The Woman and Art


Cassie had experimented with a variety of media and in various idioms since leaving art school. She had received a number of small grants, which kept her going while she attempted to develop her own style. But she found that a lot of her work was, on reflection, a bit too derivative.

She had never been especially close to her Aunt Eugenie, which was strange because she had been a spinster lady who had published a number of poems; mostly in fairly obscure places, or published by an Italian vanity press. Nonetheless, she had been a cultured woman with an interest in all the arts. But somehow Eugenie and Cassie had never really got on.

That was why it was such a pleasant surprise to find that she had inherited Eugenie’s house. Eugenie’s demise brought Cassie no great sadness, but left her materially better off, especially as even small grants were becoming harder to come by. The house was modest, but it was now hers, together with a lot of literary detritus, clothing and furniture, which Cassie had quite looked forward to sorting through.

In the event, Cassie quickly disposed of her aunt’s papers, convincing a librarian at the local public library to accept them as a bequest. The woman had seemed doubtful and her enthusiasm had been muted.

On the other hand, she kept a lot of the clothes and most of the furniture, much of which reflected her late aunt’s flamboyant taste. Cassie remembered playing dress-up as a child in some of the furs and flowing gowns and exotic headpieces. And now, strangely, they were hers.


Cassie set aside one room as a studio. Oddly, though, having fewer money worries and “a room of her own” failed to unleash her still dormant originality.

When she was not doing a shift at the coffee shop, and inspiration eluded her, she spent an increasing amount of time reading odd books from Eugenie’s library. There were numerous books either purchased from the Theosophical Society bookshop or of a similar ilk, and she found herself reading one after the other. Her aunt had had a serious interest in astrology, it seemed, and Cassie had always felt there must be something in it. She attempted to cast her own horoscope, but the modest amount of geometry and arithmetic involved defeated her. She doubted she had a future as an astrologer and occult adviser.

She unloaded some of these frustrations on her photographer friend Ed, when he stayed for a light lunch one day.

“So, I am still looking for my own voice, you know?”, she picked at her salad.

“There is nothing wrong with taking advice and studying the masters, so long as you make that next step. Into something new and personal”, he offered.

“You’re getting jobs taking industrial photographs, factories and stuff, right?”

“Yes, but I am interested in portraiture too now.”

“Oh, yeah, I saw one of your cards at the newsagent. Up at the counter”, she recalled.

“Well, you start out taking pictures of your friends … I could do you. It helps if your subject has some kind of individuality. Another creative person, you know.”

“You mean me?”, she suggested.

“Sure. You have quite a … striking appearance and lovely skin and colouring for black and white shots, with your dark hair and fair skin …”

“Thanks. I suppose. Let me think about it … would you like to make the coffee?”


He had dropped by for an afternoon coffee.

“Ed, I was thinking of converting the front room to a small gallery. Show a few of my things and maybe other artists. Maybe even your portraits when you have a few ones you are happy with.”

“Sounds good.”

“I haven’t got a collection together I am happy with. But when I do … and I could sell a few pictures. I am just trying to think of a good name for the gallery.”

“Have you thought about it? Me taking pics of you?”

“Oh, I suppose. I actually had an idea”.


“I could put on some of my aunt’s old stuff, furs and boots and so on”, she suggested.

“Yes, could be fun. You have a bit of a classic look and we can experiment. I’ll see if I can find a good place for light. I was thinking of taking the shots inside this place. Some of the old fittings are quite intriguing, visually”, he said, trying not to sound too much like he had been planning already.


He took a lot of shots through quite a long afternoon, fussing, she thought, rather too much about the light.

She had broken out a pile of her aunt’s old clothes and tried most of them on in various combinations. It was a pity, she felt, with what she considered her artist’s eye, that the remarkable colours would not show up in the black and white photos. But she knew that serious photographers still seemed to be stuck on black and white.


“These are the best”, he told her.

She looked down at the scattered photos.

He had made her look really good. But her pleasure was mixed with considerable shock, because he had selected the ones where, fortified with a little white wine, she had elected to wear just a dark fur wrap of her aunt’s around her shoulders and a pair of her cute short boots. Other than that, she was naked.

“I love those, the series of semi-nudes. See how well your dark hair and the dark fur are set off by your pale skin. Beautiful.”

“Yes”, she had to agree. After all her efforts, her friend had finally created something special in her house, using her female body.

She had a rare insight, both powerful and certain. This man, her casual friend, had real talent.


Ed had now moved in. There was room in the house. They usually shared the bedroom, but they had their own spaces.

His earnings from commercial photography were a welcome addition to the economy of the house. She no longer worked at the coffee shop, and it seemed only fair to her that she should do most of the work around the house, especially as Ed was often out at various locations for jobs.

She was able to get on with her own work, and she seemed to intuit that something interesting would grow inside her. She was also now styling herself a gallery owner, had a sign up outside, and had had cards printed. Ed’s photographs, modestly priced, sold well.

His revealing photographs of Cassie graced the walls of the house. And she kept the furs and other clothes in her bedroom.

Cassie was not the prayerful kind, but she sometimes sent kindly thoughts heavenwards to her aunt Eugenie. In time she came to think that Eugenie’s contribution was as much to Ed’s gift as to hers. Maybe even more.


2 responses to this post.

  1. The wonders of naked …er… nacent talent. But, I am afraid I still prefer Janis Joplin.


  2. […] “The Woman and Art” […]


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