The Sidewalk Artist

The city is my canvas. The city sidewalk in particular.

I live in a high rise, on the twelfth floor in a tiny studio condo that my parents had purchased for me. This arrangement was made so that I could remain true to my calling.

I had been stuck in a creative draught until I experienced an accident, an accident so infinitesimal that only a true artist could conceive of its significance.

I had been leaning on my windowsill, letting my condensed breath mingle with the exhaust ascending from the cars so many feet below. A large spider—he would have been more at home amongst jungle palms than on some slab of cement—unwittingly, or purposefully (one never knows with spiders), tickled the back of my hand with one of his eight legs. I swatted and he fell, turning and twisting in the air until I lost sight of him. His fall, while shorter lived than an arachnid’s already abbreviated life, was more elegant and coordinated than a professional Paso Doble: the building’s wall being his final dancing partner. Now this was art!

I dashed down the back stairwell in the hopes of finding some representation of this performance on the street below. As I bent to examine concrete, not only did I realize that any number of common stains could belong to my spider, I also noticed that no one, not one single person, had witnessed the elaborate fall and subsequent squish of the spider. I had run down twelve dizzying flights for nothing. That could not happen again.

I have always been the type to dabble in an assortment of mediums. While the large spider had been satisfying, the body mass was not adequate for the expected performance. I knew that I needed something larger, something I could watch the entire way to the bottom. The resolution is often the most important part of a performance. I also needed something that would attract attention…and fans. I needed a rat.

The performance of the rat was much greater than that of the spider. First and foremost, sidewalk voyeurs notice falling and splattering rats. It surprised me that some should simply step aside and keep walking when I provided them with such a fascinating tableau. I experimented with sending two or three rats at a time. The result was brown/yellow/red tie-dyed concrete: masterful! Yet, the pedestrians most often failed to assume their role as voyeurs and I was, as always, disappointed.

It never ceases to amaze me, what garners attention in this age. It is a mystery that billboards filled with overpaid newscasters or carcinogenic soft drinks are more eye-catching than art. TikTok videos of super mommies dancing is considered entertainment. People spend more time looking at fuzzy conspiracy shots on the internet than in museums. Consumers are starving, yet unaware that they are creatively malnourished.

I spent months with mice and rats. Snow was always a disappointment. The body shape melts, shifts, or is partially obscured before the elevator can deposit me on the street; and there is never as much blood. Sidewalk voyeurs had their vision blocked by umbrellas and hats and scarves. Like horses wearing blinders, they sloshed right through my art in their unrelenting hurry. No one ever bothered to look up and I grew bored with rodents; and, honestly, I grew lonely. What was the purpose of a creation if no one takes notice of the creator?  I had a captive audience, but they refused to assume position. I needed to shake things up.

Thankfully, true artists always experience evolution. I was no exception to this cosmic rule.

Cities are full of starving and pathetic animals. As a picture is worth a thousand words, I simply cannot begin to describe the various scenes I painted on the sidewalk so many stories below. I can confirm that, at that height, it no longer matters that cats always land on their feet.

Yet, no one noticed.

I still was not a famous artist in this big city. I have seen the most depraved things pass as art: photographs of swollen private parts, pedestrian performance art of the most vulgar sorts, mimes. It is true that we no longer appreciate great culture, our taste buds have de-evolved and man is a mindless critic. But, like any virtuoso, my compulsion to create propelled me. I would rise above the desperation of the unsatisfying blood stains, the disappointment, the lack of art.

I realized that I need a showstopper, something so large it could not be ignored. Not large in the sense of elephants and killer whales; big in terms of psychological splash. I am talking about a sacrifice so high up on the evolutionary scale that the loss will resound and be on the lips of everyone.

It has taken me months to reach this point. I produced countless experiments with dogs, cats, raccoons, gophers (I had to travel considerable distances to accumulate some of these materials), but all to no great effect. Even the law ignored me. I contemplated shoving my sun worshiping neighbor, who bakes on her patio the floor above me, but she could hardly be called a prime specimen. Years of drinking and sunbathing have taken their toll and, as an artist, I must consider all aspects of the medium involved. I wanted a powerful obituary piece to accompany the art, not a shriveled shell of a specimen. I had been relatively selective with the animals, so I must be entirely selective about the human.

There was the obvious choice. I would finally have my name in the papers and on the internet. I would be noticed; I would receive the recognition I deserved. I will plan the jump according to the proper weather, the proper velocity, most importantly, the proper passerby beneath me. I will land on one (hopefully more than one) and the voyeurs will no longer be able to pass blindly. If my trajectory proves perfect, I may even be able to land on a car driving below, thereby causing gridlock. Radios will announce the accident as will the television stations.

While my manifesto (another piece of art!) will not be read until after the act, I feel obliged to warn in retrospect. If I had been noticed, lives would not have been lost. In the meantime, I will make the most of those living or working in the city who keep their eyes down. I will take advantage of those distracted drivers, focusing on cell phones and food and applying makeup instead of being at the ready to apply foot to brake. I will exploit (for artistic purposes) those walking the sidewalks who walk briskly but not alertly.

The title of this final masterpiece: “Look up!”

∼ Elaine Pascale

© Copyright Elaine Pascale. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “The Sidewalk Artist

  1. Indeed, a masterful piece, plotted & performed as well as the voice of the narrator himself! That title fits perfectly. I’m glad you didn’t use “Splat!”


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