My name is Alexander Wainwright, a landscape painter, living in London, but also in books and apparently Cyberspace. Time and space can get confusing. But more about that some other day.
You may already have met me in the novels of The Trilogy of Remembrance or on my Facebook Page. Since I am a character in these novels—The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing—some people doubt that I am real. But I assure you I do exist outside those book covers.
Truth be told I’m discovering that I may literally travel in Cyberspace at least on occasion. You see, the other night, while browsing on my computer through artists’ work, I came across this picture below which seemed very familiar.
I was sure I’d seen the young man, many years ago, standing beside that wall covered with graffiti. Down in the right corner of the picture, you’ll see the letters SAMO. I knew at once it stood for “Same old shit.”
When I clicked on the photograph for more information, a strange sensation coursed through my entire body…not exactly like a shock…but more like a rough caress.
And then I was here on this street.
You can imagine my surprise. Moments ago I’d been sitting quite comfortably in my flat in Westminster, browsing on the computer and now I’m here in a place which seems very much like New York City. I turn one corner and am confronted with this view of an empty alleyway.
The young man from the photograph above suddenly appeared before me with a big grin on his face. With him he carried a heavy canvas bag bulging with tins of spray paint. He was a graffiti artist.
He froze but looked like he was about to run. “Are you a cop?” I caught the tremor in his voice.
I shook my head and held out my hand. “No, Jean-Michel. I’m a painter like you.”
“That’s my wall over there! You better NOT touch it!”
“Of course. Anyway, I’m not a graffiti artist like you. I paint landscapes.”
He eyed me suspiciously.
“On canvasses.” I added.
I was beginning to put it together. Cyberspace is a very strange place. I’ve travelled extensively in it and have met Lady Macbeth, the writers Anton Chekhov and J. D. Salinger along with his character Holden Caufield. Somehow I came face to face with the painter J.M.W. Turner, the master of light and those violent seascapes. And then, in Venice, I spoke with that great Romantic poet Lord Byron who claimed to know me rather too intimately! Evidently, it doesn’t much matter whether the artist is alive or dead. It seems as if this is a place where the spirits of great artists exist—right here in Cyberspace.
At last I said, “You must be the famous Jean-Michel Basquiat! I am so very pleased to meet you.”
“Me? Famous?” The boy’s mouth hung open in surprise.” Famous for what? Being rousted by the cops?”
“Don’t you know? You’re work will be shown all over the world. The Whitney right here in New York, the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA to say nothing of that fabulous Rotterdam show.”
“You’re joking man!”
I took out my iPad.
“Holy shit! What’s that?”
Mesmerized he took the iPad. I reached over and tapped the screen.
“Just look. Here is your work.”
Jean-Michel’s eyes nearly bulged from their sockets! “What is this thing? A magic screen which sees into the future?” Sadly, Basquiat never lived long enough to learn about the internet or Instagram or Twitter. He would have been a kid in a candy store with all the tools at his disposal–a genius in figuring out how to use it best for his art! But before you go any further you must click on this painting immediately below.
I smiled at him and said, “It’s very hard to explain this.” Then I bit my lip. How could he, standing before me on the street corner, possibly know he died in 1988? I did not want to be the one to tell him.
Fortunately, he interrupted me.
“Who’s the guy with the white hair I’m with in a gallery?”
“You haven’t met him yet but you will. He’s an extremely successful artist, Andy Warhol.” You will collaborate with him four or five years from now.”
“Can I see his work so I can decide if I should work with him?”
I shuddered to think I might be interfering with Jean-Michel’s and Andy Warhol’s destinies. If he didn’t like the work produced by collaboration and subsequently refused to work with Warhol, I might alter the history of art! Oddly enough, you may not really believe in fate or destiny until there’s a possibility of affecting it. Even if you absolutely believe in free will, you may see it differently if you are ever in my circumstances.
But with the excitement in the boy’s eyes, I could scarcely deny him another peek into his future. I took out the iPad and scrolled through to W and showed him these paintings below. I did not show him the paintings that he and Warhol collaborated on as that did not seem at all right.
“Wow! This is so cool!” He nearly ran around in circles in his excitement.
I thought I heard the low growl of the police siren first. Jean-Michel was too absorbed in the iPad to notice. Not just one cop car but many surrounded us. A crowd was beginning to gather.
Jean-Michel dropped the iPad, grabbed his bag of spray tins and ran. Suddenly, I remembered his friend Michael Stewart, a street artist had been so terribly beaten by the police that he died a few days after. His crime? Creating art with spray paint in a New York subway station!
They chased Jean-Michel down like a dog.
I tried to intervene but to no avail! “Who’s in charge?” I shouted above the noise and the crowd. But no one could hear me. I grasped the arm of one of the officers. But it was as if he didn’t even feel my touch. It was then I realized that they could not see me! Only Jean-Michel could. I was stranded in time and space—as if I were in a ghostly dream. How terribly sad. I tried to make my presence known by grabbing Jean-Michel’s arm with no effect.
They shoved him into the back of the squad car and drove off with sirens blaring. You’d have thought they had apprehended a vicious murderer! I nearly wept at the shock and anger on his face. The horror of all beaten-down and excluded humanity raged in his expression in the back of the squad car.
Strangely, my vision was dimming. I could do no more. I picked up my iPad. What on earth would New York City think of such a device in the 1980’s? Just as I was wondering how to find my way back to my flat in Westminster, I blinked open my eyes and sighed in relief.
There I was comfortably seated at my desk hearing the chimes of Big Ben. I did know enough of Basquiat’s life story to take comfort in the belief that he was never badly beaten up by the cops. Had he lived to this time, I wonder what he would have thought of the behavior of them in this time when there is plenty of police brutality.
The last touch. On my desk right next to my tea mug, there lay a little drawing. How could it have gotten here. I recognized it immediately as Basquiat’s trade-mark “crown” symbol. An exhausting adventure!
Please take a moment to look at the carousel of novels in which I, Alexander Wainwright, appear. Do you have any Basquiat stories or any comment on this one? I would love to hear from you. The comment box is right below.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in it’s entirety right here Wattpad.com