The Blue Woman and the Red Bird
One day the blue woman was walking to the edge of the volcano so she could jump in and kill herself. On the way she came across a red bird standing on a dead branch near the trail she was on. The red bird started talking to the blue woman and what she said made her cry. They weren’t tears of sadness but tears of joy because what the red bird said was that she was lonely being the only red bird in the area and wanted someone to talk to who would understand her. She saw the blue woman walking by and since she had never seen a blue woman before she figured she had to feel pretty lonely as well. She was right. The blue woman felt very lonely. But thanks to the red bird noticing her and saying something she didn’t feel that way anymore. The red bird and the blue woman became great friends and accompanied each other everywhere together until the end of their days. And they were never lonely again.
Drawing and story © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
I’ve been drawing in sketchbooks for many decades now. I sometimes go back and revisit older books just to see what I did or to show others. Recently I did this with a series of sketchbooks from 2000 on. I discovered a number of drawings I wanted to work on more, mostly in coloring and shading. Here are 4 drawings from this endeavor.
If you know my recent work you know I often write short stories to accompany my drawings. In these drawings though the stories or observations were written directly on the page. I specifically went for stream of consciousness oriented narratives with long run-on sentences that imitated the way I actually experienced and thought about the moment.
The classy student studying with the grey eyeshadow and glimmery lips while her boyfriend who looks young and too young for her reads a magazine with three bug bits on his ankle in a row looking like a constellation and she uses a blue and red pen & huge hoop earrings, the biggest i’ve ever seen with her left hand and very small delicate fingers with no polish in Norman, Oklahoma on a summer’s night that threatens to rain while the two girls behind her wear red Sooner shirts and read & talk about the young star who is too thin and I draw instead of read the manual on the class I am here for while I catch a bright pink purse pass by a tall guy sitting with yellow.
The tall thin woman at Panera with great veins reading her bible and taking notes and eating a bagel and ignoring that I am drawing her while she drinks coffee and contemplates divorce on a hot summer morning in Tulsa.
The woman looked like she had been crying; splotchy skin, red eyes & nose but she had not.
‘Ruby Lipgloss’ 2004-2016
The woman with the ruby lip gloss and zig zag parted hair looking at the person in the door and wondering if he noticed her perfume when he passed as she made a call to her boyfriend to ask if he picked up mascara for her.
Drawings and stories © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
My father and my mother taught me a very important thing about electing our President.
That is always, no matter if your side wins or loses, hope the best. Hope that the new President is better than what you think he is. Hope that the actions aren’t as severe as his rhetoric has been. Hope that the gravity of the office will infuse this person with a conscience you don’t believe he possesses. Hope that our system of government, with its checks and balances, will wear down the rough edges so people aren’t hurt by his actions and words.
I hope these things, not because I am naive, but because I believe it’s the best way for me personally to move forward as a citizen of the United States.
What do you think?
I started working with a drawing app, Sketchbook Express by Autodesk, on my ipad mini last year. The method was pretty simple. I had a total of 3 layers to work with. I started with simple photographic portrait as the base layer. I then did some finger painting on the layers above. I started interchanging layers and opacities, erasing and layering again, until I got something interesting. I got a piece of gear to use with the ipad called ‘pencil’ which is just a stylus. I sometimes use it but most of the drawings are still basically finger painting. The photos are of friends and family. Most are online friends, either on Periscope, the live video app, or on Facebook. Some are images they took themselves and others are screenshots I took of them while they were doing their live videos.
To see the slide show, just click left or right on the image. This is an embedded gallery from my flickr.com site.
I wasn’t expecting it, but they have begun to sell. If you are interested in having one done of you on commission, or in buying one you see, let me know at email@example.com
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What Won’t Change
I believe that if nothing happened in Congress to legislate responsible gun regulations after Sandy Hook, nothing will happen now , after Orlando. I think that is terribly sad but I do think it is true.
What Can Change
But, I do believe there is something we can do every day. And it can actually have a profound effect, and that is to examine what builds hate up so much that a person believes they are justified in committing mass slaughter (or individual killing). What is it that brings them to that point? and most importantly, who and what can help them never get to that point?
