“Minimalism in visual art, generally referred to as “minimal art”, “literalist art” and “ABC Art” emerged in New York in the early 1960s as new and older artists moved toward geometric abstraction. . . In general, minimalism’s features included geometric, often cubic forms purged of much metaphor, with equality of parts, repetition, neutral surfaces and industrial materials.” Wikipedia
In the 1970s Soho became the premiere gallery space in New York City when huge loft spaces, former factories and warehouses, were renovated for commercial and living use. These galleries added huge floor to wall space that became a new canvas for artists and sculptors to spread their work in mainly geometric arrangements of industrial and construction material – wood – steel – aluminum, plastic and concrete allowing viewers a new perspective on their day-to-day encounter with exterior environments and infrastructure. These artists defined space with sterile forms and some were inspired to make non-functional work in monumental proportions. Notable American minimalists are Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Eva Hesse, Carl Andre and Brice Marden.
In recent issues of Scene4, I presented a sequence of scenes from THE GODDESS IN EXILE, a fictionalized account of the brief life of Cuban born artist Ana Mendieta that deals with themes of wife murder, the natural versus the man-made world and the mythic feminine. Ana Mendieta’s death at age 36 became a scandal that rocked the art world at its zenith making headlines. My screenplay adapts the basic story of her alleged murder by her husband, prominent minimalist artist Carl Andre, who was acquitted by a judge without a jury and explores the premise ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. My character Elvira creates art that celebrates the divine feminine in her body, sculpture and earth works while her husband Hans arranges geometric forms in abstract space. The action takes place in the vivid milieu of the New York City art scene in the 1970's, capturing the excitement of the elite intelligentsia with character
vignettes from the highest echelons of American artists and art world doyennes.
In the following scenes my fictional character, Hans Whit, has a one man show at the Guggenheim that I created as a “Yellow Brick Road” of wood blocks that descend down the museum’s massive spiral. Elvira and Hans romance begins when Elvira, high on champagne, does a fiery dance down the road that ends with her seducing him in her Lower East Side apartment. At dinner later at Max’s Kansas City, Hans offers to help her navigate the tough terrain of the New York City art world and give her space in his loft to create larger work.
The Goddess In Exile
63 - EXT. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM - EARLY SPRING EVENING
ELVIRA steps out of taxi with JOANNE. ELVIRA is dressed in a simple chic black dress, which is adorned with large silver and turquoise Indian jewelry. JOANNE is wearing a deep blue satin suit with gold accessories. They giggle as they enter the well-dressed art scene crowd. People press hard to get into the museum entrance with their invitations ready for checking.
Must be your first opening at the Guggy.
Who's the artist?
ELVIRA looks at the invitation. JOANNE and ELVIRA move through the crowd.
Oh, Hans Whit? I'm here for the champagne and hors d'oeuvres.
Hans is the new minimalist artist superstud - I mean superstar. Just divorced. He works with wood blocks so the whole museum will probably be empty except for a divider down the spirals.
This should be fun.
Not for me. This is my first review for Gotham of a museum show. I can make or break Hans.
JOANNE pulls a pen and a notebook from her purse.
64 - INT. GUGGENHEIM - EVENING
ELVIRA stands alone on the top ramp looking down.
POV ELVIRA - the descending spiral is marked by a line of yellow painted wood blocks.
Crowds of people nestle into small groups ignoring the work that marks the artist's solo exhibit. High on champagne, ELVIRA holds her glass out for refills as a BARTENDER quickly fills it.
In a playful mood, ELVIRA steps onto the "yellow brick road".
CLOSE SHOT of her elegant black heeled shoes and lace stockinged legs walking down the blocks. Several feet down, her feet stop walking and start dancing.
FULL SHOT of her dancing an erotic dance as a circle of admiring quests swiftly surround her and clap in rhythm to her dance. They inspire her to become more alluring. JOANNE makes her way through the crowd and looks at ELVIRA aghast.
JOANNE (to herself)
Oh no - She's dancing down the Yellow Brick Road.
From behind JOANNE, HANS holding a bottle of champagne pushes his way through the crowd and stands near ELVIRA. After HANS watches ELVIRA a few moments, he smiles, steps onto the blocks and dances with her. Their eyes and bodies create an instant bond. HANS steps down, puts his arm playfully around ELVIRA'S waist and pulls her down.
You're stealing the show, lady. I'm the star tonight.
HANS pops the cork of his champagne bottle and fills her glass again.
You must be the "block layer".
I've been known as that and more. What's your name?
Elvira, I'm a sculptor, only I work on round forms, not square ones.
Well, perhaps you'll invite me to see your forms tonight.
As HANS and ELVIRA talk, they walk arm and arm down the museum’s spirals next to the "yellow brick road".
65 - INT. ELVIRA'S TENEMENT APT. - LATE NIGHT
Later that evening, HANS leans against the inside of ELVIRA'S door. ELVIRA puts on some music and continues her fiery dance, striping to her black lace underwear. HANS watches her intently but does not move, in fact his pose becomes stiffer. ELVIRA goes to him aggressively, kisses him and caresses his body. HANS and ELVIRA stumble to the bed. CLOSE SHOTS of their torsos as they make passionate love.
66 - INT. ELVIRA'S TENEMENT APT. - EARLY MORNING
The next morning as ELVIRA sleeps, HANS studies the sculptures that lines shelves and stand on sculpture stands in her studio. He admires the nude forms and interpretive statues of Mary.
Later ELVIRA and HANS sit on two tree trunk chairs near her wooden telephone spool table. She serves him some coffee. HANS looks again at her work.
