The Rapture That Artists Sing Of
Some children died the other day. We fed machines and then we prayed. Puked up and down in morbid faith. You should've seen the ratings that day.
- Marilyn Manson, “The Nobodies”
There is nothing like the sight of a macabre work of art. It inspires and awes like no other. Often, it chills the spine like a brush of cold wind. And, if it's truly vivid, it can cause the viewer's perception to evolve and darken, as it begins to notice a resemblance between this world and that of the painting. Something it can go even further, such is the rapture artists sing of: Art as a hazard.
No such artist serves as a better example of these comparisons than the Master Legnani. Like fine wine, his work is subtle at first, until your palette begins to fully notice the true richness of it's flavor. Although the eccentric and elusive artist has only a handful of work to his credit, his cryptic paintings of hidden fright and devilish double meaning have amassed him a considerable following.
What's most interesting, is how simple Legnani's work first appears to be. In fact, they always seem to be deceptively simple landscapes, at first glance. But, a squint of the eye reveals a much more grotesque portrait. Take for instance, his first notable work: The Infernal Garden. It first appears to the viewer as an ordinary forest. Moss, foliage, leaves, you name it. However, if the viewer watches closely, the tricks of the macabre magician take hold. Those shadows near the trees are really hanging bodies with their entrails exposed. Some are even crucified. Others are so badly decomposed that it looks like they are truly one with the trees, such is the beautiful thing that awaits us all.
Another painting showcases what appears to be a city skyline. But, if the viewer flexes his brow, they shall see that the cityscape hides the impressions of demonic imps not unlike those waiting in the infernal circus below. One of his more controversial works is a painting of a church and it's parishioners. However, a closer look reveals what may be the darkest image yet. The church is on fire, and the attendants seen through the stained glass windows are not the holy servants of god. Rather, they are likely disrobed servants for a god below. Another controversial and enigmatic work is his snap shot of the stars above. Although some claim it's a darkly whimsical painting of the heavens above us, others have had more conspiratorial claims, stating that they've seen the face of Legnani himself in the constellation- and that it belongs in his self-portrait series.
Speaking of which, the most recent works are those of his aforementioned self-portraits. Odd self-portraits at that, as the first in the series showcases a pale skinned variant of Legnani himself, as he sits naked in a washed out room. But, a sharp eye reveals that a strange black substance is leaking from various orifices of the man's body, like he is bleeding night. The second portrait has Legnani's head and neck replaced by the starry blackness above. The third in the series has Legnani whole again, as he stands on top of a chair. But, if one looks closely, Master Legnani's arms are bound above him like that of a hanging meat- and there is a large open wound on his chest. Some have noticed the striking similarities between the subjects in this one and the victims in The Infernal Garden.
It is after this that the art of Legnani truly morphs into something legendary. First, the master Legnani strangely disappears. Some even call it a suicide, but let's not discuss rumors here. Regardless, the mad architect's absence starts to spread like a contagion to those of his models. Why someone that paints deranged landscapes needs models is dubious at best, but use them he did. Like Legnani, they too succumb to an odd and near fatal strangulation by the hands of fate. Let it be told, if art is proof that we all make gods to mirror ourselves, than the following strange crimes are proof that we fall victim to them as well. Like the strange secret fate of Legnani, his models either kill themselves, or the failed attempts at doing so drive them mad. Even stranger, some recover from these ailments. Some do not recover at all. Some just disappear.
Nonetheless, rumors begin to circulate as to why this happened. A widely circulated one, that was never proven true, is that Legnani used some of his model's blood to mix the paint. Some have even argued that Legnani's blood was used as well. The purpose? For some kind of blood ceremony, to add more clarity to the colors, they say.
From this rumors, is where the most interesting of Legnani's legacy begins. It concerns a man, let us call him Famine, entering the scene of his nearly departed father. Although the old man is clearly suffering from exsanguination, if one notices his poor color and his lacerations, no blood can be found in the elder Famine's premises. After the authorities depart, Famine notices the strange self-portraits his father was making. They are so clustered together that they look like an idiot's collage, a crude imitation of Legnani's style with the elder Famine as the star. Young Famine also finds his father's easel with it’s fresh mix of paint, but, not familiar with the area nor it’s legends, he does not make a connection.