Brain Illness vs ‘Normal’
Obviously someone who is mentally ill (more accurately, has a brain disease) is one sort of case who takes a lot of effort, in informal and formal environments, to get help and resolution. But what about the many who would not be classified as mentally ill if they had a formal evaluation? What about those who are law-abiding citizens, who can by guns legally, who also happen to be very angry or depressed, or jealous, or anxious, or bitter or any number of feelings and emotions that are taking them to a very dark place? What can we do about and for those people?
How do we help them lay down the burden of anger and hate? First and foremost it always starts with our own behavior. We have to be the example of someone who has already done that and continually does it. Then we have to be willing to see others clearly, to not make excuses when someone is angry, to not enable them to continue, but to stop and confront them in love and compassion, not in judgment, letting the person know you are on their side and in their corner wanting the very best for them. If we don’t feel safe confronting them, then we need to find friends, family or professionals that might help. But in many cases it’s really simply about asking them about their feelings and talking it through with them, giving them hope they can get beyond the hate they have. It’s not a simple process, but it can be done.
One of the arguments I hate the most from gun advocates is the, ‘Hey, if they don’t have guns, they will use knives’ argument. I think it is absurd and wrong. BUT, it does point the way to something that is true, and that is hate exists before violence, just as Jesus taught. Murder starts in the heart as hate. Even if we did have effective gun control (which we should) we would still have hate. What we do with that, how we transform it into love, is the essential work that will never go away, no matter how many or how few guns we have.
Drawing, commentary and quotes © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Chapter One – Claire
When Claire the Clarinetist was finished playing she could have chosen to leave the altar as do many of the other orchestra members. But the orchestra was arranged today so that she was facing directly towards the congregation (usually she is facing sideways) and she thought it would be fun to just sit there and see what the pastor sees every week.
Chapter Two – NO
The first thing she noticed was the raven-haired woman in the front row trying to control her kids. Her husband was also there but he was having no interaction with any of them. She had seen this happen again and again with this family. The mother had to do the hard work of interacting with the kids constantly and the father did nothing. She wondered if they would ever be friends. She thought, “No.”
Chapter Three – YES
As Claire looked at them longer she realized something else. The mother was getting the hugs and the smiles from the kids. The father was not. He may have been missing the hassle, but he was also missing the love. Now when she wondered if they would ever be friends, she thought, “Yes.”
Chapter Four – I DON’T KNOW
She then cast her eyes on an elderly man. He looked alert, with sparkling eyes. He had on a very nice sweater. She wondered about him, who he was, who he had been. She imagined him as a young man. She wondered if they would have been friends back when he was her age now. She thought, “I don’t know.”
Chapter Five – I KNOW
Her attention was pulled back to the sermon. The Pastor was telling a joke. It went on way too long and when the punch line finally came it was terrible. The whole congregation laughed though. All except the elderly man. He rolled his eyes. That is when she realized she would have to go meet him because they would be good friends. She thought, “I know.”
Chapter Six – MAYBE
She looked up into the balcony and noticed a striking blonde woman. One of the spotlights aimed at the altar was directly behind the woman and it lit up her big blonde hairdo like a halo. She could tell, even from a distance, that she had on impeccable clothing. She looked like she had a lot of money. She wondered if they would ever be friends. She thought, “Maybe.”
Chapter Seven – MAYBE NOT
As she continued to watch the woman in the balcony she noticed her looking back at her. Then she leaned over to the woman next to her and whispered in her ear. When she did that, she gestured toward the altar and pointed her finger. They both smiled and suppressed a giggle. The Clarinetist knew she had been pointing at her. She thought, “Maybe not.”
Claire eventually met the woman in the front row. They became good friends. She would babysit their kids once in a while when the couple would go out on date nights. It turned out they were very old fashioned but very much in love. He was kind and thoughtful to his kids, though not particularly warm. She adored her husband and greatly appreciated his ability to discipline the kids with love.
Clair did go and meet the elderly man. They became good friends. He started attending the noon concerts she did once a month with her little quintet she had. He was a widower, having been married 57 years before his wife passed away. Claire played his favorite song at his funeral 5 years later.
