Scene4 Magazine | The Goddes In Exile-continued | Griselda Steiner  | November 2019-www.scene4.com



Griselda Steiner

    ELVIRA -  You men are so macho. One woman is not enough. In Peru it’s this way all the time, but it makes me angry.  American women don't have to accept this. If my husband has a mistress that's my business.  If you sleep with her you bring her to my bed.

In recent issues of Scene4, I presented a sequence of scenes from my screenplay 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 while her husband Hans arranges geometric forms in abstract spaces. 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 these scenes the conflict between Elvira and Hans escalates to her murder.   Hans’ narcissist arrogance overwhelms him when he threatens her if she mounts a one-woman show in a gallery he thinks is second rate.  He soothes himself by reciting from T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” that expresses a cryptic morbid nihilism that feeds into his psuedo intellectual facade. At the opening of her show to which Hans’ has invited the top New York Times art critic, Hans is furiously jealous when he offers to recommend her work to the prestigious Venice Biennale.  When Elvira finds out through gossip at Max’s bar that Hans is having an affair, she tells him she wants a divorce.  Later that night, he tells her he will destroy her art and when their fight becomes physical they head to her studio where he pushes from the window ledge to her death.   







Several days later, ELVIRA is hard at work in her studio wearing only a white t-shirt and underwear, surrounded by piles of natural objects; wood, leaves, stones and flowers.  She is seated at her workbench looking into a mirror and putting flowers in her hair.  As she examines her face, she models a self-portrait.  When she looks in the mirror again, she takes out the flowers and replaces them with a thorny wreath.  She studies her face intently.  She hears the SOUND of phone ring in the loft and expecting a call, she quickly takes off the wreath, opens the door of her studio and runs into the loft's living room to answer it.




Wearing only a pair of blue jeans, HANS languishes on a chair reading out loud to himself from T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland".


HANS (reading to himself)

I have heard the key

Turn in the door once and turn once only

We think of the key, each in his prison


ELVIRA picks up the phone, then covers the mouthpiece.


ELVIRA  (excitedly to HANS)

It's Chanelle from the Coral Gallery.


ELVIRA (on phone)

Yes? Yes?  That's wonderful.  Of course I can have a show ready in a month.


ELVIRA hangs up.



Don't show at that two-bit flea market.  You'll give me a bad reputation.  It will reflect back on me.



All you care about is your image.  The great "cool man".  This is the moment I’ve been waiting for.  My technique may not be perfect, but there are women in the art world who understand what I want to say.  You and your male buddies aren't the only artists in this city.



If you have this show, I’ll destroy you.  I'll invite that hard nose critic Ruby from the Times down and he'll slaughter your work so bad you'll never be able to show in the City again.


ELVIRA looks at him in disbelief.



Oh, you and your shrewd conspiracy wouldn't go that far to stop me.


HANS puts his book down and leaves the room.  ELVIRA stares blankly out the window.





Later that evening they are lying, resting on separate sides of their large double bed.  HANS makes a meager attempt to make love, then rolls over.  ELVIRA eyes his large form with distrust.


ELVIRA'S (voice over)

Ever since Hans destroyed my pregnant lady, I am afraid he will become violent with me.  In America killers do very well.  I know there is one killer Senator who is very popular and so many Mafia men come to our neighborhood to eat and drink.  They have no conscience at all.  I've had good news despite all this.  I'm offered a solo exhibit at the Coral Gallery and have a month to complete my show.  It will be an end to one cycle of work.  Soon I can start with new ideas.


I am so upset with Hans and his jealous attitude.  He has been impotent for a while.  I don't care if we never make love again.  Now he wants me to please him with oral sex without trying to satisfy me.


HANS rolls over to force her head onto his groin.    





ELVIRA'S opening at the Coral Gallery is packed with people and her monumental sculpture.  On the walls are photographs of on-site Goddess renderings and symbols in natural settings.


The CAMERA studies her primordial figures combined with natural elements.  Tree trunks, stones and leaves, place women in allegorical relationship to their spiritual growth and demise.  ELVIRA greets guests cordially while HANS flirts heavily in a corner with NINA.


JOANNE enters the gallery and after congratulating ELVIRA, she takes out her pen and pad and tours the gallery to view the work.  As she takes notes, she deliberately edges closer to HANS and NINA. 



Why how are, y'all?



Well, fancy meeting you here.  I don't recall Elvira and I sending you an invitation.         



I thought I'd give Elvira little surprise.


JOANNE'S publisher PETER BAKER [a middle aged man dressed to appear slick] walks over to shake HANS' hand.  HANS looks at him



Where do I know you from?



Oh, I thought you remembered me.  I'm the publisher of Gotham Arts.  We did a piece on your exhibit last fall.  There was a little mix up on the photographs, if I recall.



Yes, my lawyers are sending you papers this week.



I wasn't aware that there was a legal problem.



Well, you put any-old blocks on the floor, took a picture and said they were mine.



You told us to do that.



It wasn't in writing.


PETER looks at JOANNE in dismay and walks away.


