It was late in the evening and outside my window the snow began to fall again. I flopped onto the couch with an audible sigh and soon began to nod off. Guinness, my canine studio mate, did the same. Understandable. It had been a long day and we were both exhausted.
It all began first thing in the morning when I went to make coffee and made the disturbing discovery that the coffee container was empty. I would have to operate without benefit of the life restoring liquid until I ran to the store.
Next, an early morning, routine dog walk, became an exercise in trying to remain vertical in the pre dawn dark, while navigating sidewalks coated with patches of ice. You needed to be careful where you stepped if you wanted to remain upright, and I wasn’t always successful.
After that, we attended a memorial service in my studio, saying goodbye to a painting gone south that I would give last rites to, anoint with sandpaper, and then bury unceremoniously under layers of snow white gesso.
The afternoon was spent rounding up stray paperwork, recording and reordering files, and completing some general and long overdue spreadsheet entries. I would rather have been back risking footholds across the morning’s black ice than sitting in front of my laptop with its display of even colder accounting forms.
As I slept in a heap on the couch I began to dream. My studio was crowded with mourners wearing black berets. They moved in a circle around my drawing table, wrapping it with yard after yard of black crepe. Just as they were gearing up to chant, the brass end of a cane came down on the tabletop sounding five loud bangs.
Guinness barked, pulling me back to reality, and headed for the front door. There was another round of five raps before I could extract myself from the couch cushions and see who could possibly be knocking on the door at this time of night. Guinness pushed me aside, jockeying for position, as I opened to door to see- no one. Whoever had yanked me from my nap had now vanished, although given the bizarre dream I can’t say I was too upset at the interruption.
A glance down the street to the left. Darkness, punctuated by tiny snowflakes drifting down. To the right, the view was brighter due to the cars passing on the busy road at the top of the hill, but otherwise empty. No wait, there appeared to be the silhouette of two figures. They were moving quickly through the snow, one very tall and bulky and another short, bowlegged, and carrying a cane.
I started out the door to go after them, bound and determined to see who they could be, when my shin collided with a large object left sitting on the front porch. I tumbled headlong over it and fell into the deep snow. I looked over my left shoulder toward the top of the hill but the two figures had vanished.
My shin ached. But the pain was quickly replaced by my curiosity about the object that sent me sprawling. It was a wooden crate that had been left sitting on my porch. Constructed of rough pine boards, there were no markings, except for some light spots on the wood, left by layers of old paper shipping labels that had been torn away, and one red symbol made up of five wavy lines. I knew the crate could only have come from one person, Mr Victor Dankquart, the eccentric explorer with the extensive collection of oddities who was away on some sort of archeological expedition.
I moved the box in to my studio. Guinness gave it a good once over, sniffing all around, taking in whatever exotic smells it contained that were undetectable to my pathetic human nose. I pried off a few boards and found an envelope inside containing a note written in blue ink;
I trust you have been keeping warm during your recent stretch of inclement weather. Conditions here have not been as advantageous to our expedition’s efforts as I would prefer, although they are not nearly as dire as those previously encountered. Our crew is a stout hearted bunch, and has learned to carry on with few interruptions, guided by a sense of duty, and their overseer’s strong leadership.
As you know, I typically engage the world with a decidedly sunny disposition, yet honesty compels me to admit that my mood had become sour of late. The high hopes shared with colleagues began to fade as our pursuit yielded less than expected results. However, the latest finds have proven extremely interesting, and mood is decidedly optimistic once more. True, we have yet to unearth the exact item which we seek, however, several of these artifacts, when in close proximity and applied in the proper manner, have allowed us to divine a trajectory for our next investigation, and we have begun plotting a new course. The importance of procuring these items cannot be overstated. And yet, I have made the difficult decision to part with them as before to further fund my quest. Therefore I am again asking you to seek a purchaser for this and other artifacts to follow on my behalf.
And what exactly is the object you now possess? It is a reliquary my friend, a piece crafted to be a repository for a revered article. In this case, the item is a fragment of bone, the origin of which is still in dispute. The bone is contained in the circular enclosure toward the base of the frame. The design and presentation of the reliquary speak volumes about the item’s importance, and indeed it has proven its worth in advancing our mission. Unfortunately, the history of the reliquary’s creators I am not able to reveal at this juncture, however we will all become enlightened, with time.
Your appreciative friend,
The open crate sat in front of me on the floor, a tuft of excelsior hanging over the side. I knelt and pulled the packing material away. Now I smelled cigar smoke and salt water. There was a face looking back up at me from inside the crate. I reached in and pulled the reliquary from its resting place. A black frame with gold accents and symbols surrounded a painted panel. The varnish was spider webbed with cracks. The painting depicted a winged figure, its head circled with gold, holding a red rose whose petals cradled a skull. I had seen a rose and skull painting similar to this on one of Mr Dankquart’s other finds. At the bottom rail of the black frame, was a round, metal repository. It contained a piece of bone secured under a clear cover.
Reliquary From a Lost Civilization 35x28x2.25”
I leaned the reliquary against a studio wall. The combination of falling into a snowbank and the arrival of this new piece from Mr Dankquart meant I was now anything but sleepy. I headed off to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and then realized, when I grabbed the still empty coffee can, I never made it to the store that day.
If you would like more information about purchasing this latest offering from the Dankquart Collection, please email me using the Contact page.
(What is The Dankquart Collection? A project that combines invented narrative writing and equally invented artifacts that are part of an expanding assemblage of feigned antiquities. These pieces combine various media and art techniques in their creation. Reliquary From a Lost Civilization is a mixed media piece utilizing wood, various acrylic paint products, mdf board, composition gold leaf, metal, speciality varnish, and animal bone. The painted panel is actually flat, although has been painted with a trompe lóeil style at the lower portion to simulate depth. See the first entry in the project here.)