Claire ran into the blonde woman in the church bathroom a few weeks later. The blonde woman said, “I just want you to know how much I admire your playing every Sunday. My friend and I sit in the balcony and just adore the entire orchestra. We both like to sit up there because the acoustics are best. We can hear your clarinet very distinctly. We always make sure to point you out to each other when we think you have an exceptionally cool outfit on.”
They became good friends.
drawing and story © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
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Better Than Good Enough
One might think that it is critical when you reach a certain point of success that you up your game and push your level of excellence, going beyond ‘good enough’. But the truth is you can’t wait until you reach any particular level of success to do that. If you don’t push for excellence and originality from the very beginning chances are you won’t ever reach a high level of success. If you do somehow reach that level of success, you will have a hard time sustaining it.
Drawing, commentary and Quote © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Dominique was born in France but moved to Chicago when she was just a baby. Her father died when she was seven and her mother raised her as best she could. When she was 18 her mother decided to move back to France but Dominique wanted to stay in Chicago and go to school or get a job.
Dominique went to the gallery opening because the exhibition was titled ‘Pierced’. She saw a flyer for it posted in the back hallway of a club where she danced. She wasn’t really an artsy type of person, she had only been to one museum in her life, but she was excited to go because she loved piercings. She had 20 of them herself and was hoping to get more.
She asked one of the other dancers, who went by the stage name ‘Flame’, if she wanted to go with her but she had no baby sitter for that night. The other girls at the club weren’t really very friendly and most of them sort of scared her. She would have invited her best friend at the club, ‘Trinity’, but she had been arrested for her 3rd DUI two days before and was still in jail.
She decided to go alone though it was very scary for her to do so. She never really went out to anything remotely ‘cultural’ even though she read about a lot of those sorts of events online. In her mind she wasn’t very socially adept, never really knowing what to say. She had gotten better at small talk, working at the club had helped her with that, but she still worried about talking about serious stuff. She had it all in her brain, she thought she was pretty smart after all, but she just sort of froze up when that sort of conversation was in front of her.
The gallery was in the art district of Chicago. She had never been there and got lost. She felt annoyed with herself for not figuring out how to get there in advance and felt a panic attack coming on. Luckily she found it right about then and was able to calm herself down by doing the breathing exercises she learned about on some fitness website she sometimes followed. She checked her makeup in the rear view mirror, reapplying her eyeliner just a bit and touching up her lipstick.
She dressed how she thought one should dress for an artsy event. She wore heels that weren’t too tall, certainly not her stiletto height that she wore on stage. She had on a maxi skirt, the only one she owned, with a bold blue and gold print. Blue and gold were her favorite colors and they matched her piercings. Her blouse was just a simple pale blue leotard type top. It did a pretty good job of reducing how big her bust looked, which she hoped for since she hated the attention they got when she wasn’t on the job.
The place had a beautiful sign hanging from the front letting her know the name of the gallery, Foray. The gallery was crowded but not so much so that she couldn’t make her way through. She had to go to the bathroom and asked a cute girl who, in spite of looking about 14 years old, seemed to have a certain confidence standing in the middle of the room, as if she knew the gallery. She pointed to the back of the gallery and said, “Go to the left back there and it’s on the right. I like your piercings, by the way.” Dominique thanked her and went off to find the bathroom.
Dominique chuckled to herself once she left the young girl. So young yet so confident, something she wished she had been at that age. She found the bathroom and relieved herself. There was a big orange vase made out of corrugated cardboard in the corner of her stall. It had a single white PVC pipe sticking out of it with a large paper flower sticking at the end. The flower was blue and gold and looked a lot like the stud coverings she had on her piercings. This made her happy.
She went back out into the gallery and started to look at the art work. She hadn’t really known what to expect since the flyer didn’t have a picture on it. She assumed it would be pictures of people with piercings, but it was not. It was large paintings of strange scenes. One was of a fat man on a fishing boat catching a giant Marlin. It showed a close up of the hook poking through the fish’s lip. Another was of a woman at a sewing machine. She was in pain with her finger impaled by the needle of the machine. It showed blood all over the sewing machine. It made Dominique wince. There was a very large painting of a man dead on the ground with a big hole in him. Another man was standing over him with a gun that was smoking.