Your work shows promise, but collectors today are buying 'big' ideas, not art. I will have to think of a gimmick for you.
What gimmick? Art should seek the truth. When I find a "bigger" truth within me, I'll express it in my work. Then I will become a star.
There are hundreds of true starving artists in this city. When I came here from Kansas, Babe, I lived off my friends for years. I was a believer like you.
HANS gets up and studies one nude on a stand near the window. He deliberately touches it sexually.
And what made you the phony you are now?
It started gradually. I felt there was a change in the tides in the art world and began to work more and more abstractly with wood until I reduced it to the most fundamental block form. When I started to make money, I became a firm believer in the art of living.
HANS moves closer to ELVIRA, caresses her face, leans down and they kiss.
67 – EXT. HALLWAY DOOR, ELVIRA'S TENEMENT APT. – MIDDAY
A week later HANS knocks on ELVIRA's door carrying a bouquet of flowers. SISSY, ELVIRA’s drag queen neighbor, peeks out from her door wearing a robe without a wig.
SISSY (to herself)
Oh, a man with flowers. Now, I've seen everything. He must be the one.
ELVIRA opens the door and lets HANS in. SISSY waits in the hall for them to come out.
SISSY (to herself)
If its just dinner, they'll be out soon. If there's hanky panky, he's the one.
SISSY stands waiting and realizes they are not coming out.
SISSY (to herself)
Well if he's the one - I hope he is a gentleman.
SISSY goes into her apartment and slams the door.
68 - INT. MAX'S - LATER THAT EVENING
When HANS walks in with ELVIRA heads turn. MICKEY escorts them to a back table.
Ever had dinner here?
They sit at a booth.
HANS (to NED)
2 steaks and corn.
HANS studies ELVIRA's face that looks pale. She senses his thought, takes out some lipstick and puts it on to brighten her face.
We won't be alone long. The guys will want to check you out.
FLASH [with long hair and disoriented tie] stops by the table.
Who's the new broad?
I don't believe we've met.
Mind if I sit down?
FLASH starts to sit.
Another time Flash.
FLASH walks away. NED brings HANS a beer and ELVIRA a white wine.
They're all good artists. With pressure on to make it - you can't blame them for getting out of hand. Growing up in Peru, did it prepare you for the hard city life?
Life is harder there. The poverty makes people fatalistic. They find sanctuary in the hills - the chapel.
What we're doing here has its place in the scheme of things - serious play - like chess on a bigger board.
My father played chess.
I'm not the phony you think I am. I play the game, but my standards are far above board.
My art is sincere from my heart. I want my art in the world but I will never compromise.
Stick with me. You're like a flower in a tar pit. You're gonna need protection if you want me to help you put your art on the board.
I've been here, maybe two years. I know my way around. Nobody can fool me.
You don't know the scope of what you're getting into.
NED serves them two orders of steak and corn. They start to eat enjoying the food.
Were you ever in love?
Ya, I loved Nan at the beginning. The art world wasn't for her. She's dating an accountant.
If I had been I would know?
You would know.
You can learn to love someone if it means your life.
HANS and ELVIRA toast with their wine glasses.
If you stay with me your art will have a chance.
You would do this for me?
OK, I trust you.
HANS smiles at her. ELVIRA reaches across the table to hold HANS' hands.
69 - EXT. THIRD EYE GALLERY, NYC - MIDNIGHT
HANS and ELVIRA walk hand and hand towards the Third Eye Gallery on the Lower East Side. ELVIRA opens the door to the gallery with her keys.
I'm in a group show. I want you to see.
70 - INT. THIRD EYE GALLERY - MIDNIGHT
ELVIRA turns on the light. Her work is displayed on sculpture stands. HANS studies the pieces of MARY, picks them up and holds them. They are of Mary holding Mary in the pieta pose, Mary holding a crescent moon and sun, Mary with animals at her feet, Mary on a lion throne.
ELVIRA'S (voice over)
I see Mary as more than Mary in the church - I see her as the Mother of All - the womb at the beginning and end.
Have you worked life size?
I don't have the space.
I have room in my studio for you and your work.
71 - MONTAGE OF MOVING SHOTS, NYC - DAY
The following paragraph is read from ELVIRA'S diary over a collage of shots involving ELVIRA and HANS passage through doors. This MONTAGE quickly spans a six month progression of their relationship; i.e. - they enter COLORADO’S, taxis, limos, doors to gallery and museum openings and dinner parties.
72 - EXT. DOOR, HANS’ LOFT – DAY
In the last shot, HANS opens the inside door to an empty studio within his loft and gestures to ELVIRA that it could be hers. She hugs him happily.
73 - EXT. STREETS OF NYC – MIDNIGHT
ELVIRA and HANS leave the gallery, walk to the corner and HANS kisses her goodbye. ELVIRA continues east of West 4th Street where the biker crew, drunk and rowdy are hanging out.
You’re Mike’s girl.
Why are ya kissin some arty cowboy?
CLOSE on BIKERS. They pull ELVIRA out into the street taunting her. They circle her with their bikes and start to pull off her clothes. She goes with the flow. MIKE bikes down the street and into the crowd, grabs ELVIRA and she jumps on the back of his bike. They ride off.
Leave her alone you assholes. She’s not my girl anymore.
ELVIRA'S (voice over)
When Hans and I started our affair, it was fun. He took me everywhere. He knows everyone important in the New York art world. We enjoyed sex - dancing - dinners and arguing about art. We didn't see each other exclusively for about six months until after his divorce from Nancy was final. I think that then he was afraid of being alone and he asked me to move in with him. This was a time when Hans was good to me, but now that I think back, it was mostly in front of his friends.