Chapter the Ninth: Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair
Michelangelo seemed to float with ethereal grace from painting to painting in the mausoleum-like structure that was known as Zeitgeist. Zeitgeist was a very exclusive gallery run by what Sheri considered to be the most banal Germans she had ever met. Zeitgeist was so exclusive, Sheri didn’t know anyone who had ever made it in, yet the receptionist, as soon as she had seen Michelangelo, had fawned and greeted him with overtures that were almost enough to make Sheri laugh. But if anyone deserved such respect, her Mikey did.
As expected, the Germans had treated Sheri with much less respect, as if she were a kid tagging along with daddy. The receptionist, followed by a little woman with mod glasses marched up to a spot near Sheri. Severely, the receptionist uttered, “Will there be anything to drink?”
“I was inquiring about him.” The receptionist’s finger shot out to indicate Michelangelo.
“I will take some wine, the usual year.” Michelangelo muttered distractedly. “Did the ‘Refuge of the Ramses II’ find a buyer yet?”
“No, sir.” The receptionist cast her eyes down.
“That is troubling. Sheri, you must see this.”
The Germans scampered off and Sheri ran to her Mikey’s side. “What is it?”
“This is one of my works. I tried to capture the grandeur and oppressive solitude of these cyclopean environs for a soul who--are you familiar with Ozymandias?”
Sheri strained to think what that many syllabled word meant. “Um…”
Switching to a velvety, oratory tone, Michelangelo intoned, “‘I met a traveler from an antique land who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well whose passions read, which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed, and on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.’” To finish, Michelangelo stated, “This painting is tangentially related to Ozymandias’ plight. Of course, historians got his name wrong, which adds to the irony deliciously.”
“That was beautiful,” said Sheri in all sincerity. “I know that from somewhere.”
“A poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I’m rather fond of that one. It helps to remind me of the ephemeral nature of human creations, concepts, and, of course, the mortal coil itself. ”
“But if art is a human construct…” Sheri’s brow furled.
“Ah, yes, do go on.”
“Isn’t it somewhat pointless to produce it?
“Ah, like a star in the heavens is your brightness. I am ever so pleased with myself for choosing you. Yes, this is the central dilemma of being an artist. What’s the point, when your point is rendered pointless by the passage of time? But you must keep in mind certain things. Firstly, if you do certain things, do them well, and on a grand scale, the world cannot help but be affected by them for ages. Many people have forgotten the true name of that long-lost pharaoh, but still his influence is seen, in that very poem if nowhere else. Even idiots have heard the poem’s most famous line. So do something big, make a splash, and you may be able to change the world. But nothing lasts forever.”
“But you had another point to make?”
“Indeed my dear. There is a significant way to change humanity that few conceive. There are some images, sensations, and intonations that are so invasive that they can change humanity in a way similar to genetics. I call this the art of the divine. Art that can be so sublime as to transfigure its viewer. A holy experience. As one would expect, it can take millennia to find such a concept and render it in the proper media effectively. But if anyone has that long, it’s me.”
“What are you saying?”
“Come, my dear, did you doubt me when I said I was an angel?”
“Oh, I… I’m sorry it’s just,” Sheri cast her eyes downward. What was Mikey? An angel… it was to fabulous a concept; yet did not the very air seem transmogrified by his otherworldly aura?
“Quite alright, my dear. Even Thomas doubted. Ah! I remember rendering that scene, oh it was ages ago…” he starred off with a soft smile, and then suddenly his eyes became sharp again “Oh my, what have we here? An arachnid?”
Sheri looked to the paining, where a black spider was slowly winding its way down a new spinneret of webbing. “Oh, yuck! I hate bugs!” She glommed onto Michelangelo.
“Have heart, my dear; after all, spiders do have intriguing proportions if nothing else.” At that point, the little woman returned, sans receptionist, with a bottle of whine. “Ah, thank you Frau Blucher, but we shant need the wine after all.”
The little woman raised her eyebrows. “Sir?”
Conspiratorially, Michelangelo turned to Sheri and whispered. “Now you shall see my wings.”
“Oh dear,” said the little woman in a heavy accent born of a disdain for learning English. “Here ve go again. Alida, please see that we are not disturbed, he is in one of those moods. Be gentle, sir.”
Michelangelo laughed. “Your gallery has such a reputation for being cold. But I find you all here at Zeitgeist to be delightfully vital where it matters most.”
With that said, he cast aside his roquelair and got down to business. And Sheri did indeed see his wings.
“They’re beautiful.” She whispered to herself. “Beautiful and awful at the same time.”