It was all very strange to Dominique. She was repulsed but wanted to look at the same time. She had no idea what any of these paintings had to do with piercings at all. She walked into an area where there was a wine bar and food, which she quickly indulged in. She would have preferred water, her mouth was really dry, but she was hungry and thirsty and that’s what was there. The wine wasn’t very good but the little cracker thingies with the tan-colored spread on them were yummy.
She was going for a second helping when the young girl she had asked direction from came up beside her. “You found the bathroom, right?” she asked.
“Yes, found it fine, thank you” she responded. “I liked the vase with the blue and gold flower, that was cool. Who did that one?”
The young girl laughed, “Ha, that’s mine. It’s the only place my mother let me put it. She’s mean like that!”
Right then a woman who looked surprisingly like the young girl came up. “Are you telling a perfect stranger how mean I am to you? You always make me sound like the worst parent.” She laughed and grabbed the girl around the shoulders from behind and nuzzled her neck.
The young girl looked at Dominique and said, “That’s my mom, if you hadn’t guessed.”
Dominique laughed and said, “I figured. You two look a lot alike. She reached out her hand to the girl, What’s your name?”
The girl answered, “I am Veronique but I go by Vera. This mean person behind me is Cruella.”
Her mother laughed and said, “Yep, that’s me, cruelest mother on earth! Actually, my name is Angelique but I usually go by Angel. Nice to meet you.”
She held out her hand and Dominique shook it. Then she turned to Vera and shook her hand as well. Both hands were warm and strong. It made her feel good. “I am Dominique but I usually am just called ‘Dom’.
“So, what do you think of the art here?” Dom asked.
Vera looked at her mom and was about to speak when her mom said, “I am not sure, what do you think?”
Dom responded, “I like it I think. It’s sort of scary though. I like the colors he uses but I don’t really understand how the paintings relate to the title of the show. I only came to here because I like piercing a lot.”
Before she could continue Vera said, “I sort of got that.”
Her mother said, “Don’t be rude Vera.” But Vera rolled her eyes and protested, “I wasn’t being rude, I was just stating the obvious dear mother.”
Dom smiled and said, “I didn’t take it as rude, no worries. I know people look at my face and see a lot of piercings. Anyway, I thought it would about that. I am not sure what these are about. But then again, I don’t know much about art. This is the very first art gallery I have ever been in. And I have only been in one museum before.”
Vera sighed, “You are so lucky! I have lived my whole life going to galleries and museums, they can be so boring!”
Vera’s mother sighed back, “See what I get for exposing my daughter to a life of culture and beauty? Such an ungrateful little waif!” She then let out a big laugh and kissed Vera on the cheek.
Vera wiped her cheek and looked at her mom. “You can be so embarrassing sometimes!” she said as she laughed back.
Dom was completely enthralled by how fun this encounter was. Her spirits were lifted by seeing the relationship between Vera and her mom. But she was confused. “So, I have a question Vera. You said the vase in the bathroom was yours and your mom would only let you put it there. So Angel, does that mean you are the owner of the gallery?”
Angel answered with a smile, “No, not the owner. I am the artist. Vera wanted to take over the gallery with her vases but I, meanest mother in the world, wouldn’t let her. She got the bathrooms and she’s lucky to have them.” She laughed.
“You did these paintings? Really?” Dom said with her jaw open. She was now mortified. “I am so sorry I said I didn’t get them. I really do think they are good. Don’t listen to me, I don’t know anything. I should have just shut…”
Angel put her hand up to stop her, interrupting, “It’s completely OK Dominique. I wasn’t offended. I completely understand people will have all sorts of opinions about the work. I will say however that the reason I think the name of the show and the paintings are connected is that each painting shows something or someone getting pierced by something.”
Dom looked around. “Damn, how did she miss that!”, she thought to herself. “Uh…DUH me. Now I see it. Man, sometimes I can be so dumb.”
“No worries, you aren’t the first person who didn’t see the connection.” Angel said. “I was married to my husband for 10 years and he NEVER got any of the connections I was trying to make. But I still loved him anyway.”
