A few weeks ago, when Eliza Santos left Malcolm Brautigan alone in the home she shares with her husband Peter Simons — who is missing in both time and space — Brautigan felt a strange impulse to find the opening to the attic, pull down the fold-out ladder, climb up, and look inside. So he did just that, crawling up the creaking ladder, neurotically listening for the sound of Eliza coming home while eagerly anticipating the secrets he might reveal. Who knows, he might even find Peter, himself. Perhaps he had sequestered himself into the little space to create his masterpiece while Eliza and Malcolm and a good portion of the population of southeastern Utah had been out searching for him.
As he poked his head up into the darkness, he was, at first, disappointed. There was no Peter, no cobwebbed stacks of secret documents, no mint-condition bicycle from 1945. There was just a big box. It was so big, in fact, that Malcolm could not imagine how anyone had gotten it up here through the small opening. He approached the box to find that it was made of wood, that it had a thick layer of dust on it, but with relatively fresh fingerprints: It had been sitting up here for years, but someone had opened it recently.
Brautigan undid the latch and then hesitated. It occurred to him that the box was big enough for a human of Peter’s size to fit inside. What if… ? No, no, Malcolm would surely smell the decomposing carcass of his old friend. He lifted the lid slowly to find not Peter, but Peter’s artwork — paintings that Malcolm had never seen, but that he immediately recognized as Peter’s. As he lifted a few out he uncovered more that were surely by Yvonne Martin, the famed landscape painter who had died a few years back.
It was a treasure after all. Brautigan smiled at his find. Even dead and missing, his two favorite artists (aside from Eliza Santos) had some new art to share with the world. And Brautigan would be certain to get it out there to appreciative fans of the two artists.
He couldn’t have guessed what kind of controversial conflagration it would spark.
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a message and disclaimer from Michael Baines, Director of Marketing and PR for AltMedia.org: I’m happy to announce that we have been able to get around the legal entanglements** and are free to offer up prints of any and all of these artworks* to the person or persons who find a publisher for “Behind the Slickrock Curtain,” the debut novel by Jonathan P. Thompson. Said publisher should be able to offer a five-figure advance (negotiable) and have strong editing chops and a hefty legal department, because God knows this thing needs it.
*Perhaps it would be more accurate to label them “fake art” since as should be obvious by now, the artists in question are fictional, so therefore the art itself must also be fictional. And yet, the artworks clearly exist, at least in pixel form, so they can also be printed out on a variety of very real, physical materials for that lucky person who leads us to and/or secures a publishing contract for the novel, which is also real. We think.
**As you’ll read below, the providence of some of the artworks is being questioned. And, indeed, federal officials are currently investigating Malcolm Brautigan, Juan Lopez-Shapiro, and the rest of AltNews.org. They are suspected of using the same Macedonian bot-run click-farms that produce and amplify their fake news to “manufacture” the paintings in question by scouring the internet for images, then using algorithms to create Photoshop composites of said images that look like paintings. In fact, Jonathan P. Thompson alleges that his images have been stolen from this very website for that purpose, and is currently taking legal action against Brautigan et al. We’re not worried.
Now, back to a sampling of the art Brautigan allegedly found in the attic. More will be posted here in the future.
Yvonne Martin (1941-2016)
Martin was a prominent artist from southwestern Colorado best known for her impressionistic landscape paintings coupled with bold geometric shapes. She shied away from interpreting her own work, but many critics feel that the straight lines cutting through sensuous landscapes was a comment on the patriarchy and its use of Cartesian thought to exercise its dominion over the feminine and the landscape. Martin is believed to have coined the term “Slickrock Curtain” with her 1982 painting of the same name (to be posted here at a later date).
Peter Simons (1971- ?)
Simons began painting and drawing at an early age while living in Durango, Colorado. His parents were friends of Yvonne Martin’s, and they had at least one of her paintings hanging on their walls at home. The elder artist’s influence is strong, and quite apparent in much of Simons’ work. Simons, for example, also tends toward moody skies, impressionistic landscapes, and linear shapes. However, he uses the straight lines and harsh angles to a different effect. After Brautigan unveiled the lost paintings, the Martin estate accused Simons of outright plagiarism and, in one case, of claiming one of Martin’s paintings as his own (see below).
Eliza Santos is also an artist, best known for her three-dimensional diorama-like sculptures made from found objects, old books, and clay. She absolutely forbids any photographs of her work, so we can’t show it here. However, among the paintings Brautigan found in her house were these two works that had no signature and that do not appear to be by either Martin or Simons. Brautigan suspects that Santos painted them both; the second one seems to be a conceptual painting of what may become one of Santos’ “Time Machine” dioramas. Santos denies it, but unconvincingly.
This painting, titled “I love, I think, therefore I am,” helped launch Peter Simons’ artistic career. He said he painted it in 1992, and for a long time it hung on the wall in Simons’ study in his and Santos’ Durango home. However, after Brautigan found it in the attic and Santos lent it to a local gallery display it, Yvonne Martin’s estate claimed that, in fact, the painting was done by Martin in 1978, and was entitled “The Male Gaze,” and that the painting had been missing since the early 1980s. An independent forensic analysis dated the painting to the early 1990s. Martin’s estate, however, unearthed a fuzzy photograph in the Durango Herald showing the same or nearly identical painting hanging in Martin’s 1978 show at Fort Lewis College, indicating that Simons may have copied the painting, brushstroke for brushstroke. “That’s even worse than stealing the painting and slapping his name on it,” said Agnes Martin-Duras, Yvonne Martin’s daughter. “Meh, what’s originality really mean anymore, anyway,” responded Malcolm Brautigan. The case is currently making its way through the courts.