Flash fic – A Portrait of an Artist in Repose

I had an odd idea for a flash fic set in the Infected world, in the form of an interview with Dylan. Minor spoiler alert if you haven’t read the series, but why are you here if you haven’t?

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Now that Dylan Harlow is leaving the art world, collectors can’t get enough of him.

“The art world is ridiculous,” the handsome artist says, gripping a glass of iced tea. “No one can buy it anymore. The one percent have made sure that only they can afford art, and yet most artists are starving anyway. Late stage capitalism is fun, huh?”

He says this with a great deal of irony, especially considering he is speaking from the dining room of a neat, well appointed house on the outskirts of Vancouver. Through a gauzy curtain, the backyard is visible, as is his famous – infamous? – spouse, Roan McKichan. He sits in the shade of a towering oak, reading a book, wearing only shorts, showing off much of his tattooed flesh. Even from a distance, he is a striking figure, with flame colored hair and a reasonably muscled physique. It’s hard to believe he’s the virus child who has survived the longest with C4T5 (the so-called cat virus). He is also, according to several non-verified sources, capable of shifting at will, although it has never been verified, dozens of poor quality YouTube videos aside. His doctor, preeminent virologist Doctor Petra Rosenberg, considered the authority on the c4t5 virus, has officially responded with a strongly worded press release that viruses don’t work like that, and a profane comment that will be passed over. While witnesses stick by stories of Roan appearing in public looking less than human, it exists mostly as a slightly tasteless urban legend. Save for chilling audio recordings, also heard on several of the poorly filmed videos, of a man’s angry scream somehow turning into a very leonine roar, realistic enough to chill the most jaded person. No official explanation has ever been given for those recordings.

When they moved to Canada, Roan kept a low profile, being a supportive husband to Dylan, but simply by showing up, Roan pulled a great deal of focus. When it became known Roan was the model for a series of photographs involving paint on a human canvas, the demand for the series skyrocketed, and Dylan stopped selling them. “I make art to express myself,” Dylan says, frustration evident on his face. “I will always make art. Selling it has always been a bit of an agony for me, but I knew people weren’t buying it because they thought it was beautiful or fascinating, or spoke to them in some fashion. They were buying it like a ticket to the freak show. Oh, you know that cat guy? That’s his back. I couldn’t stand the objectification of him in that way. That was never why I used him as a canvas. I used him as a canvas because it fascinated me that other people felt they had a right to his body. He’s been in state care all his life, and he’s been used as a test case and a guinea pig, and yet someone too diseased to touch. Because he has a unique relationship with a chronic illness, he’s seen as a thing more than a person. It was an interesting dichotomy for us to explore, but the fact that he was used as a canvas was not supposed to be the entire point. They’re seeing him as a disease again, a thing, which was the direct opposite of the statement I was making. So fuck them. They’ll never be on display again.”

Dylan is still a part of the Vancouver art scene, with the collective known as Amygdala. They are perhaps best know for their impromptu, “pop up” art installations., and politically motivated graffiti. “At least with Amygdala I feel like I’m doing something more productive with my anger. I know from past experience that it can eat you alive if you let it.”

Dylan has several works in progress that he allowed me to see, with the guarantee that I would take no photo of them or not describe them too vividly. The most striking of his photographic works is a close up of an extremely green eye, which betrays itself as belonging to Roan. It’s part of a new series where the focus is on eyes. “It’s not that eyes are the window to the soul bullshit,” he says, setting aside a more abstract oil painting. “It’s that I’ve learned that you really can tell a lot from someone’s eyes. This won’t make sense to you, but to his close friends, we know Roan by his eyes. A single look can tell you if he’s with you or not. Nothing changes, but everything changes. I know this sounds like pretentious art crap, but his friends know what I mean.”

Despite overtly shunning the celebrity art scene, Dylan and Roan have been spotted several times with Vancouver Canucks center Scott Murray, and Philadelphia Flyer defenseman Grey Williams, known mostly for being the first out asexual player in the NHL. Dylan said they’d become friends with the pair when they were both playing with the Seattle Falcons, and the friendship has continued. “Grey actually owns one of my Roan photos, but he actually gets it. I think he’s one of the few that does. But Grey’s kind of an odd guy, which he’d freely admit.”

Dylan refuses to say if he’s done with the gallery oriented art scene for good, but the irony of his work exploding in popularity now that he called it quits has not escaped him. “When I was starting out, I couldn’t even sell enough paintings to break even on the art supplies. Now I have art dealers calling me and offering me obscene amounts of money for a single photo. I have no idea where they get my number, but I’ve blocked the lot of them. Part of me thinks I could use that money, but I couldn’t live with myself afterwards. So essentially it’s a race between my pride and my bank account. But wanting the rich dicks to suffer is a great motivator.”

What the future holds for Dylan and his husband is impossible to say. But Dylan doesn’t seemed concerned. “I will always do art. I just don’t know if anyone outside my immediate friends will ever see them. At least, not while I’m alive.”

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