Vera came up close to her mom and hugged her around the waist in a sweet, comforting gesture. Dom wasn’t sure what it was all about figured it wasn’t any of her business anyway.
Angel excused herself, saying she had to mingle with other guests. She looked at Vera and said, “Are you ok on your own for now?”
She laughed, pointed at Dom and said, “Yep, I am going to walk around with her and explain all the weird things in your paintings that no one ever notices!”
Dom and Vera did just that. They walked around the gallery and Vera explained about little secrets, and in some cases the larger story, behind the paintings.
They got to the last painting, of a man with a gun in his hand standing over someone he had just shot. Dom said, “This is the most gruesome of all the paintings I think. What’s the story behind this one?”
Vera looked at her and said, “This one is of my dad. He had to kill someone a long time ago to protect my mom and me. We went to the mall to shop and there was some guy who started firing a gun near us. My dad pushed us both down into a lingerie store and ran after the guy. He fought him and got the gun away and killed him.”
Dom was stunned. “Wow, your dad was a real hero that day! How did he get the courage to go do that?”
“I don’t know” Vera responded. “Mom says he never really was a scary strong guy before, but she said something just came over him and he did it. She tells me that he never said anything about it afterwards except that he loved us and wanted to make sure we were safe.”
“Wow. Did he ever talk to you about it?” Dom asked.
Vera looked up at Dom and said, “No, he died before I really was old enough to talk to him very much. I was only 5.”
Dom put her hand on Vera’s shoulder. “I am so sorry to hear that. He sounds like he was a really great dad. I bet you miss him.” She was crying as she spoke.
Vera noticed the tears and said, “It’s ok now. I remember good things about him. I am not sad that much anymore.”
Dom said, “You know why I am crying? There is something you don’t know about me. My dad died too. I was only 7.”
Vera looked at her and wrapped her arms around her waist. “I am sorry, it sucks, doesn’t it.”
“Yes, it does.” said Dom.
Vera and Dom went back into the main gallery to get something to eat and drink. They saw Angel again and Vera told her about Dom’s dad dying. Angel gave Dom a hug, holding on for quite a while. She asked, “Would you like to go to dinner with a few of us after the opening is over? It will just be another half an hour if you can wait. I would love to have you with us.”
Vera piped up, “Yes, you have to come, promise?”
Dom smiled and said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
The dinner was great, as was the fun day the three of them had at the Zoo a week later. Dom started watching Vera a few days a week after school while Angel was at her day job. Vera taught her how she made her paper vases and flowers.
Dom quit her dancing job a few months later. It was a big financial hit but she had saved up some and knew she needed to get out of that business soon anyway. She got a job at the front desk of the Foray Gallery and Vera would come hang out there after school. Dom eventually learned bookkeeping and took over running the gallery’s business side. Turned out she was good at it.
Angel became a very well-known artist and her paintings became much sought after. They started selling to not just collectors but museums as well. The gallery even sold one for $100,000.00, which blew everyone away. There was a big celebration that night!
When Foray’s owner wanted to sell the gallery to move down to Florida to be closer to his dying parents, Dom, Angel and Vera went in together and bought the gallery.
They remained best of friends for the rest of their lives.
Year later, when Dom was asked what was the secret of her success, she would always say the same thing, “The secret to my success is very simple. I had one moment of courage to go see art when I was 21 years old. Everything else came from that”
Drawing and Short Story © 2015 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Oriole had her first one person show at the Gallery Heron.
Oriole got the skirt she wore to the opening at ‘Upscale Retail’ a consignment shop in the fancy part of town. Her sister, Wren, said the skirt looked great on her and that she had the perfect blouse to go along with it. They went over to their mother’s house and found the blouse in spare bedroom closet. Oriole wasn’t at all sure the two went together but her mother, Robin, said that contrasting patterns was the new thing and it looked great. Their little sister, Myna, thought it looked stupid but she thought everything looked stupid so they paid no attention to her.
Oriole had her friend, Ibis, do her hair and make up. She had been a hair stylist and cosmotologist before she had triplets. She told Oriole that the striped hair was the newest thing and that a dark circle of rouge on the apple of her cheek was also a new trend (she called it rouge instead of blush, trying to be old fashioned).