At the hospital, Father Famine strangely comes to and begins chanting an idiot's mantra. "Legnani, you lied," he states repeatedly. Young Famine runs to get some nearby nurses and brings them to his father, where they witness his odd performance. A gasp of breath precedes an odd choking sound, before the Father Famine drools and hacks up blood and dies, swallowing his own chewed off tongue.
It was right before the funeral when Famine finally notices the cheaply bound volume of Legnani criticism, which his father owned. Famine opens the book and flips the book's well-worn pages. He eventually stumbles onto the chapter that delves into the details of Legnani's blood pact. The sentences of said chapter are underlined, and the margined are crammed with manic black hand writing. For a second, Famine thought the writing was his- but he then remembers that he and his father did share a similar penmanship, as well as a similar appearance.
Famine continues to turn the book's pages, until he finally comes across the samples of Legnani's paintings. Although Famine is a tough man to scare, the paintings get to him. They arise the feeling of a cold winter breeze in his bones. Like a bad hangover, the paintings stay with Famine as he heads to the funeral. The church painting does so especially, for all too obvious reasons. That aside, Famine remembers never enjoying any kind of house of worship. He feels they're just glorified shrines built to honor those that died thousands of years ago- just so their ancestors can preserve the memory of those gone, because they died horribly. They didn't hold any great existential secret. They are just mass produced mausoleums.
These certainty weren't the best thoughts to think about during his Father's funeral service. Even worse, when Famine squints his eyes, he feels the denizens of that damned painting dance creep in front of his very eyes. When he blinks his eyes, the demons cease mocking him- but a just as horrid feeling rises up afterword. A feeling of burning rocks his insides, and it keeps rising like a fever. Worse, the infernal circus continues to dance with each squint of the eye, like puppets listening to their master. Famine has to leave the procession to get the abhorrent apparitions to stop. But even then, they don't really cease- and Famine must avoid any landscape similar to a Legnani abstract.
Upon finally coming home, Famine notices the lunatic's collage painting dripping blood, like the Devil's tears.
The rain of blood is quickly clogged by Famine's skills of quarantine with a heavy shroud like cloth, and they do not rain their pestilence for some time after. During which, Famine becomes more obsessed with this art of Legnani and believes he is the cause of this rapture artists are slain to. Through impressive means of endurance and research, thanks to his continuous analyzing of the book, Famine is able to contact one of the surviving models of Legnani's. Although she is still clearly very troubled, as she fights to prevent killing herself bi-daily, she agrees to talk to him about the experience. She thinks it'll be good for both of them.
For his travel, Famine pays an unknowing neighbor handsomely to escort him through the labyrinth of Legnani's town. Dear Famine is afraid of this town, so he acts blind and covers his eyes to keep the illusion intact, as well as his sanity. Upon arriving at the woman's doorstep, Famine asks his neighbor to wait outside for him, as he goes inside to take off his disguise of the blind, as he readies for the talk with this survivor.
Although she was only in her later thirties, she appears much older in person. Posing for Legnani has definitely drained the woman of her youth. As she eats her lunch, some kind of strange meat, Famine asks her how the experience changed her. Can she offer any insight into the nightmares of being Legnani so vividly portrays? How about insight to any of the rumors about the man and his equally as enigmatic art? She laughs and spits out some of the meat, before answering.
"Before I posted for Legnani, I used to think there was a better purpose to this world. That we all mattered. But, Legnani informed me otherwise. Well, almost. He always said, if we die alone and quietly, so does our legacy. It withers and fades away, like dust in the wind. Like the scars of the universe. But, if we die horribly, and in plain sight, we'll always be remembered. Martyred. Sanctified. That's the genius of Legnani. That's the true essence he captured. Art, spirituality, and politics all bow down to the same master: one of Death. And as he did, so shall I."
Famine tells her that he doesn't follow. She pulls down her shirt, which would be provocative- if it wasn't for what she revealed. The flesh close to her collarbone home is a road map of scars, from all of her suicide attempts. The one that lurks the closest to her neck looks the freshest. This one she pulls at, like a puppeteer pulling strings. Like ripping seems. The scab breaks and her blood and maniacal laughter flow like a river behind him as Famine runs to leave her desecrated abode. He comes to his Father's house to a similar river, as the paintings flood the room with their stolen blood again.
