Scene VI:
The Scroll of Civilization Survives the Restless Deep, Sights Through Rusted Periscope The Uninhabited Isle It May Call Home, and Navigates Into Shore on a Calm Sea

[This folio contains three etchings 7 7/8” x 9 5/8” (19,8 x 24,5 cm) created by Tony Calzetta and printed by hand in black ink from copper plates on 250 gm wheat Canson Edition paper by Dieter Grund at Presswerk Editions.

The etchings are tipped onto a 13 1/4” x 110” (33,5 x 279,5 cm) foldout made of 320 gm Stonehenge rag paper and Fabriano Elle Erre coloured papers with text digitally printed with Epson Ultra Chrome K-3 permanent inks at the artist’s studio.

The folio sits in a multi-coloured cloth wrapped folio whose interior is lined with Fabriano and Tiziano coloured papers.]

[Add setting]

EXUBRIO: When the painter Exubrio went down to the sea seeking to execute himself, having previously hung an endless array of publicly-renounced paintings upon wires strung between posts artfully arranged an exact twelve feet apart and an exact twelve from the shore’s high tide, his own arrival timed to precede by just minutes the onslaught of a storm that would shake the very earth with its lightning and thunderbolts…when he did so, Exubrio believed he knew precisely what he was doing.

He had spoken to olive growers and vineyard masters in the vicinity to determine at what precise moment the fearsome storm would arrive, and had disputed at tedious length with his wife over which precious canvases he must, please, under no circumstances, please, my darling Exubrio, hang for the tide to engulf and remove to Davy Jones’s locker.

Exubrio’s idea being that with himself as electrified corpse and no longer prone to second thoughts as to his talent, and a fine sleeping potion secretly inserted into his unhappily embattled wife’s evening tea, these paintings which critics and the public so reviled would be ignited by lightning or swept away by
angry waves to find at last their unlamented grave in the deep.

“Eight o’clock, love,” he said that night to the snoozing wife, as the clock struck eight and the sky unleashed a black rain. “Time I went.” The wife, an Italian woman named Denuncia Francesca Illuminati Luminesa, of aristocratic descent and herself a sculptor often reviled, had said many times over to Exubrio about these paintings he would offer up to fate.

DENUNCIA: “No, not that one, nor that one, never this one, and certainly not this benign sea-monster creature said to carry the scroll revealing the treasures of the past, the destiny of civilization! No! Nor throw out Cézanne’s Muse 1 and 2, nor Appalling Scenes nor Lousy Pessimists nor Those Scots Women, nor for that matter these here nor those there, nor that bunch you have so deftly entitled Untitled.”

Furthermore, in a move designed to steer her suicidal, manic-depressive, hyperventilating husband from his intention, and in the mistaken belief that certain paintings in this household were sacred, untouchable, she has said to him:

“Only, and only if you must, my darling, surrender to the elements these numerous portraits of, for instance, me. I beg you, for destruction take this portrait of me here in my red dress with the dead rose in my lap, the bee on my knee, or this one watercolour of me done I believe on our wedding night. Or this portrait of our dear daughter Cherise hanging by her thumbs from that window in Provence, and you absent, ever absent, only your shadow protruding downwards from the frame over my bare flesh, in one of your moods, I suppose, heaven help us, as Cézanne’s Hortense was always saying.”

And so she went on in her deceptive culling of which paintings to surrender to fate, and which to save, for she would save all if she could:

“So many family portraits you have done, me here with the cat, Blur, in my ostrich pose, Cherise there playing hide and seek behind a green bush, me here again as a lover in the bath, ‘after Courbet’s Origin,’ I believe you said. So many and so many paintings depicting the intimate family hour, Portrait of Denuncia with Fruit Basket, Denuncia Seated with Bird, Cherise Under Flowering Apple Tree – if the current carries these paintings out to sea such a loss to my heart and to society it will be, yet if you must then you may, I too am forlorn at your having to wallpaper and paint, to venture forth with hammer and nail each day, and myself having to clean toilet bowls, and our child to eat worm soup, ah, we despair, do we not, and whenever did we not, and why can we not continue on in the desperate pathway we have followed lo these many years?”

NARRATOR: Good question, any of us might say, but Exubrio was fed up with this indifference to his and the wife’s work, and even lovely Cherise at school has been punching dearest friends in the chops. So Exubrio remained intent upon taking all of his life’s work under lightning bolts to be scorched or dispatched into the deep, while he allowed Denuncia to believe that her ruse had succeeded, that he would save at least the paintings sacred to their love.

Imagine this, then: how astounded Denuncia was when on the morning of the last day Exubrio, without a tear, his footsteps only a trifle leaden, began rounding up for destruction these very paintings.

EXUBRIO: “They are all one and the same,” he said, “insofar as they are anything, all fossilizing even as the paint dries. So let’s be done with it.”

NARRATOR: Exubrio ignored her cries of rage, her anguished efforts all that day to stop him. And beautiful Denuncia, she of noble blood tracing back to pre-Medici days, would at the last
have plunged a knife into this villain’s breast had not the sleeping potion dropped into her tea compelled her pulse at that moment to slow, her head to nod, her breath to leap as a gazelle summoned to lazy dream.

Thus Exubrio did as planned, and here, epochs later, appears on the horizon The Scroll of Civilization, up untainted from the deep, and slowly, with caution, navigating for the unpopulated isle.


Read on: Act I, Scene VII »
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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.