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"What's wrong with feeling sexy in a museum?"
- Recent online chat.
My father's brother was an artist, a painter and printmaker.
He died years before I was born, before my parents married, cancer snuffing out his future as a creator of beautiful things before he'd reached a quarter of a century on this planet.
An avid reader, obsessed with not only physical art but that of the written word, he left behind scores of paintings and sketches, a library of some of the world's finest literature.
A gift, I assume, for my father and, by proxy, my father's children - a generational legacy. Guides to the world's finest museums, full of reprints and photographs, art criticisms and histories, poetry collections and fiction in four languages, sacred texts from the world's great religions.
And trust me when I say I took full advantage of the artist uncle's last gift in my childhood.
* * * *
In a way, though I never met my uncle, he probably had just as much influence over my development in death as he would have in life. His notebooks were conversations, his paintings burst ideas upon my brain, his library an education unto itself.
For example, Titian, the High Renaissance maestro, was already a favorite by the time I reached puberty. I first developed an appreciation for the maestro studying my uncle's books on the art of the era. Of course, after reaching puberty, my appreciation for Titian's nude work grew even more - the Venus of Urbino was probably the first woman to seduce me, my first ever object of pure raw lust, years before I lost my virginity.
The second seductress? A painting by Raphael's lustful baker, la Fornarina.
I could list them all, but, well, that would take too long. But I will admit that I do not consider it bragging to admit that for all of my hundreds (yes, hundreds) of sexual experiences in life, I've never been able to shake the feeling that those ancient Europeans instilled in me sense enough to understand that a woman's body is the finest of canvas, that it is not in some maestro's strokes of a brush that art is revealed but in the canvas stroking the brush, creating the artist.
But sexual attraction is but one manifestation of an appreciation, a love, of art. So, too, was I in love with the great Post-Impressionists: Paul Gauguin, with his primitivist depictions of beautiful Tahitians and ancient themes. Henri Matisse, Van Gogh.
It was my uncle, through his enormous collection of reprints of some of the most daring naked women in history, that taught me more about the intertwining of beauty, life, sex, and art than any formal education could ever impart.
* * * *
Needless to say, I was one strange kid.
Hell, I'm one fucking strange-ass adult, for that matter.
But I know a thing or two about beauty.
I learned it through a lust for beautiful things, for fine and performing arts, for poetry and prose, essays, and pure, unadulterated, passionate thought.
And I have an uncle I never knew, who died in a sterile hospital room with cancer-filled body, to thank for that.
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