The razor thin boundaries of Famine's world withers away even further after that. He only stays inside his Father's house, for everything outside has that tainted reflection of Legnani's art now. The trees swing with hanging bodies from aloft and the nighttime stars radiate with a beckoning cancerous glow. They're always there when Famine looks out a window, a squint of the eye is no longer required.
They only stop when he bleeds. Famine discovers this - unintentionally, while shaving with his razor blade. One drop of blood from the brush of an open wound, and the visions stop. The pain, the visions, they cease. He feels, for the first time in an incredibly long while, at ease. But when the wound stops painting, the pain and the horrid visions begin again. Staring at the faux paintings made by his wannabe Legnani father, Famine decides to open his body of red paint again. With his razor blade in his hands, acting like a murderer’s brush running across his arms, and the floor or the paintings as his canvas, he gives those paintings a deeper coat of red. He then crumbles to the floor in victory.
But alas, dies he does not. Famine comes to near the woman, the model of Legnani he just saw a few days prior- who projected that wondrous idea into his head. And she was holding a strange meeting with someone, a stranger engulfed in shadow. A book that looked identical to that of his father's rests near this shadow. "You're seeing them, aren't you," the strange man said. " All of Master Legnani's dark art is becoming tangible right in front of your very eyes, is it not?" The woman nods her head. The man pushes a strange meat near the woman. It’s the same meat she was eating, when he went to see her. "This should help. It's the only chance you'll ever get to eat the flesh of a god. I should know, I helped create it."
The scene then dissolves into a silhouette of a hanged man, whose chest is cut open like a slab of meat. Another man crouches nearby, painting that horror onto a white canvas. The hidden speaker from before continues to ramble. "We live in a world where healers are killers, holy men condemn instead of save, and where leaders oppress and cheat the common man, instead of helping them. Legnani is very much a product and victim of this false world, and his art is no different. He always said, if artists die quietly and alone, so does their legacy. But, if they die horribly and loud enough to be heard, their legacy and their art shall never be forgotten."
The scene changes again, to an earlier time. Legnani and his strange friend are making a blood pact over the color palette of an unmade painting. The blood and the colors begin to blend, as one. "Legnani understood this, and I helped him see it through. I made a vow that I would keep his name and his art alive, -post mortem- and we signed it in blood onto the colors of creation. What's so wrong with helping someone become remembered? Who wants to be forgotten?"
The stars finally began to bleed their way into this sick vision. A twist of the world, and Famine is viewing outer space, the depths of eternal night and dying stars. Famine steps closer and the stars echo the sounds his footsteps and do the same and come closer to him. Another step and the stars take off their glowing shrouds and reveal themselves to be the radioactive skeletal remains of those that died before him. Dust flies off their body as they cough continuously. Famine thinks he recognizes one as his father. A strange roar catches Famine's ear and increases in volume. The roar reaches it's maximum octave and the radioactive bones turn into dust, as a new more horrid entity comes forward. At first, it gives the appearance of merely being a giant made of blackness and distant stars. But, as the giant approachs him, a squint of the eye reveals that it is a giant made of various fleshless human bodies. They are sown together crudely, to give the illusion that they were one massive entity- but the numerous squirming bodies in pain breaks the illusion. It's face looks not unlike that of Legnani's. The creature growls a macabre greeting as it approaches dear Famine and picks him up and sends him to the god controlling the beast's perpetual infernal appetite. And the swarming black rainbows made art by Legnani's brush greet Famine in the great beast's bowels, and, like Legnani's followers, he too is engulfed by these digestive colors, and then etched into the beast and made immortal. Some would even say sanctified. But still, the question no one bothered to ask remains: was he glorified because of his so-called great life, or because he died in such a brilliantly and beautifully tragic way. As it was, and as it likely shall always be, the question remains unasked.
Now that you've learned about the lost art that leant Legnani the mastery of his craft, you're probably looking at the nearest fork or blade near you and deciding when to stick it into your jugular. Or maybe you already have. Regardless, the final rotation is about to begin: An art that destroys, instead of enlightens and inspires. And rejoice, for you are it's victims. If only it didn't need for it to be this way.
The bleeding hearts and artists let him get away with murder. - Pink Floyd, “The Trial”