Friday, 22 July 2011
I've arrived at 'the framer' to pick up a print for my wife's birthday. It's a piece from Vanuatu. I like this artwork. I'ts as a woman's story. I sense a strong feminine essence in this work. I see children sheltering in a safe place from a menacing presence. The children are fish and shelter in the centre of a breadfruit plant. There is security in this womblike haven. The world is a dangerous and wild place. I'm quite chuffed with myself. For once I'm thinking of her tastes and not mine in selecting a gift, an art piece.
'Be with you in a moment' calls Kerry as I enter the shop. She's tall, fit and wearing navy jeans and a dark t-shirt. She is an artisan in artisan's clothes. Her eyes glimmer with excitement at the prospect of framing another loved piece brought to her by another stranger.
The shop was once a butchers shop in the days when the butcher had his own smoking room. It's still there behind the old timber structure. These days its painted in shades of cream and heritage brown. It fits in with the new West End where style is gradually pushing out the old grunge, the old charm. Still Kerry is okay. She's had a connection with the area for many years. She understands the place. She has kept the business simple. For her it's about making things, not a glossy and superficial shop full of baubles.
I wander around the open space while I wait. She has some local artist's work on the walls and a pile of cheap, ready made frames propped up against the wall. There are two other people waiting. A young woman about five foot three with long blonde hair. She's wearing jeans and a singlet top. It shows off her strong young body and seems to accentuate her quiet presence. There's a tall bloke with her. Nothing much to report about him. They talk quietly.
'Okay' says Kerry as she turns her attention to the three of us. "Won't be a moment' she again says to me. I'm in no hurry I think. But she's making sure I know she hasn't forgotten me. She disappears into the back and brings out a number of large images which have been mounted on lightweight foam sandwich backing. The only image I can see is of a young blonde woman with a shoulder smashed with tattoos. Only then do I notice the tattoos creeping across the shoulders of the young woman in front of me and flowing down the inside of her upper arm. They are flowers and vines and abstract designs - not roses and romantic flowers. These have a tough edge and the red reminds me of blood. There's not a dragon in sight.
When she speaks I am shocked. I expect this pure sound to fill the room but her voice is thin and its American. This is not the voice of mainstream America. No movie comes to mind which could help me. It's a little girl's voice, almost innocent but there's somthing not right. The voice shouldn't have a tattoo on its shoulder. I try to imagine the map of North America. and struggle to find a state to place her in. I realise how limited my knowledge of geography is. I imagine she's from somewhere remote but the best I can do is to picture a large expanse of desert. She's a survivor of a harsh environment. That's my guess.
The exchange is over in less than a minute and she exits with her male friend carrying the collection of images. 'Thanks Phoenix' says Kerry. 'All the best with the show.'
I watch her walk out into the soft afternoon haze and turn back to Kerry who has retrieved my piece from the storeroom. 'Phoenix' I say out loud for no one in particular. I turn to Kerry. 'What's Phoenix's story' I ask, sensing something here than I am not aware of. Kerry lets out a short breath and arches her eyebrows. 'Oh. She's getting ready for 'sexpo'. She's got a stand. She's a stripper.' Kerry is wrapping my frame and shares this with me as if I should know.
'So those pieces are her backdrop?' I probe. 'Sort of' says Kerry. 'There's some beauties there' she adds. 'I wrapped them up so the most discreet one was at the front. There's a couple of pretty hot ones' she adds as she prints out my invoice.
My present looks good. We've made the right choice with the frame. My women's piece seems rather demure beside Phoenix's.
At home I do a little research. I google Phoenix and Sexpo and there she is. She's a cover girl for the news-stand mags that men love, Picture and People. She has a bio that tells of a body which has travelled the world. She's selling what she's got while she can.
I can't get that voice out of my head. 'Good that she's a dancer' I think.