Oriole was at the gallery an hour early. She wanted to make sure the paintings were hung correctly and that the food was laid out just right. She found that the piece called ‘Balls’ was hung next to the piece called ‘Hose’ and it shouldn’t have been. She didn’t like the sexual innuendo of the two of them side by side because neither painting was really about sex at all.
She went to find the gallery owner, Miss Heron, and complained to her. But Miss Heron said it was too late to change the location of either painting. She reassured Oriole that no one would notice that they were next to each other and to just not worry about. Oriole was nervous but agreed to let them stay where they were.
The opening was a big success. Many people came to it and 4 paintings sold. There were many compliments on the food. Three people said they liked her skirt. Nobody mentioned the two paintings next to each other, though Oriole did see two girls laughing while looking at them. Her family came, including her Aunt LittleHawk, who had gone on a spiritual retreat in Navajo territory and changed her name from Fiona Finch.
Two days later Oriole was awakened by a call from Ms. Heron, the gallery owner. She told her to get the newspaper and look at the front page of the ‘Art Scene’ section. She said there was a big photo of her welcoming the guests at the opening and a rave review alongside it. Oriole didn’t get the newspaper so she had to get dressed and go downstairs to the corner store to buy a few copies.
The review praised her use of paint, her witty ability to have content and humor together, and the subtle but insistent message of sexual power among women. She particularly liked the two paintings, ‘Balls’ and ‘Hose’ being next to each other. The reviewer, Henrietta Hornbill, said it was the most auspicious inaugural one person show in the city since Nick Sparrow had shown his sculptures of handcuffs made out of different colors of Jello.
Oriole was very confused. How could any one get a sexual control message out of her paintings? She had never thought about that at any time in the creation of the paintings. She called her oldest and dearest friend, Dovey, (who lived in Cardinal City, California and couldn’t make it to the opening) and asked her if she thought there was a sexual message in the paintings. Dovey said, “Duh, I’ve always known that. I am not surprised it was what the reviewer saw.”
Later that day she got a call from Onea Owl of NPR asking if she would be available for an interview, maybe at the gallery, about her work. They wanted to do a story in the next week about sexuality and wanted her included as an artist leading the way in feminist interpretation of sexual issues. She said yes, mostly because she hoped to meet that lady with the hard name to pronounce who was always on in the mornings.
Three days after that she got an email from someone supposedly from Vogue magazine. She thought it was a joke but she recognized the name of Winny Warbler at the bottom of the email as someone who had been a judge on that reality TV show about fashion. Ms. Warbler wanted to do a photo shoot with her as part of an editorial piece on stylish female artists in the city. She was hoping to get Jinny Crow and Penelope Plover as well.
Oriole called her and asked why she wanted her in the editorial shoot. Winny explained that while the striped hair, clashing patterns and bright circularly rouged cheeks had all been trending separately, Oriole had been the first one to have put them all together so successfully. Oriole was even more confused but decided she was going to go with the flow.
Oriole became a wildly successful artist in the city, then nationally, then internationally. She was the biggest hit at Art Basel in Miami the next year. She was chosen for the Venice Biennale and the Whitney biennial the year after that. She was the first artist on the cover of Vogue, first on the cover of Time since Picasso and first on the cover of Art Forum since ‘the artist formerly known as art’.
Oriole flew high with her fame for 45 years. She became incredibly wealthy with homes in New York and St. Tropez. She had her retrospective in 4 museums simultaneously. MOMA showed her paintings, LACMA showed her sculptures and Tate Modern showed her prints and drawings. Her erotic art was at the museum in St. Tropez.
The most amazing thing about her career though was her departure from it. After the retrospectives closed she sent a press release out saying that she was going to retire from painting and focus on bird watching. She sold her homes, donated her remaining paintings to various museums around the world and disappeared from the art world. She moved to Saskatchewan, Canada and watched migratory birds the rest of her life, which lasted another 20 years. She died in her sleep in her small cabin in the north woods. Though it was never thought that she ended her own life, she was 95 after all, there was a note on her desk that made some people think she had known the end was near.
