Tessa 2023 and Elizabeth 2017
Venus de Milo
She is made entirely of marble, pale and bathed in a cool light from the large window nearby. Her robe has slipped - and covers only her lower half. She stands atop a pedestal, staring at me, unblinking.
Her most striking feature is her arms or lack thereof. My guidebook tells me that they have been missing since the statue was found, dug up by a farmer and French naval officer on the Greek island of Melos in 1820. She might have been holding an apple spinning thread, it says and was possibly adorned in jewellery and painted to look real. Though little is known about her creator, archaeologists believe she represents Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
Despite her looks, the crowd of onlookers around me seemed unimpressed. Sure, there is the occasional art nerd or scholarly professor staring up in admiration, but the majority are just jetlagged travellers, lost in the maze-like layout of the Louvre or here because TripAdvisor recommended it as a bucket-list item. Many aren’t even looking at her, too busy with whining toddlers or phone calls. I stifle a yawn as I shuffle through to the next room. I shoot the sculpture one last glance as I leave and turn back to my map.
The next museum-goer to meet my gaze is more curious than the rest, Then she walks away, glancing back at me before moving on to the next room.
On the same day, countless people follow the same path. Uncaring eyes scour my body, disappointed faces and Is that all? comments. I can’t turn my head, but I can feel their scepticism. I am stuck in a never-ending cycle of judgement, considered the pinnacle of beauty, yet criticised.
Blemish-free and beautiful. That’s what the restorers wanted me to become. No dirt, no pockmarks, no cracks. A perfect image of grace and elegance, showcasing the mastery and refinement of the Greek golden age. Ironic, considering I have no arms.
People want me to be the same as I was thousands of years ago, no ageing, no faults, a passive-aggressive reminder to women everywhere that they must never grow old, never be ‘ugly’. That they are only interesting if they are young and pretty. That people will only ever like them if they are unique but like everyone else at the same time.
As the tourists file in and out of the room, staring, yawning, rubbing their eyes, unconsciously repeating actions performed by nearly centuries of people, I wonder, and not for the first time, if they will ever realise this blinding truth the world is keeping from them.
Tessa is a voracious reader. Her writing is thoughtful and insightful. She is the Brainium Cranium of Gail’s Saturday class.
The Paintings's Perspective
As I stand here between rose-strung saplings, even the melody of my violin is oily and slick. A painted smell rises from the wind-rifled poppies. Their petals blow the outside world a kiss. My white dress blends into the misty red textured of the flower-scattered hill. I am framed by soft green strokes that go nowhere. I wish I could hide my face from uncaring and unimaginative eyes, but my dark hair is perpetually caressed by an invisible wind, exposing pale cheeks and eyes that shut tightly against the world. And I am trapped.
I don't know who she is, but I paint her anyway; the girl standing in my mind, in a meadow of poppies. Quite a pleasing painting, really. I think, as my brush strokes the canvas.
Perhaps I could sell it on Trademe, or something. I shove it aside and go to make coffee.
first published in Write On 2017