Hot damn! “The piping days of jolly old,” to borrow Woody Allen’s phrase for that glory-soaked time when men were men whether they were women or not and the Irish still knew their place, was more than the setting for my halcyon and salad days: it was when I last spent time with Raynor Ganan, who even then had the habit of gazing idly to the horizon in contemplation of both high art and the despicably prurient.
It was the custom then for young men with masses of money and a bit of facial hair to endow small galleries dedicated to the commissioning and preservation of their portraits, and Dilettante Ganan had finally opened his to the public; above, at the party, we mirthfully await word from Matthew Brady, whose ‘Happenstance Evening About’ postal circular was a daguerreotype who’s who of the day, that we can resume blinking and drinking.
(Behind us is a massive oil painting of the ‘Raft of the Medusa,’ with all faces replaced by Raynor’s, a sustitution which greatly increased the work’s impact on me. I apologize for my haircut: I’d just been deloused upon returning from my expedition through Manchuria).
The featured work, by an artist whom Ganan’s family had received as part of the dowry for his lesser-known sister, was an enormous, strikingly realistic statue of the ghostly young man in his summer attire and archetypal posture, less a contrapposto than a balanced admixture of inquisitiveness, surprise, and coiled fury. Despite being sculpted from the blackest marble, sooty and tarred from its quarry near the inhumane Ganan factories, the figure had been painted an apparitional white, and its ethereal quality entranced and unsettled the many attendees. That paint doesn’t well adhere to marble gave the piece an horrific quality Ganan particularly savored.
The work, like the gallery, the factories, and the fetching sister Ganan, is lost now to time; a burned photo of it remains, but fails to give a sense of its monolithic majesty, which humbled me despite my Irish distemper and hostility towards the art of the ruling classes (picture below):
Until our interest in excellent customer service brought us back together, Raynor and I had been estranged for many reasons, not least because for many decades I’ve been unsure whether he is Will, Riaz, or some nemesis deliberately masquerading as someone whose talents and wit I admire endlessly so that he or she might one day abandon the ruse and declare: “Mills, you moron! As easy to impress as a dog!”
Nevertheless, I have decided, with this post, to abandon formal hostilities, apologize for what I did to his sister, and invite him to the opening of my own gallery, as soon as we can clear out the orphans currently squatting in its future home.