It said, “I saw all the important people in my life fly by today. I can die happy now.”
Penelope was a Tour Guide of impeccable reputation. She knew everything there was to know about the art in the museum, including the current exhibition. She would explain in great detail why the artist made the choices she made and how one painting led to another and when she did what she did and who she was influenced by and where her art had been shown and what it all meant. People loved her and always gave great compliments about her to the staff of the museum as they left.
She was also a thief. She only took when no one was looking, on those rainy, cold days when she would have just one person in her tour, or she was walking through the galleries and saw an easy mark. The museum was an old place without a lot of money so it hadn’t yet installed security cameras. She was happy about that. She had learned to pickpocket when on a vacation to Barcelona. She actually watched others doing it on La Rambla and simply imitated them again and again until she had it down. She mostly stole wallets. It was a fun challenge for her and she was quite prideful about her abilities.
What she didn’t know however was that the current exhibition’s artwork held a secret. It was more modern than the museum. The artist, unbeknownst to anyone, had installed a camera into one of her sculptures in the exhibition. Her father had worked as a camera repairman and often told her he thought it would be fun to secretly put cameras in art to see how people reacted to the work. He got the idea when she was a child and he had brought her to Disneyland. They went into the haunted house and he kept wondering if the animatronic figures had cameras in their heads to catch the reactions from people. When she did a large sculpture of a head for the first time he asked if there was any way the head could contain a camera. She figured out a way to make room while he adapted a little spy video camera he had got into the repair shop that had never been picked up after being dropped off for repair.
The artist, a woman named, Britt Smithson, was getting a kick out of watching the video of people looking at her artwork. In particular the reactions to her paintings of sloped-shouldered slackers with big penises. The men usually wouldn’t say much but the women would usually crack up or whisper to each other. The camera didn’t have audio and she really wished it did when she saw this. Some people hurried past without taking barely a glance. Some seemed to really like the work, spending time looking and reading the little handout.
When she saw the Tour Guide pickpocket the woman in front of the painting she was dumbstruck. Not because she knew Penelope, she didn’t. But just because it was so unexpected. She showed the tape to her father who was very excited. He and his daughter had caught a thief with their little collaboration!
They spent a lot of time talking about what they should do. Should they simply show the tape to the director of the museum? Maybe to the police? Maybe go and talk to the Tour Guide and let her know what they saw? But if they did any of those things it would be found out that there was a camera in the sculpture and she didn’t want that to be known. In the end they decided to set up a ‘gotcha’ operation. They would have Britt’s sister, Goldy, be a solo museum visitor. She was an easily distracted, spacey person to begin with, so asking her to play that role wasn’t a big deal. Goldy was up for it. It would allow her to put some of her long ago acting lessons into action.
Goldy was to get Penelope as a Tour Guide, make sure her purse was wide open, slung behind her with her bright pink wallet easily accessible. The wallet would have a little tracking device in it that her father had bought at Radio Shack and had installed. Once it was stolen, Goldy would go to the front desk and complain, explain about the tracking device and bring out her iPhone with the tracking app on it. It would be easy enough to track it back to Penelope that way and she would be caught. It was a simple. easy plan that would still allow the camera in the sculpture to be kept secret.
The plan seemed to go perfectly. Goldy played her role to perfection. Penelope stole the pink wallet just as they expected she would and Goldy went to the front desk when she ‘discovered’ the theft after she had finished the tour. The wallet’s signal could be seen on the iPhone and a security guard, a beefy, bearded guy named Gus, went with Goldy and her phone to find it. They had to go through almost the entire museum to where the signal was coming from and the security guard turned out to be quite a flirtatious character. In the five minutes it took to walk to the signal he had tried to finagled a date out of Goldy. This happened to her much more often than she cared to admit and she held off saying yes for the time being.
When they arrived at the back of the museum, they were led to a trashcan just inside the entrance to a restroom. The security guard took the plastic swinging part off the top and looked in. There, on top of a pile of wet paper towels was her pink wallet. The security guard reached in brought it out and asked her to check to see if anything was missing.
