark Baker

It has been seventy years since my creation. When I was carried here, for a second, I caught sight of my reflection; I was magnificent. They fixed me to a wall where I have stayed for the past thirty years. My wise eyes have gazed at this room, snuggled into every corner, explored every crack in the plaster and watched the dust flakes fall with every electric season of illumination.

I like to study human faces as they intensely gaze at my beauty, watching them struggle to spark intelligence in their tiny minds.

Humans don’t possess the layers and dimensions that I enjoy, as they are small fleshy animals.

I understand love. My creator, who is long dead, loved me with an unchallenged purity. I am his widower but still remember the intensity of the passions he showed me. The flaws in human love only reinforce the peaks that can be achieved through art. I don’t possess the senses of touch, taste nor smell but the other feelings are enhanced by my absence of physicality and when I look at objects I can feel their strength, smoothness and sensuality.

I look around my room; the neighbouring pictures are very inferior efforts at art. Some of them are so insignificant that they should be embarrassed to be seen in my company.

Directly facing me is a wooden bench, this shows the importance of my wall in the room. To be fully appreciated I need to be studied.

I have an excellent varnished memory, so I remember all their souls.  Occasionally my bench becomes a meeting place and dramas are played out before me. I often attract lovers and years ago a man in an excessive overcoat, met here with an ugly woman. No artist would bother to paint their portraits. They met every day for many weeks and then suddenly they stopped coming. Several years later they returned. They had aged but seemed happy enough in a human way. Their arms were linked as they stared at my perfection.

“Remember when we were young?” The man said. “Those were our salad days, yet our decisions were not green at all.”

“No regrets on our anniversary, then?”

“Of course not, you are the best decision I have ever made.”

The two humans kissed. I cannot understand how two imperfect creatures can create a state of love in their lowly lives, while they both decay together?

Lately, a new drama is being played for my entertainment. A man and a woman meet on my bench every Tuesday morning at eleven o’clock. The woman always arrives first; she is thin with an innocence that seeks out of her skin like blood.

‘Is she pretty?’ I hear you ask. She could be but only in a fleshy sort of way. It is difficult to categorise these creatures with labels like beauty as they change so much over the years. I don’t know much about humans but I know what I like.

You ask me her age? It is difficult to age arteries and veins covered in skin in a state of constant flux. I notice that she is not wearing a wedding ring on her left hand. I often wonder about left and right. Am I similar to a mirror and see humans back to front. I also wonder if I spend too much time alone in my frame.

The woman gives off a scent of pain and she has eyes that follow you around the room. The man is as confident and as oily as my paint. He tries to hold her hand but she pulls away. These humans don’t understand touch. A brush or a finger carving a face or smoothing the lines from a cheek are the most tender, while humans seem to have no thought nor ambition, it is always rushed.

They meet time after time and the woman becomes sadder at each meeting. I can tell that the man is trying to end the relationship. He looks sad but his expression is false.

“Don’t you love me?” She asks.

“I don’t even love myself.”

With trained skill he pours out the set answers of a scene he has played many times. He touches her shoulder and leaves her sitting alone on the bench.

I have told her often that he would not leave his wife but these humans just don’t listen.

Three Tuesdays pass and they do not return. On the fourth Tuesday the man enters the room, something is wrong. Has his wife discovered his secret? I dismiss the idea, after all they are still meeting in this sacred and secret place.

The female enters her eyes red from crying. They sit apart and the man puts his head in his hands.

I use my oil painted eyes and discover through her skin, in her uterus, there exists a foetus.

“You must get rid of it.”

“Must I?”

“Look it is just the wrong time for a baby.”

“And will there ever be a right time?”

“I’m a married man?”

“You should have thought of that when you told me that you loved me.”

She has become dominant. She is the creator. She is the painter of a life. This is not love, yet she is forming a new work of art and will unveil it to an astonished world.

Then a thought hits me, if we don’t have humans to paint and care for paintings then I would die.

I sometimes wish that my old eyes could close and shut out all this false light.

Williamson Art Gallery & Museum