Old Man Destiny
The summer was balmy and hot; not a nice time. The sun bit into me, like serpents. Where I come from, sun was supposed to shine, not nibble. I remember that particular day well because I took a long bike ride into Rahway, one town over from mine. There was a small shop there. A painter's gallery; nothing more than a house, actually, that had its walls covered with the artist's works and opened its doors to the public. I passed by it all the time. It was one of the places "cool guys" never go into, so I never did. Every summer, every year, we'd pass it by on the way to this place or that on our bi-weekly (or sometimes more often) bike rides throughout Jersey.
Anyway, I was getting older, times were getting colder (at least for me) and I decided to hell with the "cool guys." So this time I stopped. And with the sun biting the nape of my neck and leaving what I swore--based on feeling--was scars dyed red, I walked in. I was public, wasn't I? I was fifteen, yes, but I was still public. And though I knew I'd never walk out of that building with something I didn't walk in with, curiosity once again killed the cat and into the cool air beyond the front door of the artist's "house" did I walk.
My short tour through the house was longer than I expected. I was wrong about not walking out with something. Very wrong, you see. But I didn't walk out with something physical something you can touch or hold. I walked out with respect, appreciation, admiration-and all of those things that artists and craftsmen of the highest caliber bestow upon those that attempt to understand them. Those that really look at their work. Maybe they never reach the understanding, but they reach a plateau high enough that they come out feeling renewed and more appreciative of all the things around them that could, in some way, shape or form, become art. They have this knack, you see.
Well, I walked in and the most amazing thing happened. A fifteen-year-old punk rocker kid walks into this posh little art gallery and they did the most amazing thing I can remember they smiled and said hello. That was it. It's pretty sad when you think about it, how one of the most remarkable memories from my teen years was not being harassed for something or other based on my looks. So I did the only thing a human in my shoes would have done I smiled back.
The gallery was cold enough to be a contrast to the humid weather outside. I walked from what I presumed to be a small sitting room where the clerk sat (one of the smilers) into what seemed to be a living room or parlor. On the walls were paintings of many different things. Animals, forests, and more. But there was one on the far wall. A larger painting, surrounded by a carved frame. The picture showed a chess board. And the pieces were engaged in their infinite dance of strategic war. Chess was a game I always appreciated, taught many years before by my father who is one of the few that can beat me in a long arduous battle; presumably because he knows all my tricks. He taught me those tricks after all. The few times I have beaten him was usually due to my picking up some new attack or defensive maneuver from another game I played or another source I referenced.
Anyway, the painting was grand. The chess board seemed to float in the clouds, and just behind the black king who stood mockingly in the far corner (the chess board was turned to you at an angle) was a vague, ghostly shape. The shape of a man with a long beard, but not the typical white "wise-man" look. His hands were outstretched above the board. Whether he was playing the game or simply watching was indiscernible. But he had much to do with the game or was it a game? The shape of the pieces were of typical chess nature, but they seemed to have a hue of life. That's the only way I can properly explain it; a hue of life. I think it might be the glossier nature of the colors; not the flat black and white you normally see. I'm still not sure, to this very day. While taking on the appearance of a simple chess match, the painting held more the battles of life I suppose, as cliché as it sounds.
The painting's name was one word: Destiny. I presumed it to be the moniker of the old man who stood above the game that I had described earlier. His grey-black cloak hung loosely about him, blowing in the wind among the clouds; which was where the board itself floated casually. And just behind him was a darker cloud. A storm cloud which is just about to roll over the old man and across the face of the landscape on which a few key players engaged in their continuous battles.
Within that year--I don't remember precisely as details get blurred well in the sands of time and we're talking about a decade past--that small gallery burned to the ground. I never did find the time to go back there again to see if "my" painting still hung in the parlor. I can only assume that it was destroyed by the flames, as the storm cloud rolled over the face of the game. Sudden and complete, the fire was brutal. If I hadn't stopped in that day I never would have seen Destiny and I never would have known what it was I had missed.
Surreal RAYn may have gone up in 1997, but it was born more than a decade ago on that day I visited the gallery. You can see the clues if you look hard enough. Is not the artwork similar to those in the gallery, with their surreal nature and other-world textures? Is not the very background upon which you enter Surreal RAYn made up of the clouds those that survived the fire that claimed Old Man Destiny? Of course, there are differences. For I did not want to become the artist who I had secretly and namelessly admired for over a decade. I just wanted to create a place where people can go to get that same feeling of respect, appreciation and admiration that I walked out of that small, Rahway gallery with. A place that, this time, won't burn down and is easy to visit because you don't have to make a five mile bike ride to get there.
The artists I put forth in Surreal RAYn all come from different schools of thought. While unlike the Rahway gallery and the creator of Destiny in many ways, their formats tend to follow the same path and take the same turns. All use their computers as the paints and their monitors as the canvas. I have artists of different types here but all with similar talents. Some are what I call "render artists," utilizing their computers to create ray-traces and rendered images. Others are "fractal artists," utilizing the mathematical capabilities of their systems to create complex shapes, colors and arrangements. And to these they attach their own views of what they see in these random creations. Still another is what I refer to as a "surreal photographer." His work is different from the others, coming first from a camera. The photograph is then scanned into his computer and manipulated into a landscape of imagination. And all of them take you to another place, but not another time. A still, quiet place where time doesn't pass as it does here.
These artists are all talented and their work worthwhile. Surreal RAYn is here for them. In here they may create their own parlors, be their own smilers and cover their own walls with works straight out of their mind's eye. They choose the music you hear, the wall coloring you see and the images you view. They are the masters of their galleries and I am only the silent proprietor, standing once again in the parlor of my past and looking at something surreal.
More than 10,000 people have visited Surreal RAYn since it opened its virtual doors to the public. And I would like to thank each and every one of them for making Surreal RAYn a success. And for giving all of these wonderful artists a place to hang their work and know that there are enough people to view it to justify creating more. Every one of them thanks you, I'm sure. And as the proprietor of this little stop, this tiny virtual museum that has grown from events that began more than a decade ago, I thank you more.
The Old Man Returns
A new painting went up in the gallery of one of Surreal RAYn's render artists recently. Aldereck has created an image which he has dubbed Checkmate. The strange part is simple to understand if you look at the image. The chess board is there, the pieces engaged in the lurid dance of battle. The sky stretches out behind the chess board in all directions, the board once again floating in space. This time, the white king stands at the far corner of the board from you, succumbing to the effects of a multitude of black pieces prepared for bloodshed.
There is one thing missing, however. Old Man Destiny isn't to be seen, but if you look closely to the left of the board, there is a circular shadow stretching its way through the squares. Could this be his shadow, as he returns again? Something that seems sudden and tears through all before it to make you believe it is truly gone forever, such as a fire, may not be truly an ending. When you walk in the fields of the surreal, it can be a beginning. And now with excruciating detail, as I look into the impending Checkmate and see the shadow, I see his face once again; like an age-old dream re-awakening after a decade.