Goldy suddenly realized she had done a very stupid thing. Her sister and father had told her to take anything really valuable out of her wallet but in the nervousness of doing this secret mission she had completely forgotten to do that. She had left all her credit cards, all her ID and all her money in the wallet. She was feeling like a complete idiot as she looked through the wallet. Relief came over her though when she discovered the only thing missing was her money. It had been more than she usually carries, probably around $120.00. But that wasn’t going to throw her into poverty or make her miss her rent payment. It was just going to mean not buying anything at the flea market later that day. She was pissed off at herself and relieved at the same time.
Gus said he would report the theft but chances are they would not be recovering any money. Goldy asked about fingerprints on the wallet. Gus said if they reported it to the police they would do that but if she just wanted to be done with it and not report it, then no, he wouldn’t be taking fingerprints. Goldy asked if he thought he could find out who did it. He said it wasn’t likely but he would look as people left, keep an eye out in general and who knows, something might turn up.
Goldy decided to just cut her losses and not call the police. She knew that is what her dad and Britt would want. And she had no intention of telling them she had stupidly forgotten to take her money and credit cards out of the wallet. Gus gave her the number of the security office at the museum as well as his cell phone number. He also asked for hers in case he found something out. She had a feeling he wanted the number to continue to try to get a date. She wasn’t wholly against the idea and gave him her number.
Goldy called Britt as soon as she was out of the museum and explained everything that happened, not including the loss of the money. Britt and their father were disappointed. They did have the tape showing Penelope stealing the wallet if they did want to go to the museum or the police, but it really didn’t seem to be worth it since as far as they knew nothing had been lost. They still did worry about Penelope and her continued thievery. They just weren’t sure what to do about it.
Gus had been wondering for a while about the loss of wallets and other items in the museum. He had seen all the reports come in, most via telephone after someone would get home from the museum and realize something was missing. At first he thought it was a ring of pickpockets that had been around the city over the past few years. It had been reported on again and again but there hadn’t been any progress in catching anyone. But after a while Gus came to the realization that something else was going on. First, it was only women’s wallets that were reported stolen, never a man’s. The city-wide issue had mostly men being targeted. Second, it only happened on slow day, never busy ones. The city-wide pickpocketing was almost always at busy tourist destinations. Gus was starting to have an idea that this might be someone from inside the museum. He instructed the other security guards to watch everyone, including staff. And when possible, discreetly use their cell phones to take pictures of videos of suspicious situations.
It was a little over a week later, during a spring downpour in the city, that one of the security guards, a young women named Jolene, decided to follow Penelope from a distance. It really was a reflection of Jolene being bored more than anything else, but she also had never liked Penelope nearly as much as everyone else. Penelope had treated her rudely a few times in the back offices, basically ignoring her when she said hello and turning her back on her while she was saying something once.
Jolene had her cell phone recording video from the very far side of an empty gallery when it happened. She was looking the other way, out into another room, as if she was paying no attention to Penelope and the lone women she was with. Penelope was explaining one of the paintings, pointing to the volcano in the background when she brought her hand up to the lady’s purse and quickly snatched her wallet out of it and put it in the museum bag she always carried with her so she could hand out information sheets.
Jolene brought the video back to Gus who immediately went back with Jolene to the gallery and confronted Penelope. Later that day she was both fired and arrested. They found 5 sets of credit cards and 10 wallets in her apartment. She confessed and told the authorities she had thrown away all but the nicest wallets. She had sold most of the credit cards on the black market except for the ones she had stolen recently.
Gus called Goldy and told her Penelope had been caught. Penelope in turn called her sister and father and told them. They all took a deep sigh of relief over a resolution happening without the hidden camera being found out.
Gus also took one last chance to ask Goldy out. Goldy said yes. Gus and Goldy ended up dating for 2 years and getting married 3 years later. Penelope was sentenced to jail time, spending three months incarcerated. She was ordered to repay close to $10,000.00 but never did, since she was basically broke the rest of her life. Her life didn’t last long. She was hit by a taxi in a rainstorm two years later.
Britt never did another piece with a camera in it. Her father stuck to listening in on his Ham Radio to conversations in distant lands.