RUBY [an eccentric looking man with golden/silver hair of genuine British descent, wearing a red velvet vest with a gold watch chain] approaches HANS with a notebook and pen in his hands.



How you doing, Ruby?


(whispers to Nina)


Ruby is the Times number one art critic.



Thank you for inviting me to Elvira's opening.  I'll give the show a spot in my Sunday review.


RUBY  (quoting himself)

"Elvira Olmos - a promising young artist is about to take the art world by storm...


In search of instant inspiration, RUBY raises his pen in his right hand and pirouettes 360.


RUBY (cont.)

... with sculptures of monumental mythic impact and contemporary feminist vision." 


HANS face turns obviously red with dismay.  RUBY observes this with disdain.


RUBY (cont.)

I'm on the nominating committee for the Venice Bienalle this            year.  Such a chore.

I will definitely suggest that your wife be invited.


HANS face turns a deeper red.





RUBY stalks away.





Later that evening, at an apres-opening gathering at COLORADO'S, ELVIRA is cheerfully holding court while HANS drinks alone at the bar smoldering.   ELVIRA sits at a table with two women that we recognize from the Goddess Circle.  They put the jukebox on and play (e.g., "Killing me Softly With his Smile").  Over the music, one of the girls comments.



Elvira, Ruby was there.  How did you get him to come?  You know that means he'll write you up in Sunday's Times. 



Well, do you think your husband's fucking Nina?


ELVIRA looks at her shocked, but hides her feelings.



Of course, he stopped doing it with me.


The GIRLS laugh.  As more people stop by the table to congratulate ELVIRA, she looks dazed.





Flash Back.  JOANNE is still sitting on the window ledge of ELVIRA'S studio.  She leafs through the diary and returns again to the last page and reads again.


ELVIRA'S (voice over)

July 5th - When I told Hans I knew he was having an affair with Nina, he went wild.  I locked myself in my studio afraid he would come in and destroy everything.  I will leave him forever - day after tomorrow.  I'll ask Joanne to come over and help me pack.  When we go to the dinner party Saturday at Tony and Sues', I'll act like everything is just fine.  





ELVIRA and HANS are at a dinner party on a hot July evening at TONY and SUE'S loft.  ELVIRA is seated on a kitchen ledge eating a salad and laughing as TONY teases her by putting more and more food on her plate.  HANS is seated at the long table talking seriously with DAVE, who seems to have forgotten that HANS knocked him out a few weeks before.



So, my chicata, when are you leaving for Italy?



Oh, I have months to prepare for the Biennale.


SUE walks by them with her BABY and ELVIRA kisses the Baby’s cheek.





When HANS and ELVIRA leave, they walk down the street holding hands and for once in a long time they look happy together.





Later than evening HANS and ELVIRA are in their bedroom.  They have been drinking champagne from a bottle and continue to drink as they argue.  HANS is on top of ELVIRA but cannot perform.  He rolls off and tries to pull her head down to his groin.



I'm sure you have no trouble making love to Nina.



What are you talking about?


You men are so macho. One woman is not enough, In Peru it’s this way all the time, but it makes me angry.  American women don't have to accept this.



You mind your own business, my little Spanish pepper.



If my husband has a mistress that's my business.  If you sleep with her you bring her to my bed.  Nina so pretty and quiet with that stupid "y'all".  She listens to you and thinks you are a genius. I open my mouth - nobody impresses me.



That's right, you open your mouth and all it says it that you're stupid. Your figurines growing flowers belong in a garden not a gallery.  I told you to develop some technique.



Well, I don't see how your opinion will matter when I show at the Venice Bienalle when you're not invited.  My mouth says what I sincerely think.  Your ideas come from books - your flawless system of reality.  You memorize words so people think you are witty.


HANS gets out of the bed.



You spoiled bitch.  I'm going to take your work and put it back where it belongs,

back into mother earth.


ELVIRA jumps up quickly, prepared to run to her studio and lock herself in.



Don't you dare go near my work.


As ELVIRA runs, HANS chases her and grabs her violently.  She struggles to get free but cannot and struggling she winds up dragging him into her studio.  The dialogue we hear next is exactly as it appears at the beginning, only this time we see HANS and ELVIRA, pushing and shoving each other in her studio.



I want a divorce, get out of my life.  I know you are having an affair with Nina.



I won't let you leave me, you spic bitch.



Don't! Stop! Stop!   No - no - no.


Although we don't see HANS push ELVIRA or ELVIRA jumping and or falling out of the window, we hear a loud thump when her body hits the roof below.  CLOSE ON HANS anguished face looking down out of the window.  He collapses onto the floor and slowly struggles his way on the floor back to his living room, lies on the couch then struggles and dials the phone.





A plane carries ELVIRA’S body over the Pacific to Peru. 

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Griselda Steiner is a poet, dramatist, a freelance writer and a Senior Writer for Scene4. She is the author of The Silent Power of Words. For more of her poetry and articles, check the Archives.

©2019 Griselda Steiner
©2019 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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